Historical records matching Dr. Bradbury Norton Robinson, Jr. (1st legal forward pass)
About Dr. Bradbury Norton Robinson, Jr. (1st legal forward pass)
Bradbury Norton Robinson, Jr. (February 1, 1884 in Bellevue, Ohio – March 7, 1949 in Pinellas County, Florida) was a college football player for St. Louis University who threw the first legal forward pass in American football history and was the sport's first triple threat.
The first pass
On September 5, 1906, Robinson threw the first pass in a game against Carroll College at Waukesha. Jack Schneider was the receiver for the Blue & White (St. Louis would not adopt "Billikens" as a nickname for its sports teams until sometime after 1910).
The pass had been officially legalized the previous spring by the newly created Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS) as part of a strategy to make the game safer. In 1910, the IAAUS became the NCAA.
The power teams of the East, who dominated the attention of national sportswriters in the early 1900s, were slow to adopt the forward pass. However, the 1906 Blue & White squad under coach Eddie Cochems (1877–1953) built its offensive strategy around "the new rules".
The Blue & White cruised to an 11–0 record in 1906. Cochems and company led the nation in scoring, collectively outscoring their opponents 407–11.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch sportswriter Ed Wray covered SLU football during Robinson's career. By the 1940s, Wray was a columnist and had served as the paper's sports editor for 38 years. In an October 1947 "Wray's Column", he wrote, "the football world in general and the college and professional treasuries in particular are indebted to Cochems and Robinson and St. Louis University... That's because the tremendous rise of gridiron interest everywhere can be traced directly of the Cochems–Robinson forward passing and to the improved spectacle it has made of this fine and manly game."
In 2008, "Librarian of the Internet" findingDulcinea.com offered the same assessment on its main Football page: "When Bradbury Robinson of St. Louis University threw an oval-shaped ball to teammate Jack Schneider in 1906, he not only completed the first forward pass in history, he created an American sensation. A century later, football is the largest spectator sport in the United States, with the Super Bowl drawing in excess of 90 million television viewers annually."
The "air attack"
Robinson and the tall and speedy Schneider practiced running "pass routes" in the years leading up to the 1906 season. Their passes were not the awkward heaves typical of the era, but overhand spirals that hit the receiver in stride.
In a series of interviews with Wray in the 1930s and 40s, Robinson gave Cochems the credit for creating St. Louis' revolutionary offensive scheme. Nevertheless, Robinson recalled that he and Schneider pushed their coach to emphasize the pass. According to archives at St. Louis, Cochems (pronounced coke-ems) didn't start calling pass plays in the Carroll game until after he had grown frustrated with the failure of his offense to move the ball on the ground.
In that historic 1906 game, the first Robinson-to-Schneider attempt failed to connect. More than 100 years later, Stephen Jones of The Press-Enterprise called it "an incompletion that changed the game of football forever." Under the rules at that time, an incomplete pass resulted in a turnover to Carroll. Undeterred, on a subsequent possession, Cochems called for his team to again execute the play he dubbed the "air attack".
Robinson took the fat, rugby-style ball and threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Schneider. The play stunned the fans and the Carroll players. St. Louis went on to win, 22–0.
"The possibilities of the new rules"
The fundamental change to the sport engendered by the introduction of the forward pass was manifest in St. Louis' 1906 Thanksgiving Day game at Sportsman's Park, where the Blue and White hosted the Iowa Hawkeyes. A year earlier on the same field, Iowa had humiliated St. Louis 31–0 (and Robinson had been carried off the field unconscious after a hard tackle).
In a newspaper article published the morning of the game, an anonymous writer correctly predicted, "It is to that leader who has grasped the possibilities of the new rules... that success may come... Indications point to a style of attack on Iowa's part which is virtually that of last year." The analysis continued, "No team, unless absolutely preponderant in physical strength and speed can hope to win out against an eleven like St. Louis university... On the other hand, St. Louis U will, in all probability, spring a variety of play that will do to the visitors what it has not failed to do to every other eleven that has played here — bewilder it." The prediction could not have been more on the mark; the 12,000 fans in attendance witnessed St. Louis crush the Hawkeyes 39–0.
Historic demonstration of modern football
Hall of Fame coach David M. Nelson (1920–1991) considered the Iowa game to be of historic importance. In his book The Anatomy of a Game: Football, the Rules, and the Men Who Made the Game, Nelson writes that "eight passes were completed in ten attempts for four touchdowns" that afternoon. "The average flight distance of the passes was twenty yards."
