Gordon Zelig Polofsky
Polofsky was a three-year starter at linebacker for the University of Tennessee. In 1951, he was named All-SEC (Southeastern Conference) as a member of Tennessee's first consensus national championship team. Polofsky later played three seasons in the NFL with the Chicago Cardinals.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. January 10, 1931
Polofsky played fullback and linebacker at Tennessee for three seasons including the school's first consensus national championship in 1951. Born in Rhode Island, Gordon had never been farther from home than Boston before he traveled to Knoxville on a recruiting visit. Gordon later said, "I saw this red clay [flying into the city]...I had never seen red clay before. I thought I was in Mars."
Polofsky signed with Tennessee and after a mediocre season in 1949, the Volunteers drastically improved in 1950. That season, they posted a record of 10-1-0; the only blemish was an upset loss to Mississippi State. That loss, in the second game of the season, was the last time the Vols would lose in their next 20 games.
Tennessee played the heavily favored Texas Longhorns in the 1951 Cotton Bowl. Texas took a 14-7 halftime lead, but Tennessee scored late in the game to pull within 14-13 -- the extra point was missed. The teams exchanged fumbles on two consecutive plays and Tennessee finally broke through for the well-earned 20-14 victory. Following the game, some polls named Tennessee the national champion (the UP poll had them at No. 3 and the AP poll at No. 4.
In 1951, Polofsky was named AP, UP All-Southeastern Conference second team and Tennessee enjoyed a dream season. The Vols set school records in rushing yards for a season (3,068), rushing touchdowns (40), and rushing yards per game (306.8). The team won their first consensus National Title, going 10-0-0 in the regular season and winning every game but one by two touchdowns or more. In those days, the final AP Poll was tabulated before the bowl games were played. So, Tennessee won the 1951 National Championship, even though they lost to Maryland in that year’s Sugar Bowl, 28-13, on January 1, 1952. That year, Tennessee also had its first TV appearance against Alabama; the Vols won the game, 27-13.
After graduating in 1952, Polofsky was selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the fifth round (60th overall) of the NFL Draft. Gordon played three seasons in the NFL for the Chicago Cardinals and appeared in 26 career NFL games. The Cardinals had a combined 7-28-1 during his career. After his career ended, Polofsky briefly returned to Rhode Island, but eventually made his home in Knoxville. In 2001, he was inducted into the city's Sports Hall of Fame.
Providence, Rhode Island
Polofsky played fullback and linebacker at the University of Tennessee from 1949-1951. He then played guard and linebacker in the NFL with the Chicago Cardinals from 1952-1954.
6'1", 219 pounds
Use links below to navigate through the football section of Jews In Sports.
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)