1905 Football Player Robert "Tiny" Maxwell '07 Changes Face of Sport
Before coming to Swarthmore, Robert "Tiny" Maxwell (1884-1922) played football at the University of Chicago, where he also boxed and set school records for the hammer and shot-put. At Swarthmore, he attracted the interest of President Joseph Swain, who personally encouraged him to improve his studies as a biology major and directed the college treasurer to send his tuition bills to a member of the Board of Managers.
In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt saw a newspaper photo of the battered and bloodied 6-foot-4-inch, 250-pound Maxwell leaving the field after the University of Pennsylvania team had concentrated its efforts on him. Roosevelt was reportedly so shocked that he demanded that colleges "clean up football" or he'd ban the game outright.
The concern was justified. During the 1905 season alone, 18 college players died and 159 were badly injured. The President's charge inspired national reform of college football rules, including the legalization of the forward pass and the doubling of the yardage required for a first down.
Maxwell went on to briefly play on newly formed professional teams in Ohio, insisting on wearing his Swarthmore jersey with its big "S" in team pictures. He also served as an assistant coach at Swarthmore and Penn and as an influential collegiate game official.
Maxwell also became one of the first football players to make the leap from the field to press box. In 1914, after a journalistic apprenticeship in Chicago as a reporter for the Record-Herald, he began writing a sports column for Philadelphia's Public Ledger. Two years later, Maxwell became sports editor of the Evening Public Ledger, a position he held until he died.
Since 1937, the Maxwell Memorial Football Club of Philadelphia annually has given an award in his name to the outstanding college football player in the nation. He was inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in the pioneer category in 1974.