Coach Nelson continues, "the last play demonstrated the dramatic effect that the forward pass was having on football. St. Louis was on Iowa's thirty-five-yard line with a few seconds to play. Timekeeper Walter McCormack walked onto the field to end the game when the ball was thrown twenty-five yards and caught on the dead run for a touchdown."
"Cochems said that the poor Iowa showing resulted from its use of the old style play and its failure to effectively use the forward pass", Nelson writes. "Iowa did attempt two basketball-style forward passes." The morning after the game, Wray wrote that Iowa's "weak attempt... at the forward pass... was an utter failure." On the other side of the ball, Wray observed, "Although Iowa seemed to know just when the (forward pass) was coming, the members of the Hawkeye team seemed to be unable to form a defense capable of stopping it.
"The use of the forward pass and the versatility of the St. Louis attack seemed to daze the Iowa team," Wray concluded. "Nearly every one of the plays planned this season by Coach Cochems were unloaded in this, the last game of the season, and Iowa looked on enthralled but impotent."
St. Louis' "perfect exhibition" of the passing game
The 1906 Iowa game was refereed by one of the top football officials in the country... West Point's Lt. Horatio "Stuffy" Hackett. He had worked games involving the top Eastern powers that year. Hackett, who would become a member of the American Intercollegiate Football Rules Committee in December 1907, was quoted the next day in Wray's Post-Dispatch article: "It was the most perfect exhibition... of the new rules ... that I have seen all season and much better than that of Yale and Harvard. St. Louis' style of pass differs entirely from that in use in the east. ... The St. Louis university players shoot the ball hard and accurately to the man who is to receive it ... The fast throw by St. Louis enables the receiving player to dodge the opposing players, and it struck me as being all but perfect."
On January 9, 1946, Wray recalled the interview from almost 40 years earlier: "Hackett told this writer that in no other game that he handled had he seen the forward pass as used by St. Louis U. nor such bewildering variations of it."
According to the November 19, 1932 Minneapolis Star, Hackett, who officated games into the 1930s, once said of Robinson, "Whew, that chap is a wonder! He beats anything I ever saw. He looks as though 40 yards is dead for him, and he's got accuracy with it."
Nelson, who served as the Secretary-Editor of the NCAA's Football Rules Committee for 29 years, drives home the singular nature of St. Louis' pass attack: "During the 1906 season [Robinson] threw a sixty-seven yard pass... and... Schneider tossed a sixty-five yarder. Considering the size, shape and weight of the ball, these were extraordinary passes."
Sports historian John Sayle Watterson agreed. In his book, College Football: History, Spectacle, Controversy, Watterson described Robinson's long pass as "truly a breathtaking achievement."
"There's the pass, boy"
Some credited Robinson with throwing an all-time record 87-yard missile to Schneider earlier that season in St. Louis' 34–2 win over Kansas before a crowd of 7,000 at Sportsman's Park. Although not reported in contemporary newspaper accounts, the 1933 Spalding's Football Guide listed the throw as official... 87 yards in the air from passer to receiver... as the Ogden Standard-Examiner reported in its November 12, 1933 issue:
Parke H. Davis (Football Guide editor and pre-eminent football historian) still insists that the longest forward pass ever thrown in a football game traveled 87 yards... it was from Bradbury Robinson to John Schneider . . ..and it helped St. Louis to beat Kansas in the merry year of 1906..."
A detailed account of the play was given by New York Evening World sports editor and cartoonist Robert W. Edgren as quoted by columnist Joseph "Roundy" Coughlin of the Wisconsin State Journal in 1934:
St. Louis had a mighty good team in those days and in this particular game with Kansas, determined to go out on the field and push over a few touchdowns without using the forward pass, just to prove that they could do something besides toss the ball. They kept the ball down on the ground during the first half and rolled up a lead of two or three touchdowns. This didn't sit very well with Kansas and one of their ends named Bruner who was playing opposite Robinson, thought he would get Robinson's goat. "I thought you could pass," he said. "I heard you were a passing team, but all you do is buck the line. Show us a pass; just show it to us once."
Robinson looked him in the eye and said they would pass soon enough, and more than that, he would tell Bruner when it was coming. With the ball on its own 25-yard line, first down, St. Louis called for a pass on the first down. Robinson went back into punt formation and shouted to Bruner that they were going to show him the pass and to warn the rest of his team, because they were going to see something.
