Why did I love this book?
In 1907, at the Carlisle Indian School (Carlisle, PA), a scrappy Native American football team coached by Pop Warner invented the passing game and revolutionized the game of football as it was being played by the Ivy League schools with deadly results. (So many players were dying from injuries, President Teddy Roosevelt almost banned the game in 1905.) Sally Jenkins’ book is eye-opening history that throws open the doors to the Carlisle Indian School and grippingly tells the story of how the “Carlisle Redmen,” as they were called, became the darling of the nation, and eventually took on Harvard in a legendary 1912 game pitting two young running backs against each other: Jim Thorpe and Dwight Eisenhower.
If you’re a football fan and/or have an interest in Native American history, this book entertains with Pop Warner’s famous trick plays (e.g., the “hidden ball trick”) and the Harvard boys performing the first “endzone dance,” and illuminates as Jenkins presents the historical milieu and racism Native Americans faced while the Carlisle Indians were winning fans and changing hearts.
I found this non-fiction jewel so riveting, it inspired me to write my first historical fiction novel.