Written By David Sugarman
With another school year becoming history we thought it was time to take a look at some of Indiana Football’s history. Today, in the next installment of our Hoosier Legacy Series we take a look at Pete Pihos, a man who defined what it meant to be a warrior both on and off the football field.
Pihos was born October 22, 1923 in Orlando, Florida. A 1978 IU Athletics Hall of Fame Inductee, Pihos was a warrior in multiple senses of the word. More important than his duties on the gridiron, Pihos served his country in World War II. He was part of the brave group that stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. So in addition to being an All-American football player, Pihos earned recognition for his time as a solider. General George Patton gave Pihos a battlefield promotion in the Battle of the Bulge and was awarded the bronze and silver medals for bravery.
While doing battle for the Hoosiers on the football field, Pihos was an All-American at two different positions. Before going off to WWII, Pihos was an All-American end in 1943. When he came back, Pihos earned the same honor, but as a fullback in 1945. Pihos would help lead IU to its first Big Ten title in 1945. At the time Pihos held school records for touchdowns and receptions with 14 scores (nine rushing, five receiving) and 24 catches.
The Austin High School (Illinois), graduate would also go on to have a stellar career in the NFL. The only Hoosier to ever be inducted into both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, Pihos played nine years with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was named an All-Pro receiver three times, All-Pro Team Offensive End 5 times, All-Pro Team Defensive End one time and an All-Pro End six times. Former Eagles coach Greasy Neale felt Pihos was virtually unstoppable once saying, “When he gets his hands on a ball, there isn’t much the defense can do. He just runs over people.”
When he wrapped up his career in the city of brotherly love, Pihos had racked up nearly 400 receptions and had 61 touchdowns while missing only one game in nine years. He helped lead the Eagles to back-to-back NFL titles in 1948 and 1949.
Mark Deal, Indiana’s Assistant Athletic director in charge of Alumni Relations had only the highest praise for Pihos saying,“Pete Pihos who, in my opinion, in my father's opinion (who was his teammate), and in George Taliaferro's opinion (who was his teammate), and it's hard to argue,is the greatest football player to ever play at Indiana University.”
After he hung up his cleats Phios was an assistant coach for Tulane University. Pihos passed away in August of 2011 at the age of 87, but his legacy on the football field and more importantly on the battlefield in service of his country, will go well beyond that.