And they did!
Brad Robinson got hold of the ball, waited for Schneider to run down to the goal line (Robinson could take his time because Kansas had pulled all but five men in the backfield and these five were smothered by the St. Louis forwards) and then let fly. Nobody paid any attention to Scheider because he was so far away from the passer that such a throw seemed impossible. All the Kansas team could do then was to look skyward as the ball soared from one end of the field to the other, to plump into Fullback Schneider's arms on the goal line.
"There's the pass, boy," remarked Robinson. "How do you like it?"
According to The New York Times, Edgren was "(e)ven tempered always, well informed in all sports and... always told the truth...", lending credence to his account.
J. B. Sheridan's game summary the next day in the Post-Dispatch also indicates that St. Louis did not pass at all until well into the second half. His description of Robinson's long throw matched Edgren's account in many details, although there was no mention of verbal exchanges with Bruner, identified in the box score as Kansas' right tackle. But Sheridan's description of Robinson's "marvel of distance and accuracy and result" had him waiting at "the 40-yard line" before he launched... not inside his own 25.
Dan Dillon 's "How the Game Was Played" in the Globe-Democrat the next morning gave no yardage details but he wrote that, "(a)t this magnificent exhibition of the spectacular forward pass the crowd went wild and Kansas was plainly up in the air on account of the machine-like method with which it was executed for such material gains."
Robinson's teammate, SLU team captain Clarence "Pike" Kenney (later the head football coach at Creighton and Marquette), confirmed the 87-yard distance in a 1937 newspaper interview.
Robert Ripley highlighted the toss in his famous "Ripley's Believe It or Not" newspaper feature in 1945.
On October 15, 1947, the St. Louis Star-Times referred to the play as "a record that still stands."
A Northwestern University football program from the same year lists the 87-yard pass as one of the "Record Scoring Plays of All Time." It also credits "the late football chronicler Parke H. Davis" as its source.
Record-setting or not, Robinson's passing against the Jayhawkers impressed The Kansas City Times in a post-game analysis: "The forward pass was perhaps the most effective of (St. Louis') new plays which they used against Kansas. This was started from the punting formation. Robinson, an end, going back to pass the ball. Instead of making the usual basket-ball throw of the oval, however, he shot it straight forward in the same manner as he would throw a baseball, and wonderful indeed was the speed and accuracy with which it would fall into the hands of the backs waiting down the field."
"Huge and boney hands"
Professor Watterson wrote that, "Robinson ended up using passes that ranged from thirty to more than forty yards with devastating efficiency".
In their book Coaching Football, Super Bowl-winning player and coach Tom Flores and longtime coach Bob O'Connor report that "Robinson... was credited with several 50-yard completions in 1906."
In the build-up to the 1906 game with Iowa, the Post-Dispatch reported that Robinson could "throw the oval 65 yards."
Coach Nelson related that some observers chalked up Robinson's passing prowess to an anatomical advantage. "St. Louis had a great passer in Brad Robinson," Nelson observed. "He had huge and boney hands, which led other coaches in the area to conclude that it was not possible to excel as a passer without these attributes. Having a passer without huge, boney hands was reason enough not to have an aerial game."
Robinson believed his physical advantage was the result of accident as well as genes. He credited his uncanny ability to throw long and accurate passes in part to a crooked little finger on his throwing (right) hand that was the result of a childhood injury. The misshapen pinkie helped impart a natural spiral to his tosses.
Reporters of the era also noted Robinson's disciplined preparation, in terms of his drills and workouts. Even when Robinson was in his sixties, his right arm was much more heavily muscled than his left, a testament to years of repeated exercise and practice.
The forward pass as employed by St. Louis in 1906 was the product of at least two years of practice and preparation... in St. Louis and in Wisconsin, where Brad (later called "Robbie" by friends) had spent most of his youth.
After his birth in Ohio and while still a toddler, Robinson's family moved to St. Louis where Brad's father (Bradbury Norton Robinson, Sr.) became general baggage agent for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. The senior Robinson (1842–1924) had spent most of his adult life working for railroads. Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, he served one year as a sergeant in the Union Army before moving for the first time to Missouri in 1862 to participate in the construction of the Missouri Pacific Railroad from St. Louis to Kansas City.
