Newman, Harry : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Newman, Harry

Harry Lawrence Newman

Newman was one of the greatest football players of the 1930s. A star quarterback at Michigan, he was named the Outstanding Collegiate Player of the Year in 1932 (the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, which was not awarded until 1935).

In 1933, Newman moved on to professional football and signed a percentage contract based on attendance. In his rookie year, Harry led the league in passing and was named All-NFL as he led the New York Giants to the NFL title game. Newman broke bones in his back the next season, and while he returned to lead the Giants to the Eastern Conference title in 1935, it was his final (and only third) season in the NFL.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. September 5, 1909 - d. May 2, 2000

Career Highlights:
After enrolling at Michigan, Newman took instruction from Benny Friedman, the great former Wolverine signal caller. The results were rewarding and immediate. In 1930, Harry led Michigan to a share of the Big Ten title with a record of 8-0-1 (the Wolverines outscored their opponents 111-23), and was named AP All-America honorable mention, and AP All-Western Conference first team.

In 1931, Newman again led the Wolverines (8-1-1) to a Big Ten title and was AP All-Western Conference second team. In 1932, Michigan won their third straight Conference title with a record of 8-0-0 and captured the national championship. Newman was named first team All-America and the winner of the Douglas Fairbanks Trophy (predecessor of the Heisman Trophy) as the outstanding collegiate player of the year. That season, Newman played 437 minutes of a possible 480, and scored all of Michigan's points in the final three games of the season; the Wolverinesoutscored their opponents 123-13 on the season.

Grantland Rice wrote, "From a fine field Newman stood well above the mass...He made Michigan's run of eight successive victories possible with his forward passing, his broken field running, and his place kicking. He must be listed as one of the most effective triple-threat backs the season has produced...He delivered 57 of the 83 points Michigan scored against Big Ten opponents...Newman had every trick of the great ball carrier: change of pace, cut, pivot, straight-arm, and elusiveness...he could hit a pass receiver in the eye at 30-yards. Newman also was a competitor of the highest type."

With that kind of endorsement, Newman was in a terrific position to negotiate a contract with the New York Giants of the NFL. In 1933, he signed a percentage pact based on home attendance; it came out to $10,000 and made him the highest paid player in the league. As a rookie, Harry had a spectacular year and was named first team All-NFL while leading the league in passing attempts (136), completions (53), yards (973), and touchdowns (11).

During the 1933 season, Newman also led the Giants to the first-ever NFL championship game. Newman completed 13 straight passes, and two touchdowns in the game. One of his touchdowns came on the first play of the fourth quarter with the Giants down, 16-14. He handed off the ball to halfback Ken Strong who found himself trapped in the backfield. Strong scrambled around and then lateralled to an unsuspecting Newman, who then scrambled around himself before collecting his wits and throwing a pass back to Strong, who had sneaked out of the backfield, for a touchdown and brief lead. Although the Bears scored later in the fourth to win the title 23-21, the Associated Press called Harry, "...the outstanding star in the Giants attack."

The following season, Newman continued his brilliance as the Giants' passer, but also showed his versatility as a runner. In a November game against the Green Bay Packers, he carried the ball 38 times for 114 yards in a 17-3 victory; his 38 carries set an NFL record for carries in a game and remained a team record for 49 years. In a game against the Bears, however, Newman was knocked out cold on a tackle and broke two bones in his back. He missed the rest of the season and decided to retire.

Midway through the 1935 season, the Giants convinced Harry to return. Although he played in only eight games with mediocre results (he was never the same after the injury), the Giants still finished with a 9-3 record and lost to the Detroit Lions in the NFL title game. Despite his attempted comeback, much of Newman's former excellence was gone and he retired from the NFL for good after the 1935 season, having played in 32 career NFL games -- a brilliant career cut short. Newman is a member of the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor, the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and the College Football Hall of Fame.

Detroit, Michigan

Career Dates:
Newman played quarterback at the University of Michigan from 1930-1932. Harry played quarterback, tailback, and defensive back in the NFL with the New York Giants from 1933-1935.

Physical description:
5'8", 180 pounds

Career Statistics:
In the NFL:
Games: 32

Passes completed: 97
Passes attempted: 258
Passing percentage: 37.6
Passing yards:1,496
Passing touchdowns: 12
Interceptions thrown: 36

Rushes: 336
Rushing yards: 1,086
Rushing average: 3.2
Rushing touchdowns: 6

Receptions: 10
Receiving yards: 203
Receiving average: 20.3
Receiving touchdowns: 1

Field goals: 6
Extra points: 13

Kick returns for touchdowns: 1

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Also, read a chapter from The Jew in American Sports by Harold U. Ribalow and Meir Z. Ribalow

The Encyclopedia of Football, by Roger Treat (New York: A.S. Barnes and Co., 1976 -- 14th Edition)
Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League, edited by Bob Carroll, Michael Gershman, David Neft, and John Thorn (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999)
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
Great Jews in Sports by Robert Slater (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)