100 Year Anniversary: The Top 10 Players on Auburn’s 1913 National Championship Team

1. Kirk Newell  Team captain and left halfback, Newell accounted for 1707 all-purpose yards in just 8 games, including 121 yards in a 21-7 win over Georgia in Atlanta that clinched the SIAA championship and 8-0 season.  Newell was the QB as a freshman on Auburn’s 6-1 national championship team in 1910. Coach Donahue later called Newell, who had All-American ability as a runner, “the best player I ever coached.” As a soldier in WWI, Newell selflessly threw himself on a hand grenade, suffering disabling injuries, but saving the lives of his comrades in arms.

1913 Auburn Tigers football team

1913 Auburn Tigers football team (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 2. “Red” Harris  Coach Donahue loved the fullback dive and would run the play over and over again before sending the elusive Newell wide on a sweep. Harris could stand up to the repeated punishment and was a key to the offense. He also played well on the defense that was called “strong as iron” and which gave Coach Donahue his nickname, “Iron Mike.”

3. “Bull” Kearley  He played halfback some as well, but Kearley starred as a tough intimidating defensive end. Coach Donahue’s defensive strategy in the “7 Box” (7-2-2) was to have his ends crash down and disrupt the play from the start. Kearley’s speed and great toughness helped key a defense that gave up only two touchdowns in 8 games as Auburn outscored its opponents 224 -13.

4/5. Frank Lockwood/Jim Thigpen  These two All-Southern lineman led the way for the rushing offense and composed a formidable tandem on the defensive line. Cuts, bruises, broken noses or even a knocked out tooth didn’t slow these guys down.

6. “Boozer” Pitts The son of a preacher, this teetotaler played well at center, a position even tougher in that era than today. His blocking was key for the fullback dive, Donahue’s staple play.  Pitts would go on to be voted to the All-Southern team in 1914, and then a decade later as a math professor be named Auburn’s head coach when Donahue left the program after 18 years.

7/8. Bill Christopher/Frank Hart  These two played backup fullback and halfback and were often put in the game as fresh runners near the end zone. They had a nose for scoring touchdowns, including Hart’s 85 yard scamper for a TD against Georgia Tech in a 20-0 victory at Grant Field in Atlanta. Christopher and Hart were also mainstays on the defense, where their hard-nosed play won acclaim.

9. Ted Arnold  When Arnold showed he could handle QB duties, Coach Donahue was able to move Kirk Newell from QB to halfback, his more natural position. While teams did not pass much in this era, Arnold had an accurate arm and that allowed Coach Donahue to use a few pass plays to loosen the defense against the run. Arnold was also the placekicker for extra points and seldom missed.

10. F.H. Pendergrast  He had the speed of a halfback (where he’d play in 1914), but also had the physical nature needed to play several positions on defense and starred in whatever position he was asked to play.

You can read about these great Auburn players, and other more modern ones, in the Auburn’s Unclaimed National Championship book.


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