Before young Brad was old enough to attend school, the family moved again to Baraboo, Wisconsin, to be near his mother's family. Amelia Lee Robinson (1856–1930) was born in London, England and moved with her parents to the Baraboo area in 1878. So, it was in Baraboo that Brad Robinson grew up... a place he would later joke that was "made famous by the Ringling Brothers Circus... and myself." (Both Robinson and the Circus were "born" in 1884.)
Becoming a Badger
It was natural for a promising young athlete to enroll at his state's university... in Robinson's case the University of Wisconsin... and he played for the Badgers as a freshman in 1903. His arrival was seen by a sports reporter at the time as something of a godsend. Writing on August 23, 1903, the unidentified journalist reported, "a temporary disappointment, the information that O'Brien, the best candidate for the place of Center Remp, had decided not to return to the university, but had accepted a place for $500 to coach the Appleton high school eleven. The disappointment was cured, however, by the announcement that Robinson, who weighs nearly 200 pounds, had resigned his place at the state insane asylum at Mendota [now part of Madison, Wisconsin] and would enter the football squad in perfect trim, having systematically trained for the past six weeks."
Robinson's first and only season at Madison, "the Cardinal team" under Coach Art Curtis went 6–3–1, suffering shut-out losses to rivals Minnesota and Michigan. Robinson did get a chance to shine in the Badgers' 87–0 defeat of Beloit on October 17, as he scored two touchdowns. A newspaperman wrote, “Robinson’s star work seems to show [the] second eleven is not far behind the first.”
Origins of the forward pass
In addition to the Ringling brothers and "himself", another notable personage from Baraboo, Wisconsin was Belle Case La Follette (1859–1931). The suffragette and attorney was, according to the The New York Times at the time of her death, "probably the least known yet most influential of all the American women who had to do with public affairs in this country".
Belle Case La Follette, c. 1905
She taught junior high school in Baraboo before marrying future Wisconsin Congressman, Senator, Governor and Presidential candidate Robert M. La Follette, Sr.. Mrs. La Follette played an active role in her husband's political career.
In the spring of 1904, freshman Brad Robinson was summoned by Governor La Follette to the Executive Mansion, which was just a short walk from the U of W campus. In a February 5, 1946 interview with the Post-Dispatch's Robert Morrison, Robinson recalled that the Governor's "wife was from my home town and our families were acquainted... So at the university football practices, where La Follette used to come occasionally, he would often stop to talk to me."
Even so, Robinson was puzzled by the Governor's invitation until, "he showed me a letter from Teddy Roosevelt. There had been a lot of injuries in football and a movement was on foot to abolish the game. Roosevelt wrote that he did not want it wiped out and he thought it was an excellent game for character building, so La Follette asked me 'what do you think can be done to spread the game out and soften it up a bit?' "
Writing in his memoirs, Robinson remembered suggesting "increasing the distance to be gained in a set number of downs, to develop the kicking angle and introducing some of the elements of basketball and English Rugby; with perhaps allowing the throwing of the ball forward."
Sometime later, Robinson "met with the Governor and he told me to develop handling and throwing the ball because he was sure that eventually there would be changes in the rules along that line."
Robinson learns to pass
It was in the preseason of 1904 that Robinson first completely recognized the potential of the pass. Robinson later wrote, ”there came to the Wisconsin U squad a tall young Irishman from Chicago. His name was H.P. [Howard Paul] Savage, the same who later… became the National Commander of the American Legion and was known as “High Power” Savage. They were trying to develop me into a kicker at Wisconsin and H.P. generally teamed up with me to catch my punts. I noticed that he could throw my punts back almost as far as I could kick them. Here was the trick I must learn. I got H.P. to show me how he did it." Twenty-five years later, Robinson told St. Louis Star-Times sports editor Sid Keener (1888–1981) that Savage threw "the pigskin to his players with the ball revolving as it sailed through the air."
"From then on," Robinson wrote in his memoirs, "my football hobby became forward passing or anyway passing the ball.”
After getting in a fight with the “school bully”, Robinson was dismissed from the Wisconsin football team. He enrolled as a medical student at St. Louis, where he played the 1904 season. More than half the St. Louis squad consisted of future medical doctors.
