The early days of the National Football League were nothing if not reminiscent of the Wild West. Players with little prior fame found their way onto the rosters of the nascent league’s franchises, even those whose names barely registered in their own college team’s annals.
This is the story of three such Wildcats.
Alvin Jolley, a Wyandotte tribesman from Onaga, Kansas, lettered in one season with the then-Aggies, the war-shortened 1918 campaign. He then transferred to Marietta College in Ohio, and finished his college career at Tulsa.
That one year in Manhattan, however, qualifies Jolley for a singular honor; he is officially the first K-State letterman to play in the NFL. He signed with the Cleveland Tigers for the 1921 season, but did not appear in any games. A year later, he started at left tackle for the Akron Pros. That was his only full season as a starter on a team he did not coach. In 1923, he played one game for the Dayton Triangles and three for the all-Native American Oorang Indians, coached by Jim Thorpe.
And that, for awhile, was the end.
In 1929, he resurfaces as the coach of the Buffalo Bison, and inserted himself into the lineup on seven occasions, six as starter. After a 1-7-1 campaign, he was out, but he went out with a bang. The lone win was the final game of the season, against the Chicago Bears — which means Jolley’s first NFL win as a coach was against George Halas.
Rejuvenated, he went on to play 8 games for the NFL Brooklyn Dodgers in 1930 and 6 for the NFL Cleveland Indians in 1931, and then retired as a player. In 1933, he became the head coach of the expansion NFL Cincinnati Reds. Three games into the season, having lost all three, he was let go and disappeared from the NFL annals forever.
Little else is known of Jolley, save for his 1948 death in Marietta of carcinoma.
Richard Maurice Sears, known as Maurice in Manhattan but as Dick in the pros, was a three-time letter-winner at KSAC from 1920-22. Born in 1899 in Eureka, Kansas, Sears was a dependable if unspectacular fullback for Charlie Bachman. In the only game of the 1922 season which the Wildcats won by one score, Sears scored the winning touchdown at Missouri. His NFL career consisted of a single game for the Kansas City Blues in 1924. He died in Topeka in 1972, but unfortunately we know little more.
Howard Gilbert Webber, better known as “Dutch”, requires us to assume an error. Henry Webber is listed as a letterman in 1922-23. Webber was a key factor in KSAC’s 12-2 win over Iowa State in 1922. He went on to a vagabond NFL career.
Webber debuted in 1924 with the Kansas City Blues, along with Sears, starting nine games. He started eight more in 1925 before finishing the season with the Cleveland Bulldogs, starting four more. In 1926, he started eight games for the Hartford Blues, then ended up with the New York Giants for two games, starting one. He ended the year back in Kansas City, appearing in one game for the now-Cowboys.
He returned to Cleveland in 1927, starting in three games, but did not appear again. 1928 saw him appear in three games for the Green Bay Packers, with one start. In 1929, he did not play; in 1930 he started a single game for the Providence Steam Roller before finishing his career with three substitute appearances for the Newark Tornadoes.
As you probably expect at this point, we have little other information on Webber outside of his playing career. He passed away in 1985 in Ulysses, Kansas.
We’ll return tomorrow with 1924-25.