'Without a doubt best Knox football player no one has ever heard of': Meet Lane Bridgford

Matthew Wheaton
Galesburg Register-Mail
The 1919 Knox College football team is the only undefeated team in school history. The “Purple and Gold” demolished their competition by a margin of 295-7 for the season.

GALESBURG — In late May, the 2022 Knox-Lombard Athletic Hall of Fame Class was announced.

And four individuals and a team make it up. They are: Lane Bridgford, Mack Foster, Nathaniel Logie, Dorothy “DJ” (Ambrogi) Todt, and the 2016 Knox women’s soccer team. 

The Register-Mail is shining a spotlight on the bunch. 

Up first is Bridgford, who graduated from Knox in 1920, and was a standout member of the 1919 Knox College football team. The team was inducted into the HOF in 2009.

Bridgford

More than 100 years after his playing career, Bridgford is still in the Knox Top 10 performers in a dozen categories. He is first in extra points in a game (nine), fourth in most total points in a game (27), fourth in career total points (180), fourth in extra points attempted in a season (33), sixth in total points in a season (95), tied for sixth in touchdowns in a season (12), tied for sixth in career touchdowns (26), and eighth in extra points made in a season (23).

Bridgford also has the second longest fumble return (85 yards), 10th longest punt return (55 yards), and 10th longest interception return (60 yards) in school history. He was the leader in career touchdowns until 1989, a record that stood for 70 years. Bridgford was in the Top 4 in nine of the previous categories in 1969, 50 years after his final game.

The 1921 Gale stated, “For three years ‘Bridge’ has been a star on the Knox eleven. Last year he captained the S.A.T.C. team and his appearance on the Knox field again this fall was a most welcome one. As a half back ‘Bridge’ ranks among the best of the state and has been mentioned for ‘All State’ honors. Fast on his feet, he delighted in end runs which were generally good for twenty to twenty-five yards. We hate to see ‘Bridge’ leave as we know his place at left half back will be hard to fill.”

Bridgford was voted onto the Illinois All-State team along with teammates Adolph “Ziggy” Hamblin, Bertram Bennett, and Freeman “Fatty” Campbell. Hamblin and Bennett along with Coach Sam Barry are also members of the Knox-Lombard HOF. 

The 1919 Knox football team is the only undefeated squad in the school's history. The “Purple and Gold” demolished their competition by a margin of 295-7 for the season. The only score the team allowed was on a fluke play in which a punt hit a Knox player before it bounced into a Lake Forest player’s hands who ran 30 yards for a touchdown.

“Lane Bridgford is without a doubt the best Knox football player that no one has ever heard of,” Knox football historian Tom Crabtree said. “His election to the Hall of Fame is long overdue.”

Following his career at Knox, Bridgford played two years in the National Football League (NFL) for the Rock Island Independents.