D.C. Todd, who served as an official for most St. Louis area games of the period, remembered that, "Robinson spoke to me about the pass the fall he joined St. Louis University (1904)." Ed Wray described Dr. Todd as "a factor in St. Louis University athletic circles" who, along with SLU athletic director Father Pat Burke, set out to build up the football program at St. Louis in the early 1900s. In an interview with Wray, Todd remembered that Robinson, "came to me and told me he thought the forward pass was going to be a great asset. He told me that he had tried it and found he could throw the ball like he could a baseball. I spoke to Father Burke about it in the presence of one of your reporters, also named Burke (the late Miles Joseph Burke), and he was interested."
A player finds "his" coach
Long after transferring to St. Louis, Robinson maintained an unusually close relationship with his former team. He almost convinced the Badgers to make a last minute alteration to their schedule to play an extra game in 1905... at St. Louis on December 2. The so-called "post-season" game was announced as all but a done deal by Post-Dispatch writer J. B. Sheridan. Sheridan quoted St. Louis' Father Burke as saying, "Robinson, our crack halfback, who played with Wisconsin two years ago, is chiefly responsible for Wisconsin's willingness to play here. He is in close touch with the athletic authorities at the Madison school and, knowing of their desire to play one more game this season, arranged the contest with St. Louis University." 1905 St. Louis Coach Tommy Dowd said in the same article that the game was not "definitely arranged" and, in fact, it never happened.
Each preseason, back home in Wisconsin, Robinson was invited to work out with the Badgers and the development of the pass and possible pass plays continued at that venue. It was at Wisconsin in 1905 that Robinson first met Cochems, who was an assistant coach with the Badgers. Robinson recalled, “What I saw at Wisconsin before returning to St. Louis to school convinced me that Edward B. Cochems had an outstanding football system for that time. Actually years ahead of most of the other coaches of that period."
An unidentified St. Louis sportswriter of the period reported that some feared Robinson might return to Wisconsin to play with Cochems there. "(Robinson) played with Wisconsin two years ago, and might have filled one of the positions in the back field this year if he had not promised to return to the St. Louis University.
"He received several requests from Phil King (who had resumed his position as Wisconsin's head coach) to return to Madison and play on the Badgers, but would not desert his teammates in St. Louis."
Robinson simply could not break his word. So, if he wanted to play in Cochems' "outstanding football system", Robinson would have to bring the 29-year old coach to St. Louis... so that is exactly what he set out to do.
"After the season of 1905 was over the Rules Committee put the forward pass and several other things in the rules. This is what I had been waiting for since 1904," Robinson wrote. "I induced my school to hire Mr. Edward B. Cochems to come to St. Louis as coach. He brought with him 3 or 4 outstanding players. With them and what we already had at St. Louis U he developed the team sensation of the country for the two seasons of 1906 and 1907."
"It was chiefly through Robinson that Cochems, the assistant coach at Wisconsin last year, was engaged by St. Louis University," a newspaper at the time confirmed. "(Robinson) recommended him to the faculty."
Taking full advantage of the early passing rules
Cochems had immediately grasped the strategic advantage of passing under the rules that had been established between the 1905 and 1906 seasons. And so had his players, who invented their own drills to develop the new skills they would need. Dr. Todd recalled, "Robinson and Schneider got together and began to work on the pass and soon developed amazing proficiency. [They] used to run the side lines throwing the ball clear across the field as they ran."
The coach drilled his players relentlessly in long evening practice sessions "behind closed gates... in absolute secrecy" according to one contemporary newspaper account.
"Another Cochemesque feature of the practice," according to columnist Dan Dillon, "was his placing his two star forward pass artists — Robinson and Schneider — in front of the big score board in center field (at Sportsman's Park)." Writing on October 24, 1906, Dillon was astonished that the pair "actually pitch the oval much after [the] baseball idea at certain marked spots on the board. The accuracy exhibited by those men in throwing the ball was simply marvelous and if some of the Eastern critics who are reputed opposed to the baseball throw for the forward pass could see this pair execute the play it is certain they would change their views."
One of Robinson's teammates, Frank Acker, explained the impact of the 1906 rules in an interview with Wray published on September 20, 1945: "The passer then had to run five yards to the right or left of center before passing and as a result the field was marked off in five-yard squares, like a checker board, and not merely with parallel lines 10 yards apart.
"The most important difference in the rules was that an incomplete forward pass was not brought back to the point of origin, but went to the enemy at the point where it grounded. The effect was, on the fourth down, the same as if the ball had been punted.
