The life of Knoxville’s Lee McClung, college football’s early stars

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Harvard and Yale will play each other in football for the 137th time Saturday.

The rivalry will be played for the first time since Nov. 23, 2019. The 2020 contest was not played due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With the Harvard-Yale rivalry returning Saturday, Vols Wire highlights one of the most decorated players in the series.

Knoxville’s Lee McClung was part of Yale’s early football success. McClung played halfback at Yale from 1888-91 and was viewed as an early star in college football and a creator of cut-back runs.

His father, Frank McClung, is the honoree of the University of Tennessee’s McClung Museum and his great-grandfather, Charles McClung, was a surveyor who laid out the city of Knoxville.

McClung scored 494 points while at Yale. His career began before the University of Tennessee first fielded a football team in 1891.

During his career at Yale, the Knoxvillian played against Harvard three times. In the rivalry known as “The Game,” McClung and Yale were 2-1 in contests against the Crimson.

After McClung’s collegiate career with the Bulldogs, he served as head coach for the University of California’s football team in 1892, guiding the Golden Bears to a 2-1-1 record, and then worked in the railroad, insurance and banking professions.

He would then become appointed by President William Howard Taft as Treasurer of the United States on Sept. 23, 1909. His name appeared on currency printed from 1909-12.

Lee McClung, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Knoxville, Tennessee, April 5, 1963.

A world traveler, McClung would die at age 44 of typhoid on Dec. 19, 1914 in London, England. The Knoxvillian was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1963. He was a consensus All-American during the 1890 and 1891 seasons and won the national championship in 1888 and 1891 under head coach Walter Camp.

Below are clippings of McClung’s time at Yale playing against Harvard in “The Game.”

1891: Yale 10, Harvard 0

The Evening World, New York, New York, Nov. 21, 1891.

1891: Yale 10, Harvard 0

The Evening World, New York, New York, Nov. 21, 1891. (Lee McClung No. 10)

1890: Harvard 12, Yale 6

The Boston Globe, Boston, Massachusetts, Nov. 22, 1890.

1890: Harvard 12, Yale 6

The Boston Globe, Boston, Massachusetts, Nov. 22, 1890.

1889: Yale 6, Harvard 0

The Journal, Meriden, Connecticut, Nov. 24, 1889.

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