John Grigas
No. 50
Position:Fullback / halfback
Personal information
Born:(1920-08-19)August 19, 1920
Chelsea, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died:May 19, 2000(2000-05-19) (aged 79)
Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.
Height:6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight:204 lb (93 kg)
Career information
High school:Chelsea
College:Holy Cross
NFL draft:1943 / Round: 2 / Pick: 14
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Rushing attempts-yards:465–1581
Player stats at PFR

John Joseph Grigas (August 19, 1920 – May 19, 2000) was an American football player. He played college football for the Holy Cross Crusaders football team from 1940 to 1942 and professional football in the National Football League (NFL) from 1943 to 1947. He was selected as a second-team All-American in 1941, a first-team All-NFL player in 1944, and led the NFL in all-purpose yards in 1944.

Early years

Grigas was born Chelsea, Massachusetts, in 1920 and attended Chelsea High School.[1]

College career

Grigas enrolled at the College of the Holy Cross in 1939 and played college football for the Crusaders football team from 1940 to 1942. He was later inducted into the Holy Cross Varsity Club Hall of Fame.[2]

On September 27, 1941, Grigas gained national attention after he rushed for 192 yards on 26 carries and scored all three Holy Cross touchdown in a 19–13 victory over LSU at Baton Rouge, Louisiana.[3] He ranked third nationally behind Frank Sinkwich and Bill Dudley with 709 rushing yards in 1941.[4] At the end of his junior season, Grigas was selected by the International News Service as a second-team back on its 1941 College Football All-America Team,[5] and by the Newspaper Enterprise Association as a third-team All-American.[6]

On November 28, 1942, Grigas was responsible for four touchdowns (two rushing, two passing) in a 55–12 upset victory over undefeated Boston College.[7] He played in the 1942 Blue–Gray Football Classic and was credited by the Associated Press with "brilliant play" in the game.[8]

Professional football

In March 1943, Grigas reported in Boston for induction into the Army, but he was rejected due to an undisclosed ailment.[9] Grigas instead opted to play professional football after being selected by the Chicago Cardinals in the second round, 14th overall pick, of the 1943 NFL Draft.[1]

During the 1943 season, Grigas appeared in all 10 games, principally as a fullback, for a Chicago Cardinals team that compiled a winless 0–10 record.[10] In his rookie season, he was the Cardinals leading rusher and gained 558 yards from scrimmage, 333 rushing yards, and 225 receiving yards.[1]

During the 1944 season, Grigas appeared in nine games for the Card-Pitt (a temporary wartime merger of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Cardinals), a team that compiled a winless 0–10 record.[11] Grigas ranked first in the NFL with 1,154 all-purpose yards and 471 kickoff return yards, second with 1,300 yards of total offense and 610 rushing yards, and eighth with 690 passing yards.[12] On November 12, 1944, he outgained the entire Detroit Lions team 123 rushing yards to 78 and 177 passing yards to 41, but the Lions still won, 21–7.[13] At the end of the 1944 season, Grigas was selected as a first-team All-NFL player by the International News Service and as a second-team All-NFL player by the United Press International.[1] He was also one of six players to receive votes in balloting for the NFL Most Valuable Player Award.[14]

Grigas could have accumulated even more impressive statistics in 1944, but he quit the team before the final game, leaving the team with a letter citing his mental exhaustion at playing with a team that had gone 0–9 in the first nine games. Grigas wrote:

"My action, for what I just did, may not be the best in regard to good, ethical business. Think what you may of me, but I sincerely believe that in all justice it is for the best. I had that desire which you so often mentioned in your lectures, but how long a person can have any desire depends on the frame of mind under which he plays. The human mind is the faculty of the soul, which is influenced by the human body. When your mind is changed because of the physical beating, week in and week out, your soul isn't in the game. . . . I tried to stick it out, but it has reached the stage where the mind is stronger than the will."[15]

Chicago coach Phil Handler later explained Grigas decision as follows:

"He worked days in a steel mill at a job where he had to stand all the time. The team practiced at night and because of a shortage of backs Grigas had to work out both on offense and defense. Then Sundays he played sixty-minute football. The strain was too great, and he finally gave up."[16]

In early September 1945, the Boston Yanks acquired Grigas from the Cardinals in exchange for reserve list players and cash.[17] During the 1945 season, Grigas appeared in all 10 games for the Yanks and totaled only 160 rushing yards on 64 carries for an average of 2.5 yards per carry. In 1946, Grigas rebounded with 426 rushing yards (seventh in the NFL) on 84 carries for an average of 5.2 yards per carry.[1][18][19]

In his final NFL season, Grigas gained only 52 rushing yards on 27 carries for Boston, missing part of the season with injuries.[1][20] In January 1948, Grigas was traded by Boston to the Detroit Lions in exchange for quarterback Roy Zimmerman.[20] However, he did not appear in any regular season NFL games after the 1947 season.[1]

Later years

After retiring from the NFL, Grigas worked for 35 years as an industrial engineer for the American Optical Co. in Southbridge, Massachusetts. He and his wife, Helen, had two daughters. He died in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 2000 at age 79.[21]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "John Grigas". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  2. ^ "John J. Grigas Bio". Holy Cross. Retrieved February 18, 2016.
  3. ^ "Players Fight as L.S.U. Loses: Holy Cross Wins by 19–13; Grigas Hero". Des Moines Register. September 28, 1941. p. 8.
  4. ^ "O'Brien's Pass Record Threatened By Wash. of St. Louis Ace". The Big Spring Daily Herald. November 20, 1941. p. 11.
  5. ^ "1941 INS All-America team". The Cincinnati Enquirer. December 2, 1941.
  6. ^ "Here is 1941 NEA All-America Team". Hope Star. November 29, 1941. p. 4.
  7. ^ "Holy Cross Routs B.C., 55–12". Brooklyn Eagle. November 29, 1942. pp. B1, B3.
  8. ^ "South All-Stars Trim North, 24–0: Grigas Shines for Yanks". Democrat and Chronicle. December 27, 1942. p. 30.
  9. ^ "Grigas, Grid Star, Rejected". The Berkshire Eagle. April 21, 1943. p. 15.
  10. ^ "1943 Chicago Cardinals". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  11. ^ "1944 Chi/Pit Cards/Steelers". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  12. ^ "1944 NFL Leaders and Leaderboards". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  13. ^ "Grigas Outgains Whole Lion Team, but Card-Pitts Lose, 21–7". Detroit Free Press. November 13, 1944. p. 12.
  14. ^ "Sinkwich Gets Most Valuable Player Award". Detroit Free Press. April 3, 1945. p. 10.
  15. ^ "Pro Gridders Draw Checks, Go Home". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. December 5, 1944. p. 14.
  16. ^ "What Happened To Johnny Grigas?". Detroit Free Press. January 7, 1945. p. 11.
  17. ^ "Boston Yanks Sign Two". Ironwood Daily Globe. September 8, 1945. p. 5.
  18. ^ "Johnny Grigas Rushing Star". Miami (OK) Daily News-Record. November 15, 1946. p. 4.
  19. ^ "Grid Yanks Sign Grigas, Star Back". Detroit Free Press. April 9, 1947. p. 15.
  20. ^ a b "First Trade May End in Backfire: Boston Club Scooped on Deal for Grigas". Detroit Free Press. January 17, 1948. p. 12.
  21. ^ "In Memoriam". Holy Cross Magazine. Summer 2000.