"If the St. Louis U. receiver caught it, he could run for that touchdown. If he muffed, the ball went to the foe some 40 yards or more from the point it was thrown... Wouldn't that do things, today?"
By the time of the interview, Acker was, according to Wray, "a stocky, broad-shouldered 59-year old guy"... a retired Southern California physician and real estate investor. But even 39 years distant, the memories of those early days of college football were fresh. "Robinson threw the long passes and Schneider the bullet-fast short ones," Acker recalled. "Robbie's shots were so dangerous that the opposition assigned three men to take care of him.
"We ran our plays from the T formation... Our opponents' attention to Robbie made things easy for us... When Robbie started a play three of our backs went in one direction... But the ball was passed to me direct and I went in the other, with no interference, usually hitting a hole in the line."
Acker concluded, "I am a football fan and see all the big games but I've never seen longer or more accurate passing than the Robinson-Schneider team showed me... It should be remembered that they used a bigger and fatter football, harder to grasp, and offering greater air resistance than the narrower 'projectile' of today... I'd back Robinson against any of the pitchers today, big ball and all."
Men on a mission
Brad Robinson demonstrated the "Overhand spiral—fingers on lacing" in "The Forward Pass and On-Side Kick" an article in Spalding's How to Play Foot Ball, American Sports Publishing, Revised 1907 edition, written by Eddie Cochems, Walter Camp. Editor Cochems and his charges took it upon themselves to convert the football world to their belief that the forward pass had fundamentally changed the sport.
In an early November 1906 newspaper interview, Cochems' enthusiasm was evident. "I think the forward pass is sensational. My men never think of throwing the ball underhand. They throw it overhand as hard as they can."
"It's really a puzzle to me why the other teams are not given new style plays by their coaches," Cochems continued. "[The] Eastern elevens are using nothing but the old-style formations... It will be a matter of a season or two until the coaches throughout the country come around to my way of thinking or I will be badly mistaken."
Cochems was, in fact, badly mistaken. It would be seven years before Knute Rockne began to follow Cochems' example at Notre Dame. But, the slow adoption of his ideas was not for lack of promotional effort by Cochems.
The coach detailed his concepts in wires and letters to influential men in the sport.
Cochems wrote a 10-page article entitled "The Forward Pass and On-Side Kick" for the 1907 edition of Spalding's How to Play Foot Ball, edited by the "Father of American Football", Walter Camp. The coach explained in words and photographs (of Robinson) how the forward pass could be thrown and how passing skills could be developed. "[T]he necessary brevity of this article will not permit... a detailed discussion of the forward pass," Cochems lamented. "Should I begin to explain the different plays in which the pass... could figure, I would invite myself to an endless task."
The coach even urged the redesign of the football itself... to make it better fit the passer's hand... more aerodynamic... in other words the football we know today.
The Post-Dispatch's W.G. Murphy reported on November 7, 1906 that the prostelitizing included indoctrinating the youngest fans: "In pursuance with Coach Cochems' plan to popularize the new game, Kenney, Schneider, Acker, Robinson and other members of St. Louis U.'s team visited a number of the local schools Monday and addressed the students on the fine points of the game."
The first triple threat
Brad Robinson was not only St. Louis' premier passer. He was also the Blue & White's principal kicker. One sports journalist of the time opined that, "of the local kickers, Robinson of St. Louis easily excels all others. He is good for at least 45 yards every time he puts his toe to the ball and some of his punts have gone 60 yards."
Watching a St. Louis practice in 1906, journalist Dillon observed Robinson "kicking in fine form and with a slight wind behind him, was dropping them over regularly from the 45-yard line and was averaging close to 50 yards on his punts."
Robbie's prowess as a ballcarrier was particularly noted by a reporter after a November 11, 1904 victory over the University of Missouri at Columbia: "Robinson and (John) Kinney, the halfbacks of the visiting team were the fastest seen here in years and the Tigers seemed unable to stop them." Another writer at the game observed that Robinson's "offensive play was fast and in running back punts he gained much ground for his team, besides tackling well while on defensive." The St. Louis Globe-Democrat added, "Robinson's return of punts electrified the spectators time and time again. He was always good for a gain of 20 yards or more."
Years before the term was commonly used by sportswriters, Bradbury Robinson had become the first triple threat in football history. Writing in October 1947, Ed Wray declared that the title belonged to Robinson "because throughout the  season Cochems used Robinson to pass, kick and run the ball... He was an A1 punter, too... And run!... This three way use of Robby added greatly to the team's offensive deception."
