Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
When putting together a list of IU’s greatest football players of all-time, John Tavener is not a name that will come to many people’s minds right away. He played in the mid-1940s and was a center, certainly not a glamorous position. That being said, when you review Tavener’s credentials, there is no doubt he belongs on any list of IU’s “best of all-time”.
John Tavener was born in 1921 in Newark, Ohio and he passed away in Columbus, Ohio at the age of 72. Before his death in 1993, he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame for his outstanding achievements as a member of the Indiana Hoosiers from 1941-1944. He was a four-year letterman and a two-year captain while at Indiana and he was named to a remarkable six different All-America teams following his final season in college (1944). Tavener was named IU’s Most Valuable Player in both 1943 and 1944 and it is easy to see why. He played center and called the offensive signals, was an outstanding linebacker and kicked extra points. Tavener was drafted in 1946 by the Miami Seahawks but he only played for one season before retiring and pursuing a career in banking.
IU Assistant Athletic Director for Alumni Relations and Indiana Football Hall of Fame inductee Mark Deal said believes Tavener belongs on any list of historically great IU players. “John Tavener was a member of my Dad’s (Mutt Deal) recruiting class in 1940. He never went to World War II, so he played all the way through and he was gone by the time my Dad got back. College Football Hall of Famer, First Team All-American…John Tavener was a great center and a terrific player. Absolutely terrific player from Dayton, Ohio.”
Tavener was a star for the Hoosiers on the field and he was a major reason why the 1940s were a particularly bright era for IU on the gridiron. While he may have been born and died in Ohio, he will always be remembered as a great Hoosier.