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1948 College Football All-America Team

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Title: 1948 College Football All-America Team  
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Subject: Leo Nomellini, Jack Mitchell (American football), Alvin Wistert, 1948 Michigan Wolverines football team, 1948 college football season, Elmer Wingate, Dan Foldberg, Paul Lea
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1948 College Football All-America Team

The 1948 College Football All-America team is composed of college football players who were selected as All-Americans by various organizations and writers that chose College Football All-America Teams in 1948. The organizations that chose the teams included: the United Press, the Associated Press, Collier's Weekly, the International News Service (the wire service operated by the Hearst newspapers), and the Football Writers Association of America. The individuals selected to the most All-American teams were SMU quarterback (and Heisman Trophy winner) Doak Walker, Penn center Chuck Bednarik, North Carolina running back Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice, Cal running back (and future American League baseball MVP) Jackie Jensen, and Michigan end Dick Rifenberg.

Competition among the All-American selectors

Collier's Weekly, which began picking All-American football teams in 1888, had employed Grantland Rice to select its All-American team for 22 years. After Rice wrote a feature story about college football for Look, Collier's replaced Rice in 1948, hiring eight college coaches (paying them $500 each) and billing them as the "Supreme Court of Football."[1] The eight coaches were Frank Leahy (Notre Dame), Matty Bell (Southern Methodist), Tuss McLaughry (Dartmouth), Bernie Bierman (Minnesota), Wally Butts (Georgia), Jeff Cravath (Southern California), Harvey Harman (Rutgers), and Lou Little (Columbia).[2] One of the innovations touted by Collier's for 1948 was the use of news reels provided by Warner Pathe and university athletic departments to study each player. Collier's circulated an initial round of ballots to members of the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), with their votes narrowing the selections to a group of 55 finalists. The panel of eight then studied the "motion pictures of the players in action" and selected the Collier's All-American team.[2]

Collier's new affiliation with the AFCA ended the Saturday Evening Post's association with the group as its All-American selectors. The competition for All-American selectors led Time to write an article in September 1948 about the "scrimmage" between the magazines: "No college football star hoping to make All-America takes it more seriously than the magazines which pick them. To the magazines All-Americas are a deadly business, an important piece of promotion involving the prestige of the magazines as well as their hired experts."[1]

The Associated Press based its selections on a poll of several hundred staff writers, newspaper sports editors and broadcasters. The AP reported that its voters overwhelming agreed on five of the first-team selections -- Dick Rifenberg of Michigan at end, Buddy Burris of Oklahoma at guard, Charlie Justice of North Carolina at back, Doak Walker at quarterback, and William Fischer of Notre Dame at tackle.[3]

The first selection of separate offensive and defensive All-American squads

The biggest controversy in the 1948 All-American selection process concerned the widespread use of offensive and defensive specialists, resulting from the adoption of an unlimited substitution rule. The Associated Press considered selecting separate offensive and defensive teams, but opted to continue the tradition of picking a single squad of 11 All-Americans. The AP reported on its decision as follows:
"Sharpest argument this year over bestowing All-America honors centered on the merit of recognizing men who played only offense or defense under the spreading 'two platoon' system. Separate defensive and offensive All-America first teams were proposed. Should the present cleavage widen this could become a possibility."[3]

In the end, the AP named only three platoon players to its All-American teams—offensive specialists, Rifenberg, Justice and Bobby Stuart.[3]

The Central Press Association noted that its 1948 All-American eleven "is not necessarily a true All-American team because of the present-day system of using two teams, an offensive and a defensive unit."[4]

It was the International News Service (the wire service operated by the Hearst newspapers) that in 1948 became the first to break with tradition by naming separate All-American teams on offense and defense. The INS described its decision in its article announcing the selections:
"The days of selecting 11 men on an All-American first team are over, until such time as the unlimited substitution rules are altered. INS thus picks its All-America as the game is now played with the 22 man squad divided into an offensive team and a defensive team."[5]

INS sports editor, Lawton Carver, wrote that the "era of the iron man in football is rapidly passing," as an increasing number of players were being "tutored and geared to specialize for offense or defense and must be recognized for the part they play."[6]

Consensus All-Americans

Doak Walker of Southern Methodist University received more votes than any other athlete in the 1948 All-American voting. He was also the recipient of the 1948 Heisman Trophy, and was later inducted into both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.

The chart below reflects the published vote total from the UP poll, and also reflects the number of polls in which the leading candidates were selected as a first-team All-American, and their point total for the top five players in the 1948 Heisman Trophy voting.

Name Class Position School UPI votes First-team selections Heisman points
Doak Walker Jr. Quarterback SMU 2820 8 778
Chuck Bednarik Sr. Center Penn. 2514 8 336
Leo Nomellini Jr. Tackle Minn. 2034 8
Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice Jr. Running back N. Car. 2740 7 443
Jackie Jensen Jr. Running back Calif. 2118 7 143
Dick Rifenberg Jr. Ends Mich. 1790 7
Bill Fischer Sr. Guard N.Dame 2335 6
Paul "Buddy" Burris Sr. Guard Okla. 1512 6
Leon Hart Sr. Ends N.Dame 1926 5
Al Wistert Jr. Tackle Mich. 1689 4
Clyde Scott Running back Ark. na 2
Stan Heath Jr. Running back Nev. 1224 1 113

All-American selections for 1948


Bold = Consensus All-American[12]

  • 1 – First Team Selection
  • 2 – Second Team Selection
  • 3 – Third Team Selection






  • Doak Walker,[13] Southern Methodist (College and Pro Football Hall of Fame) (AP-1; UP-1; CO-1; NEA-1; CP-1; INS-1 [defense]; WC-1; FW-1)
  • Norm Van Brocklin, Oregon (College and Pro Football Hall of Fame) (AP-3; UP-2; NEA-2; CP-3; INS-1 [offense]; FW-2)
  • Chuck Ortmann, Michigan (AP-2)
  • John Rauch, Georgia (College Football Hall of Fame) (AP-2; UP-2; NEA-3; CP-2; WC-1; FW-1)
  • Jack Mitchell, Oklahoma (NEA-2; CP-1)
  • Pete Elliott, Michigan (INS-1 [defense])
  • George Taliaferro, Indiana (INS-1 [defense])



  1. ^ a b "All-American Scrimmage". Time. 1948-09-06. 
  2. ^ a b c "Collier's Announce All-American Team". The Ogden Standard-Examiner (Ogden, Utah). 1948-12-01. 
  3. ^ a b c d Ted Smits (1948-12-01). "Bear Guard on A.P.A.A. Eleven". Long Beach Press-Telegram. 
  4. ^ a b Walter L. Johns (1948-12-05). "Five Midwest Players on Central Press All-American". Wisconsin State Journal. 
  5. ^ a b "INS Announces All-America: Jensen, Turner, Van Brocklin, Niemi Named From Coast". 1948-12-. 
  6. ^ Lawton Carver (1948). "INS Names 22-Man All-America". 
  7. ^ Leo H. Petersen (1948-12-01). "United Press Picks Annual All-American". The Ogden Standard-Examiner (Ogden, Utah). 
  8. ^ Harry Grayson (1948-11-). "Jensen Lone Coast Grid Star On NEA All-American Team". 
  9. ^ Lawton Carver (1948-12-). "INS Names 22-Man All-America". 
  10. ^ "Walter Camp Football Foundation All-American Selections". Walter Camp Football Foundation. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "2014 NCAA Football Records: Consensus All-America Selections". National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). 2014. p. 6. Retrieved August 16, 2014. 
  13. ^ Since 1990, the Doak Walker Award has recognized the nation's top college football running back.
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