The 1904 Olympics, the World's Fair & a perfect, unscored upon season
St. Louis University claims to have won the Olympic gold medal in American football in 1904, Robinson's first season at SLU. Both the third Olympic Games of the modern era and the World's Fair were held in St. Louis that year.
Blue and White games were played before Exposition crowds.
St. Louis (under Coach Martin Delaney) went 11–0, outscoring its opponents 336 to 0 that year—including a win over Kentucky by the score of 5–0, the 17–0 victory over Missouri and a 51–0 defeat of Arkansas. The Spalding Athletic Almanac of 1905 offered this commentary:
“The (Olympic) Department knew perfectly well that it would be unable to have an Olympic Foot Ball Championship, though it felt incumbent to advertise it. Owing to the conditions in American colleges it would be utterly impossible to have an Olympic foot ball championship decided. The only college that seemed absolutely willing to give up its financial interests to play for the World’s Fair Championship was the St. Louis University and there is more apparently in this honor than appears in this report. There were many exhibition contests held in the Stadium under the auspices of the Department wherein teams from the St. Louis University and Washington University took part and competed against other teams from universities east and west of the Mississippi River. The Missouri–Purdue game was played in the Stadium on October 28.... The Olympic College Foot Ball Championship was won by St. Louis University, St. Louis, Mo., by default.”
Brad Robinson was also a standout in baseball and track and field for the Blue & White and was elected captain of both teams.
Upon his election as captain of the 1907 baseball team, the Post-Dispatch reported that, "Robinson has demonstrated, since his entrance at the blue and white school, that he is a good all-around athlete. He played an excellent game at end for Cochems' eleven and did all the kicking for that team. His punting was consistent and proved a very valuable asset to the blue and white eleven. Aside from this, Robinson won recognition for his work in negotiating the famous forward pass, which gained favor every time it was employed. He throws the ball virtually as far as he kicks it, and astounded many of the eastern enthusiasts by his work in this regard.
"He is a clever fielder and one of the hardest hitters on the varsity team. He also led the batters in the Bank Clerks' league, in which organization he played after the close of the collegiate season last year.
"He is a good hurdler and at present is pushing Schneider hard for the supremacy in this event at the Jesuit school. He was captain of the track team last year."
At the time of Robinson's election as track captain, a local writer reported: "Immediately before the dual meet with Central Y.M.C.A. Saturday night, (Brad) Robinson, the half back of the St. Louis rugby team last year, was chosen captain of the track team. Robinson's work on the track has been gilt-edged this season and his election to head the athletes was not a surprise.
"That Robinson is a competent and loyal man to fill this position was evidenced by the manner in which he conducted himself Saturday evening.
"He took first in the shot-put and ran almost a dead heat with Clancy in the hurdles, taking second place. When his school was short a man in the mile, owing to the sickness of Trotter, he entered the race, although he had not (run) in a long distance race before. He finished fifth."
Despite his own admirable performance, Robinson's team was not a winner that night... a loss he attributed to "overconfidence" and "poor luck". "Murray, the crack dash man, was left at his mark owing to the poor service of the pistol," Robinson explained after the meet. "The gun failed to go off three times in succession and when the report finally came it took most of the men unaware and the heat was run in slow time."
In both 1906 and 1907 Robinson and his teammates were the Western AAU Indoor relay champions.
Medical career, The Great War & family
Robinson pursued pre-med studies at Wisconsin in 1903–04 before enrolling as a medical student at St. Louis in 1904. In 1908, he left SLU, having earned his bachelor of science and his medical degrees there.
From 1908 to 1910 he practiced surgery at St. Mary's Hospital, one of the two Mayo Clinic hospitals in Rochester, Minnesota.
On March 7, 1910, he married Melissa Mills, a strikingly beautiful St. Louis girl, who died just four years later, leaving Robinson heartbroken.
Their only child, Bradbury N. Robinson, III, was raised by his paternal grandparents. Like his father, he would play college football, wearing number 51 as a standout receiver for the University of Minnesota from 1931 to 1933 and was a member of one of the All-America squads in 1931–32. He was chosen for the 1933 East-West Shrine Game played in San Francisco and he played for the East All-Stars in the Century of Progress International Exposition game at Soldier's Field in Chicago that same year. He was a forward on the Gophers basketball team... serving as its captain in 1932–33. After graduation, he went into the radio advertising business and spent some time as an analyst on college football broadcasts. One job had him supplying color commentary for a Chicago radio station, working with a play-by-play partner by the name of "Dutch" Reagan (future U.S. President).
