With his May 28th birthday upon us, I can’t imagine a better time to acknowledge the greatest all-around athlete of the 20th Century. His Native American parents gave him the additional traditional name Wa-Tho-Huck which translates to mean “Bright Path” and sports legend Jim Thorpe’s path to athletic greatness and dominance was a bright one indeed. Riding horses and swimming by age 3, Thorpe demonstrated natural athletic abilities and talent at an early age. Recruited to attend The Carlisle Indian School in PA at age 16, he became a track and football star under the tutelage of legendary coach Glenn S. “Pop” Warner. While there, Thorpe not only won renown in football, baseball, track, and lacrosse but also competed in hockey, handball, tennis, boxing, and ballroom dancing. So dominant in track and field was Thorpe that alone he defeated the Lafayette track team in a dual meet by winning the high hurdles, low hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot put and discus events. He was encouraged to try out for the U.S. Olympic track and field team for the 1912 Games held in Stockholm, Sweden. Thorpe qualified for both the ten event decathlon and the five event pentathlon. To qualify for either of the grueling events was a major accomplishment. But for one man to qualify and compete in both, against the best athletes in the world, was unheard of. Not only did Thorpe compete in both but he dominated both competitions. In the pentathlon, he took 1st place in 4 of the 5 events to win the gold medal easily. In the decathlon, where 2 of the events, the pole vault and javelin, he’d never attempted until the Olympic Trials, he bested the silver medalist by 700 points. His record points total in the event held up for over 2 decades and his time in the event finishing 1,500 meters run lasted even longer. So impressed with his performance, when King Gustav V of Sweden presented Thorpe with his medals and other gifts, he shook Thorpe’s hand and declared him the world’s greatest athlete. Upon his return home, he was honored with a ticker-tape parade in New York City. They took his medals away when it was discovered he’d been paid $15 a week for 2 summers of playing minor baseball in North Carolina. (This was done well after the time limit for doing so, per the rules governing such issues, had passed.) But this can in no way erase the athletic dominance he displayed while competing against the world’s best athletes. After the Olympics, Thorpe returned to the gridiron where his football skills allowed him to dominate the competition just as he had done in track. Most star players in those days went two-ways meaning they played on both the offense and the defensive teams. Thorpe could have been labeled a four-way player in that he not only starred on the offense and defense, but he was his team’s field goal kicker and punter as well. His small Carlisle Industrial Indian School had no more than 1,000 students. But on the collegiate playing fields they were the equal of the Ivy League powers of the day mostly thanks to Thorpe’s athletic superiority.In Thorpe’s final two seasons at school the football team went 23-2-1. The 6’1″ and 190 lb. Thorpe’s team lost to only Penn State and Syracuse during that time. In an 18-15 upset of Harvard, in addition to playing both ways, he kicked 4 field goals. He led the way in beating Army 27-6. And in a 32-0 routing of Brown, Thorpe scored 3 touchdowns and kicked 2 field goals. In that final collegiate season in 1912, he also rushed for a total of 1,869 yards on 191 carries. Thorpe was named 3rd team all-american his 1st year and 1st team all-american in his final 2 seasons. Upon leaving school he signed on to play major league baseball. In 6 seasons in the big leagues, from 1913 to 1919, with the Giants, Reds, and Braves Thorpe compiled a respectable .252 batting avg. (It was said he had trouble hitting the curve.) But in his final big league season with the Braves he hit .327. During his stint in the big leagues, Thorpe also signed on in 1915 to play pro football with the Canton Bulldogs for an unheard of at the time $250.00 a game. Thorpe became the chief attraction in pro football for over a decade until the legendary “Galloping Ghost” Red Grange entered the league in 1925. In addition to Canton, he played for the NY Giants, Chicago Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, and Rock Island Independents. He also created, played for, and coached an all Native American team, the Oorang Indians. In 1920, he was appointed President of the American Professional Football Association which eventually became the NFL. He played his final game for the Chicago Cardinals in 1928 at the age of 41. After his playing days, Thorpe went to Hollywood where he got work as a stunt man and bit role player in the movies. At the age of 58, he joined and served several years in the Merchant Marines. In 1950, Jim Thorpe was named the greatest American football player and the greatest overall male athlete of the 1st half of the 20th century by the Associated Press. He was elected to the college football Hall of Fame in 1951, and selected as a charter member of the pro football Hall of Fame in 1963. He was also elected a member of the track and field Hall of Fame. In 1982, the injustice of taking away his Olympic gold medals was finally overturned and copies of the medals were returned to his family. In the year 2000, Jim Thorpe was voted the previous century’s Greatest Athlete by ABC Sports. Additionally, starting in 1986, college football has given the Jim Thorpe Award, in memory of the multi-sport legend, to the top defensive back in college football each year. Thorpe passed away in March of 1953. He was buried in a PA town where he was given the lasting honor of having the town re-named Jim Thorpe, PA. They hold celebration festivities on his birthday each year in honor of this greatest all-around athlete of all-time. Although he was gone before I was born, I read about and admired the great Jim Thorpe’s life and career in sports. His biography was one of the first books I checked out and read from the school library. His example encouraged me to learn to play and compete in a wide variety of sports. His overall individual athletic achievements are still unequaled and unsurpassed to this very day. For all of the above and more, Jim Thorpe was and is still my choice as the greatest all-around athlete of all-time.