A larger-than-life bucking bronco is painted on the outside of Falls High, a symbol of the school’s proud sports history and homage to a hometown hero who made a name for himself in the National Football League and as a professional wrestler.
Bronislau Nagurski was born on November 3, 1908, in Rainy River, Ontario. “Bronko,” as he came to be known, moved to International Falls with his family when he was five years old. It was while plowing his father’s fields that he was discovered and by the University of Minnesota head football coach. According to legend, the coach asked Bronko for directions, and Bronko responded by picking up a plow to point the way.
While at the U of M from 1927 to 1929, Bronko played four positions and was named All-America at both fullback and tackle. He proved himself as a physical player not afraid of using his impressive size and strength to make big plays. "I always used my strength in football,” Bronko is quoted as saying on the Pro Football Hall of Fame website. “I liked to meet guys head-on when I was carrying the ball. Then I’d drop my shoulder, and catch him with that, and then brush him off with my arm. It worked - most of the time.” Bronko was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951.
Bronko continued his football career – and reputation for brute strength – by playing for the Chicago Bears from 1930 to 1937. During this time, he helped the Bears win several division titles and two NFL championships. A famous sportswriter of the day, Grantland Rice, wrote, "Who would you pick to win a football game - 11 Jim Thorpes - 11 Glen Davises - 11 Red Granges - or 11 Bronko Nagurskis? The 11 Nagurskis would be a mop-up. It would be something close to murder and massacre. For the Bronk could star at any position on the field, with 216 pounds (98 kg) of authority to back him up."
The largest running back of his time, Bronko was bigger than most linemen of the day. He has the largest recorded NFL Championship ring size at 19½ and wore a size-8 helmet. A legendary tale of Bronko’s physical toughness holds that he charged through a group of defenders and hit the wall at Wrigley Field. On returning to the bench, he told Coach Halas, "That last guy gave me quite a lick!" Bronko’s pro career stats include 9 seasons; 4,031 combined yards; and 5 all-NFL selections.
In 1938, when Bronko was refused a pay raise to $6,500 he retired from football and became a professional wrestler. He was recognized as a multiple-time World Heavyweight Champion before returning to the Bears in 1943, at the age of 35, when the demands of World War II left the team short. In the NFL title game against the Washington Redskins that year, Bronko ended his career by scoring the game-winning touchdown. He was an inaugural inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1951.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame website says about Bronko: “Never fancy, he just ran straight ahead, over and through the opposition. Although he is best remembered for his bull-like running, he had no peer as a blocker and his tackling was as effective as any the game has seen. He was the complete player.”
After his retirement from wrestling, he returned home to International Falls and opened a service station. A local legend claims that Nagurski had the best repeat business in town because he would screw customers' gas caps down so tight after filling their tanks that no one else in town could unscrew them. He retired from that in 1978, at the age of seventy, and lived out a quiet life on the shores of Rainy Lake until his death in 1990.
The International Falls Bass Championship will be the center of attention through the weekend. This catch-and-release contest has become one of the premier Minnesota fishing events. It's much more than a fishing contest, with daily and nightly entertainment, foot races and more. Their website is www.ifallsbass.com
So what should you expect if you get out to wet a line, we thanks the Rainy Lake Guide Association for providing this fishing report, and guide Bruce Jean for providing a nice photo.
Walleye: Walleyes continue hold their deep water presence on most of the Rainy Lake’s reefs or mid-lake humps as some fisherman refer to them. Actively using electronics to mark schools of fish is the key. The depths of these fish appear to change almost daily ranging from as shallow as 20 feet to as deep as 36. A ¼ oz. jig and minnow has been working well, lindy rigs with a minnow or leech has been working when fish are finicky.
Crappie: Crappies remain in deeper water along breaklines and submerged brush with most of them being caught in the 18 to 30 foot range. Jigs and minnows have been working well.
Smallmouth Bass: Some bass are being caught in deeper water ranging from 12 to 25 feet. Weighted plastics have been a good choice along with crank baits and lipless baits. Other bass remain in shallow water along rocky shorelines and points. Again, plastics, twitch baits and spinner baits are catching fish.
Northern Pike: With the warming water of August much of Rainy Lake’s pike population has moved to deeper water. Casting or trolling water ranging from 15 to 40 feet has been the best bet for catching larger pike. That being said pike continue to be caught on windblown points and weed beds. Spinner baits, buzz baits, spoons, and larger jerk or twitch baits have proven successful.
This post was brought to you by Rainy Lake Guide Association.
Jim Hartje proves there are big walleye in Rainy Lake by sharing his photo of a 12 pound 10 ounce walleye. The Rainy Lake Guide Association says "Go deep" here's their tip of the week and latest fishing report.
Tip of the week: Deep water fishing often requires the use of a marker buoy. Placement of this simple tool can make a big difference in your success and fishing experience. First; make sure you throw the buoy far enough away from the fish you intend to catch so that it won’t become entangled in your lines. There is nothing worse than a marker buoy placed right on top of the fish you are trying to catch. Second; take note of the wind direction. Most people work their boat back and forth over the fish by powering up into the wind and maintaining a controlled drift back again over the fish. Place your buoy so that you can easily look up from your fishing location in the boat and see the buoy without having to turn around. This will help you maximize your time directly over the fish and save you from a stiff neck at the end of the day.
Walleye: Deep water fishing continues to be the key in recent weeks. This trend, as expected, continues. Mid-lake hump fishing on most of Rainy Lakes reefs have been producing fish. People are having good success catching fish anywhere from 20 to 40 feet depending on the day and weather patterns. Fishing with a ¼ oz jig tipped with a chub or shiner have been the consistent favorite. Lindy rigs with leeches have also been a strong producer. Lindy rigs with a tail hooked minnow are sometimes a good trick when fish become a little finicky.
Crappie: Crappies continue to hold in deeper water in the 15 o 30 foot range. Electronics is the key to finding them. Jigs and minnows or slip bobber presentations have been most successful.
Smallmouth Bass: Top water, spinner baits, twitch baits and plastics continue to catch fish holding in the 3 to 10 foot range. Rocky structures as well as weeds are a good bet. Some bass are beginning to hold in slightly deeper water. Shallow humps and break-lines have produced a few fish in the 10 to 25 foot range
Northern Pike: Trolling large crank baits on and around deeper structures continues to be a good technique for catching larger pike. Patience is the key in this game. That being said, windblown points and deeper weed structures are holding pike as well. Casting spinner baits and larger jerkbaits or twitch baits have brought success.