Upon the United States' entry into The Great War, Brad Robinson, Jr. enlisted and was sent to the First Officers Training Camp at Ft. Sheridan. There he won his commission as a captain of infantry on August 15, 1917. He was then assigned to the command of Company L, 340th Infantry Regiment of the 85th Division. He was sent overseas in July 1918. In France, he became an instructor at the Inter-Allied Tank School in Recloses, until his battalion was ordered to the front on November 1, 1918, ten days before the Armistice.
Dr. Robinson elected to stay in France to pursue post-graduate work in 1919, where he met Yvonne Marie Dewachter (1898–1966), while both were students at the University of Bordeaux. Yvonne was the elder daughter of merchant and renowned landscape painter Louis Dewachter (nom de peintre Louis Dewis). While Robinson spoke hardly a word of French, Mlle Dewachter was fluent in English. A whirlwind courtship ensued and the couple were married on August 12, 1919 in Paris. They had seven children: Lois, Nadine, Richard, Janine, Yveline, Jacqueline and Corrine.
The growing family found itself moving from one European city to another as Dr. Robinson continued clinical studies across the continent from 1920 to 1926 as a surgeon on the staff of Surgeon General Hugh S. Cumming. Cumming had been ordered to Europe to study the sanitary conditions of the ports to prevent the introduction of disease into the United States by returning troops. In 1925, he inaugurated a plan for the medical inspection of immigrants abroad in the principal countries of origin. Dr. Robinson played a role in both programs. The New York Times reported his arrival in New York City for a visit to the States in 1922:
One of the first-cabin passengers who arrived yesterday from Liverpool… on the White Star liner Adriatic was Dr. Bradbury N. Robinson of the United States Public Health Service, who has been in England for two years assisting British officials at Liverpool and other ports in the examination of emigrants. He said that fully 25 per cent of the emigrants leaving Liverpool while he was there had to be what he termed “disinfested”. Those who came from Southern Europe were clean because they had passed through so many disinfecting stations.
Dr. Robinson and his family moved to the United States to stay in 1926, locating to St. Louis, Michigan in September of that year. He was drawn to the small city because of its natural mineral-rich water, which he believed would play an important role in his naturopathic and holistic medical practice. A frequent author on medical matters, he opened the Robinson Clinic in St. Louis in 1935. He was twice elected the city's mayor... in 1931 and 1937.
Warnings against the use of DDT
In the mid to late 1940s, Robinson became one of the earliest to warn of the dangers of using the pesticide DDT in agriculture. This was a radical view at the time... especially in St. Louis, Michigan. Beginning in 1944, DDT had been researched and manufactured in St. Louis by the Michigan Chemical Corporation (later purchased by Velsicol Chemical Corporation). DDT had become an important part of the local economy.
It would be more than a decade before the dangers of DDT would be the subject of Rachel Carson's 1962 landmark book, Silent Spring.
DDT's use in agriculture would be banned worldwide in the 1970s and 80s.
The Gratiot County, Michigan Landfill just outside of St. Louis, in which some of the chemicals from the DDT-producing plant had been disposed, became a Superfund site in the 1970s.
Death in Florida
Dr. Robinson died at the Veterans Hospital in Bay Pines, Florida in 1949 from complications following routine surgery. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Brad Robinson was inducted into the St. Louis Billiken Hall of Fame in 1995.
In 2009, SI.com and Sports Illustrated Kids listed Cochems' development of the forward pass and Robinson's historic touchdown pass to Schneider as the first of 13 "Revolutionary Moments in Sports."
In 2010, Complex magazine recognized Robinson as the "Best Player" on the 1906 St. Louis squad, which the publication ranked among the "The 50 Most Badass College Football Teams" in history, placing the Blue and White at 38th. Complex said it chose the teams based on "style, guts, amazing plays, and players and coaches that did things that just hadn’t been done before."
Dr. Bradbury Norton Robinson, Jr. (1st legal forward pass)'s Timeline
February 1, 1884
Bellevue, Sandusky County, Ohio, United States
March 7, 1949
Bay Pines, Pinellas County, Florida, United States