Frank Sinkwich

Croatian-Yugoslav American football player and coach (1920–1990)

American football player
Frank Sinkwich
refer to caption
Sinkwich c. 1942
No. 21, 77, 76
Personal information
Born:(1920-10-10)October 10, 1920
Starjak, Yugoslavia[a][b]
Died:October 22, 1990(1990-10-22) (aged 70)
Athens, Georgia, U.S.
Height:5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight:190 lb (86 kg)
Career information
High school:Chaney
(Youngstown, Ohio)
College:Georgia (1940–1942)
NFL draft:1943 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1
Career history
As a player:
  • Detroit Lions (1943–1944)
  • New York Yankees (1946–1947)
  • Baltimore Colts (1947)
As a coach:
  • Tampa (1950–1951)
    Head coach
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL/AAFC statistics
Rushing yards:1,090
Rushing average:3.4
Rushing touchdowns:7
Passing yards:1,913
Completion percentage:40.2%
Punting average:41.5
Head coaching record
Regular season:12–7–1 (.625)
Postseason:1–0 (1.000)
Career:13–7–1 (.643)
Player stats at PFR
College Football Hall of Fame

Frank Francis Sinkwich Sr. (October 10, 1920 – October 22, 1990) was a Croatian-Yugoslav American football player and coach. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1942 while playing for the Georgia Bulldogs, making him the first recipient from the Southeastern Conference.[1] In the course of a brief but celebrated career in professional football, Sinkwich was selected for the National Football League Most Valuable Player Award. He coached the Erie (PA) Vets semi-professional football team in 1949. Sinkwich was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954.[2]

Early years

Sinkwich was of Croat origin.[3] He was born in Starjak, Yugoslavia (currently Croatia).[b] World War I broke out in 1914, and as with many, his mother and the children remained there for the duration of the war. They returned to the US, going to Youngstown, Ohio when he was two years old, joining his father Ignac (Ignatius), who operated a grocery store. By 1940, the family operated a restaurant in Youngstown. His surname was originally spelled Sinković.

According to an article Sinkwich wrote in 1988, he grew to appreciate the value of competitiveness on the streets of Youngstown's west side. "I learned early in neighborhood pickup games that I had the desire to compete," he wrote. "When people ask why I succeeded in athletics, I always tell them that I didn't want to get beat."[1]

Football career

Sinkwich gained early recognition as a star athlete at Youngstown's Chaney High School.[1] He went on to the University of Georgia to play under coach Wally Butts where he was a two-time All-America selection. In 1941, he led the nation in rushing yards with 209 carries for 1,103 yards. He set the NCAA single-season total offense record of 2,187 yards[6] and led the Bulldogs to an 11–1 season in 1942, capturing the Southeastern Conference championship and a victory over UCLA in the 1943 Rose Bowl. That same year, the Washington D.C. Touchdown Club honored Sinkwich as "back of the year",[7] and he was overwhelmingly voted the "Number 1 athlete for 1942" in the annual poll by the Associated Press over second-place finisher Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox,[8] a year in which Williams hit for baseball's triple crown.

The 1942 season was Sinkwich's first year of backfield-mate Charley Trippi. Georgia defeated Florida 75–0, the worst defeat in the history of Florida football. Sinkwich played with a broken jaw and kicked a field goal in a 19–3 defeat of Florida in 1941.

In his three-year college career, Sinkwich rushed for 2,271 yards, passed for 2,331 yards, and accounted for 60 touchdowns (30 rushing and 30 passing).[1] Sinkwich earned his Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S.Ed.) from the university in 1943 and was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity.

After his collegiate career, Sinkwich joined the United States Marine Corps; however, due to his flat feet, he received a medical discharge and proceeded to play with the Detroit Lions, who had selected him first overall in the 1943 NFL Draft.[9] In Detroit, he earned All-Pro honors in 1943–1944, as well as being named NFL MVP in 1944.[1] (No Detroit Lions player would be named NFL MVP for over half a century: Barry Sanders in 1997.)

After his two years in Detroit, Sinkwich served in both the United States Merchant Marines and the United States Army Air Forces, but a knee injury received while playing for the Second Air Force Superbombers football team in 1945 hampered his playing career when he returned to professional football in 1946 and 1947.[1][9] He coached the semi-professional Erie (PA) Vets football team in 1949. Sinkwich was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954.[1]

In 2024, he will be included in Croatian American Sports Hall of Fame.[10]


Sinkwich died after a long illness in Athens, Georgia, at age 70. "We've lost one of the great legends in football history," said then Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley. "He was not only a great player but a wonderful person and citizen of Athens."[1]

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Tampa Spartans (Independent) (1950–1951)
1950 Tampa 5–4
1951 Tampa 7–3–1 W Brandeis Classic
Tampa: 12–7–1
Total: 12–7–1

See also


Notes and references

  1. ^ Currently Croatia
  2. ^ a b Some sources state Sinkwich was born in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania,[4] or in Zagreb, Yugoslavia (currently Croatia).[5]
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Frank Sinkwich was worshipped by his fans". The Vindicator. October 23, 1990.
  2. ^ "Frank Sinkwich". Georgia Bulldogs official site. Retrieved September 19, 2009.[dead link]
  3. ^ Croatian Chronicle Network 35 Pacific Northwest Croatian Athletes
  4. ^ "Frank Sinkwich (1954)".
  5. ^ "Frank Sinkwich".
  6. ^ Magill, Dan (1993). "Chapter 2". Dan Magill's Bull-Doggerel:Fifty Years of Anecdotes from the Greatest Bulldog Ever (1st Printing ed.). Marietta, Georgia: Longstreet Press. pp. 43–48. ISBN 1-56352-089-3.
  7. ^ Perazich, Chuck (June 14, 1982). "Frank Sinkwich Lauded at Croatian Home Fete". The Vindicator.
  8. ^ "Who Won". Time. December 28, 1942. Archived from the original on October 14, 2010. Retrieved January 6, 2007.
  9. ^ a b Grosshandler, Stan (August 1997). "Georgia's Greatest?" (PDF). College Football Historical Quarterly. X (IV). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 10, 2010. Retrieved January 6, 2007.
  10. ^ "Croatian American Sports Hall of Fame announces 2024 inductees". Croatia Week. May 7, 2024.

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