Bruce Smith grew up in Faribault, Minn., and like his father, Lucius, had done back in 1911, went on to stardom as a halfback at the U of M. Three times in 1940 alone he scored game-winning touchdowns, including his now legendary 80-yard weak-side reverse through the mud and rain to beat Michigan, 7-6, which made him a virtual household name. Against Iowa in 1941, an injured Smith, after beggin to come in late in the game, incredibly, passed or ran for every Minnesota touchdown in a 34-13 win.
The marquis triple-threat tailback of his era, Smith epitomized the single-wing offense and could seemingly do it all. In 1941, the team captain led the Gophers to their second consecutive undefeated season and national championship. For his efforts, Smith became Minnesota's first, and only, Heisman Trophy winner, beating out Notre Dame running back, Angelo Bertelli.
After graduating, the All-American halfback went on to garner MVP honors in the College All-Star game against the Chicago Bears that summer. That next year, before going off to fight in WWII, Smith first went to Hollywood, where he starred in the movie "Smith of Minnesota," about a small-town family whose son becomes and All-American halfback.
Smith went on to become a Navy fighter pilot, and also played service football for the Great Lake Navy team. He returned home in 1945, and signed on with the Green Bay Packers and later with the Los Angeles Rams . He played for four years in the NFL, mostly on defense, but injuries prevented him from performing up to his unbelievable collegiate standards.
In 1947, he nearly died when he suffered a ruptured kidney during a Chicago Bears game. With that, he retired at the young age of 29, and moved back to his native Faribault to raise his family. Smith was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1972, and in 1977, he became the first Minnesota player to have his number retired.
M Club Hall of Fame
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