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TCU Magazine "Alma Matters"

Slingin' Sammy Baugh

Two-time All-American and national champion, Baugh helped revolutionize college football's forward pass – and bring national acclaim to the Horned Frogs. His coach Leo "Dutch" Meyer was impressed, calling him "the greatest athlete I ever saw."

By Rick Waters '95

He was known simply as "Slingin' Sammy." Six-foot-two, lanky and athletic, he threw pinpoint spirals and booted booming punts that dazzled jam-packed crowds across the country. So skilled, so smooth, he made football beautiful to watch.
That was Sam Baugh '37.
Football legend. Coach. Rancher. Movie star.

On Wednesday night, December 17, Baugh died at Fisher County Hospital in Rotan, Texas, after suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia for several years. He was 94.
Baugh's legacy started at TCU. A two-time All-American at quarterback, punter and defensive back – you better believe Slingin' Sam was a two-way, 60-minute player – he was the hero of the 1935 team that finished 12-1, won the Sugar Bowl over LSU and captured TCU's first national championship. It would be the first of two titles in four seasons for the Frogs. Baugh (and coach Dutch Meyer) presided over a golden era of TCU football. The Frogs' 29 victories from 1933-35 and 1934-36 trail only the 2005-07 period (30) for the most wins in a three-year stretch at TCU.
As a junior and senior, he led the nation in passing and punting and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 1936. He also was a two-time All-Southwest Conference infielder for the Frog baseball team.

His 40 career touchdown passes stood as a TCU record for 59 seasons.

Meyer called him "the greatest athlete I ever saw."

After leaving TCU, he was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, after being scouted by Rogers Hornsby, the former Cardinals Hall of Famer. Baugh signed a Triple-A contract and got as high as the Double A level, playing third base. He failed to hit better than .220 in one season and decided football was a better route to his ranch.

He would be the No. 1 draft choice of the Washington Redskins. As a rookie, Baugh led the NFL in passing while leading the Redskins to two NFL championships. At 6' 2" and 182 pounds, Baugh was the prototype NFL quarterback for his era. Due to his large hands, he gripped the football in an unconventional way – with his thumb resting on the laces – which gave him a flat, accurate downfield spiral.
He played 16 seasons, all with the Redskins, leading the league in passing six times, punting four times and interceptions once. He's only player to lead the league in all three categories in the same season.
While with Washington, he once spent six weeks in the 1941 off-season starring as Tom King in a 12-part Western serial called "King of the Texas Rangers," in which he spoke a few lines and did a lot of riding. His sidekick was Duncan Renaldo, who went on to play the Cisco Kid.

Besides acting and football, he did a short stint as a calf roper.
After his playing career, Baugh turned to the sideline. He coached at Hardin-Simmons University from 1955 to 1959, with a record of 23-38. Then he was the first coach of the New York Titans of the American Football League and briefly with the Houston Oilers.
He retired from the game to his native West Texas, where he worked as a cattle rancher through the late 1990s.

In 2007, the Sam Baugh Indoor Practice Facility was dedicated at TCU.

"Sam Baugh will always remain an integral part of TCU," Horned Frog athletics director Danny Morrison said. "His accomplishments have left an undeniable impact on our football program and the sport in general. TCU is extremely fortunate and honored to call Sam Baugh one of its own. Having his name on our indoor practice facility was just another way to honor his legacy. He will forever be known as one of the greatest Horned Frogs."

Said head football coach Gary Patterson: "The TCU family lost one of its own today. Sam Baugh was TCU!"

Baugh had an almost instant connection with the Horned Frogs. Born March 17, 1914, in Temple, Texas, before moving to Sweetwater, Baugh lived across the street from fellow TCU football legend and All-America center Ki Aldrich.

While at TCU, a Fort Worth sportswriter gave him the moniker "Slingin' Sammy" for his prolific, loose-hinged passing style, and the name stuck, even though he didn't like it.

After leaving TCU, Baugh made a smooth transition to the National Football League. As a rookie in 1937, he became the first quarterback to win a national championship in college and a title in pro football when he led the Washington Redskins to the NFL championship. Only Joe Namath and Joe Montana have accomplished the feat since.

Baugh completed a record 81 passes (about seven a game) and led the league with 1,127 yards in his rookie campaign. At the time, only six passers averaged three completions a game that year. He went on to lead the league in passing six times.

Baugh still holds Redskins records for career touchdown passes (187) and completion percentage in a season (70.3). His 31 interceptions on defense are third on the team's career list. He still owns the league mark for single-season punting average (51.4). Baugh played with the Redskins through 1952.

He retired with 13 NFL records at three positions: quarterback, punter and defensive back. His career punting average of 45.1 yards ranks second all time in NFL history, and he ranks second in NFL history in season completion percentage (70.3), most seasons (four) leading the league in yards gained and most seasons (seven) leading the league in completion percentage.

He was such a good athlete that, in 1943, he led the NFL in passing, punting and interceptions.

Baugh helped change the pro game by taking much of what he learned under TCU coach Dutch Meyer to the NFL. Those changes included further development of the forward pass and such plays as the hook and lateral, the halfback option toss and Statue of Liberty.

Baugh, a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was the last surviving member of that inaugural class. He also was an inaugural member of the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame and has been named quarterback on the all-time teams of Sports Illustrated, ESPN, the NFL and NCAA.

Baugh had his high school, collegiate and professional jersey numbers retired by Sweetwater (21), TCU (45) and the Redskins (33).

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