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A Native American NFL Franchise?

The Oorang Indians were a traveling team in the National Football League from LaRue, Ohio (near Marion). The franchise was put together by Walter Lingo to promote his Oorang dog kennels. All of the players for the team were Native American, with Jim Thorpe serving as its leading player and coach. The team played in the NFL in 1922 and 1923.


Of the 20 games they played over two seasons, only one was played at "home" in nearby Marion. With a population well under a thousand people, LaRue remains the smallest town ever to have been the home of an NFL franchise, or probably any professional team in any league in the United States.



Jim Thorpe served as a player-coach and recruited players for the team. In keeping with Lingo's wishes that franchise be an all-Indian team, Indians from all over the United States traveled to LaRue to try out for the team. Many of the prospects were from Thorpe's alma mater, the Carlisle Indian School. Several of the candidates looking to make the team had not played in years and were older than 40.



Every team member had to prove to have at least some Indian blood. The Oorang Indians consisted of members who were Cherokee, Mohawk, Ojibwe, Blackfeet, Ho Chunk, Mission Indian, Caddo, Meskwaki, Seneca, and Penobscot. The team roster included such colorful names as Long Time Sleep, Woodchuck Welmas, Joe Little Twig, Big Bear, War Eagle, Thunder, and Thorpe.


The team finished the 1922 season with a record of 5–8 overall. In 1923, they won 2 games and lost 12.


While the Oorang Indians were an excellent gate attraction, Lingo didn't renew the franchise in 1924 due to a lack of financial backing.


Notably, John Baptiste Thunder (February 23, 1891 - December 17, 1935), a member of the Red Lake Nation played Tackle for the Indians during the 1922 season. Baptiste was the son of Joseph Thunder and Nancy Greely.


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References


"History:The Oorang Indians". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 27, 2012.



Willis, Chris. "Remembering the Oorang Indians" (PDF). Coffin Corner. Pro Football Researchers Association.

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