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Linton grad to be inducted in IU Hall of FamePosted Wednesday, September 15, 2010, at 8:27 PM
1924 Linton High School graduate Chuck Bennett is shown during his playing days on the gridiron at Indiana University, where he was Big Ten MVP in 1928 (Photo courtesy of Indiana University Athletics).
Bennett, who won varsity letters at IU in 1926-28, will join Lee Corso (football coach, 1973-82), Steve Green (men's basketball, 1973-75), Denise (Jackson) Salters (women's basketball, 1981-84), Wayne McDonald (men's golf, 1968-70), and Van Waiters (football, 1983, 85-87) at the official induction at the annual Hall of Fame dinner on Friday, Oct. 29 and will be recognized at halftime of the football game against Northwestern at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 30.
Bennett was the Hoosiers first Big Ten MVP in football in 1928.
"It is fantastic that Chuck Bennett is being honored as an athlete at IU," said 1947 Linton graduate Bob Elkins, who serves as unofficial historian of Miner football. "You can't underplay or overplay this thing.
"You talk about just six people annually making their Hall of Fame, and that includes every sport they've got over there."
Elkins, who helped provide information about Bennett's history to IU, said he wasn't sure why it took this many years for Bennett's accomplishments, including being named All-American as a halfback in 1928, to come to light.
"It usually takes someone who knew a player or coach to bring it to their attention," said Elkins. "It probably just went unnoticed because it was a long time ago."
Elkins said that Bennett, who is one of seven former Linton standouts that is in the Indiana Football Hall of Fame, could have made an even bigger mark at IU.
"This is a story that needs to be told," said Elkins, who received a scholarship to play football at IU after graduating from Linton in 1948. "Bennett was a fantastic high school coach and in 1948 was coaching football at La Grange (Ill.) I remember it well.
"They had hired a new coach, Chuck Smith, to replace Bo McMillan, who was probably the best football coach ever at IU. There was a lot of conversation that Chuck Bennett was expected to be named coach. The athletic director, I can't remember his name, did not like Bennett and they picked Smith instead. That turned out to be a disaster. I think Smith won eight games in four years."
Bennett, who was named the MVP of the East-West Shrine Game in 1928 after scoring two touchdowns, took over at Lyons Township High School in La Grange in 1939, after coaching six years previously at two different schools. He coached 21 years and won 11 West Suburban Conference championships. He also served as athletic director from 1960-66 at Lyons Township.
"I was talking with Chuck's wife and she said he did not really get upset about not getting the IU job," said Elkins. "He just loved to coach and was happy wherever his team was.
"He loved to work with the boys and developing them into men was the most important part of the whole coaching deal to him. It was just not about winning games, but developing boys into fine young men."
Bennett was a standout player at Linton. As a senior in 1923, the Miners posted an 8-0-1 record. They were 8-0 against Indiana opponents, outscoring them 155-0.
"That 1923 team, featuring Bennett, went undefeated against Indiana teams," said Elkins. "But in one of those challenge games at the end of the season, they lost to Robinson, Ill. 8-7.
"A train load of people from Linton went over there."
During that undefeated season, the Miners defeated Bloomfield 60-0.
"Chuck scored five touchdowns," Elkins said reciting from the newspaper article about the game. "He stepped around Bloomfield's left end and went 73 yards for a touchdown.
"The story said that "Fast Wheel Speed" was his middle name and coach Landis said he was the best back he had ever seen."
Back in July 1994, his son Bryon Bennett spoke when his father Chuck was inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame.
"Dad was born in 1907," Bryon said in an story published by the Linton Daily Citizen. "And by 13 he was working in the coal mines.
"It's hard to believe six years later that we would be the Big Ten MVP."
Before starting his coaching career, Bennett played professionally for the Portsmouth Spartans and the Chicago Cardinals. Bryon told a story about his father's days in professional football.
"It was Thanksgiving Day 1931 and dad was playing for the Portsmouth Spartans," said Bryon. "They were playing George Halas' Chicago Cardinals at Wrigley Field.
"Late in the game, dad was running free before he was cut down by a Chicago player, who helped him up from the frozen field and said, 'Good run Bennett.' That guy was Red Grange."
Bryon, who played football and basketball at the University of Colorado, said that his dad had a simple motto.
"Athletics is not the important thing. Life is the important thing."
B.J. Hargis is the sports editor at the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached at (812) 847-4487, ext. 12 or at email@example.com.
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