SKIP TO CONTENT

INTEGRIS Health Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation

Who was Jim Thorpe?

Describing Jim Thorpe as a great athlete would be doing him a severe injustice. A better description would be calling him the greatest athlete of the 20th Century. This label will probably be debated by many, but Thorpe's accomplishments speak louder than words. King Gustav V of Sweden told Thorpe: "Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world."

James Francis Thorpe was born on May 28, 1887, in a one-room cabin in Oklahoma. Although there is much confusion on Thorpe's date of birth, this is the date according to his estate. He was a descendant of the last great Sauk and Fox Chief Black Hawk, a noted warrior and athlete. His Indian name, Wa-Tho-Huk, translated to “bright path the lightning makes as it goes across the sky”.

The career biography of Jim Thorpe reads like an encyclopedia of sports, encompassing virtually every major athletic event available.  In 1911, Thorpe scored 25 touchdowns and 198 points to lead an outstanding Carlisle (Pa.) Indian School team.  In the 1912 Olympic Games, he won both the pentathlon and decathlon events. This launched him toward a pro football career, highlighted in 1920 when he helped found the American Professional Football Association, which would evolve into the National Football League.

Apart from his career in football, Thorpe went on to play six years of Major League Baseball. Meanwhile, he managed to lead the Canton Bulldogs football team to unofficial world championships in 1916, 1917, and 1919. When he eventually finished his playing days in 1928 with the Chicago Cardinals, Jim Thorpe had become an athletic attraction that crowds flocked to see.

Jim Thorpe died on March 28, 1953.

He was voted "The Greatest Athlete of the First Half of the Century" by the Associated Press and became a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But Thorpe's legend was galvanized into America's conscience at the 1912 Olympics, when he won the decathlon and pentathlon in Stockholm. At the awards ceremony, King Gustav V of Sweden congratulated him: "Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world."