1945 High School All-American Football Team
Dan Towler of Donora highlights the first team.
High school All-American teams were first chosen by the Wigwam Wiseman Organization starting in 1947, but prior to that, John “Red” Davis of Orlando (Fla.) selected the All-Southern Team team encompassing 12 southern states.
Davis first began selecting the All-Southern team in 1921, but by 1945 he decide to step down from the selection process and turned it over to Ash Wing, the sports editor of the Orlando Morning Sentinel.
Wing changed the selection process a bit, having over 100 sports writers participating with a chairman in each state to count the votes. He also limited the team to seniors only. Each state also recognized its top player.
The new process may have biased the vote a bit. This was certainly the case in Texas where the chairman was the sports editor from Galveston in the south of the state. Five of the six selections from Texas were from the Southern part of the state, with all of the honorable mention picks from the Houston area. Goose Creek had two on the first team and two honorable mention picks, yet only had one player make the all-state first team.
Meanwhile, Highland Park and Waco, the two state co-champions, did not have any players make the All-Southern Team, yet they each had three all-state selections.
High School Sports History is attempting to select All-American teams for years prior to 1947. In selecting the 1945 team, we rely on the All-Southern selections, but we also give more weight to the all-state teams when making our final choices.
We picked three all-state teams, all on offense, with 12 players on each team.
E - James Williams, Waco (Texas)
A future All-American at TCU, Williams was a member of High School Sports History’s 1944 All-American Team. He earned all-state honors in Texas two years running and was also an All-Southern selection while leading Waco to a tie for the state championship.
E - Len Corbin, Warren (Harding, Ohio)
Corbin was a two-time all-state player in Ohio and was the leading vote-getter as a senior. He helped Warren to an undefeated record (7-0-2). He went on to earn all-conference honors in the Mid-American Conference with Western Reserve.
T - Carl Eborn, Granby (Norfolk, Va.)
Eborn was a two-time all-state tackle on Granby’s back-to-back state championship teams. He was also All-Southern as a senior. He joined Granby coach Bill Story when he got the head coaching job at Davidson. Story immediately made Eborn one of his starters on the offensive line as a freshman.
T - Jack Fulkerson, Dobyns-Bennett (Kingsport, Tenn.)
Fulkerson earned all-state and All-Southern honors for Dobyns-Bennett. He went on to a stellar career at Southern in Hattiesburg, helping to turn that college into a powerhouse.
G - AJ. Dugas, Port Arthur Jefferson (Texas)
Dugas was a member of the Jefferson team that won the Texas state championship in 1944. He was all-state as a junior and he was the top choice for the All-Southern team for the state of Texas.
G - Robert Lally, Cathedral Latin (Cleveland, Ohio)
All-state second team as a junior, Lally made first team all-state as a senior while leading Cathedral Latin to another undefeated season. He went on to start at guard for Notre Dame and didn’t lose a game for three seasons there as well.
C - Bill Prentice, Woodlawn (Ala.)
Prentice was a first team all-state selection and he was named as the top player for Alabama on the All-Southern team. He went on to star at the University of Chattanooga.
QB - Don Panciera, La Salle Academy (Providence, R.I.)
A two-time all-state player, Panciera led La Salle Academy to an undefeated season in 1945 and a tie with Holy Cross (New Orleans). He went on to play at Boston College and University of San Francisco before joining the AAFC with the New York Yankees. He later played with the Detroit Lions and Chicago Cardinals.
RB - Dan Towler, Donora (Pa.)
The top player in the country, Towler was a two-time all-state player and was one of the state’s leading scorers with 175 points. He helped lead Donora to an undefeated season and a national championship, as selected by High School Sports History. Towler reached the NFL and played with the Los Angeles Rams for six seasons. He was four-time Pro Bowl player and led the NFL in rushing in 1952.
RB - Harold Griffin, Hillsborough (Tampa)
The state player of the year based on the All-Southern selections, Griffin also earned all-state honors while leading Hillsborough to an undefeated season. He went on to play at Florida where he led the nation in punt return yardage. He had 121 points as a senior at Hillsborough, including six touchdowns in the final game of the season against Jesuit.
RB - Merrill Peacock, Poly (San Francisco)
The two-time All-City player of the year in San Francisco, Peacock played on the University of San Francisco’s undefeated team in 1951. He also played in the NFL with the Chicago Cardinals as a receiver. Peacock rushed for 871 yards on 99 carries as a senior.
E - Charles Coffey, San Diego (Calif.)
Coffey was one of the top players on the All-CIF team and he was the only San Diego player to make the first team. At 6-foot-3, Coffey was known as “Circus Catch” for the many one-handed catches he would make. He scored five touchdowns as a senior for a San Diego team ranked No. 1 in the nation in November by the Dunkel Index prior to the Hillers’ loss in the playoffs to Long Beach Wilson.
E - Jim Stephens, Covington (Ky.)
A three-year varsity player and honorable mention all-state as a junior, Stephens was named the top player in Northern Kentucky and was also considered and “easy pick” on the first team.
T - Laverne Bush, Boys Town (Neb.)
Bush was a two-time all-state player for Boys Town, including his junior year in 1945. He went on to serve over two decades in the Army, earning the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism.
T - John Lunney, Fort Smith (Ark.)
Lunney was selected as the best player in Arkansas by the All-Southern reporter for the state. He played at Arkansas after high school and signed with the Los Angeles Rams, however he did not have a career in the NFL.
G - Ewell Pope, Boys High (Atlanta)
The captain of the All-City team chosen by the Atlanta Constitution, Pope helped lead Boys High to a state championship. He went on to start at Georgia Tech.
G - Dom Liotta, Everett (Mass.)
An all-state selection, Liotta helped Everett to an undefeated record. He played at Villanova and was selected to the Shrine Game, however he tragically took his own life before he was able to compete in the event.
C - Clinton Knitz, Toledo Waite (Ohio)
Knitz was the first team all-state pick after helping lead Waite to a No. 1 rating in the state. Knitz was the third-highest vote getter among the selections. He went on to play for Purdue.
QB - Cecil Puckett, Dobyns-Bennett (Kingsport, Tenn.)
As a sophomore, Puckett led Dobyns-Bennett to the school’s only state championship in basketball and was named Tournament MVP. The following fall, he led Dobyns-Bennett to an undefeated season and a No. 2 national ranking according to High School Sports History. Puckett was an all-state choice as a junior (and in 1946 as a senior), but he was not chosen All-Southern because the honor team no longer selected juniors. He was chosen the following season. He averaged 9.4 yards per carry and completed 70 percent of his passes.
RB - Chester Henley, Tupelo (Miss.)
Henley was named the top player in the state on the All-Southern team while also making the All-Big 8 Conference team. Henley was the second-leading scorer in the state with 136 points. Henley went to Mississippi State, but dropped off the team during his junior season.
RB - Jack Dittmer, Elkader (Iowa)
Dittmer was a three-sport star at Elkader, scoring 218 points and earning first team all-state honors. An outstanding baseball player, Dittmer was named to a national all-star baseball game in the Spring of 1946. He played three sports while at Iowa and eventually played five seasons at second base for the Boston Braves.
RB - Bill Fleitz, Newark (Ohio)
Fleitz was the second-leading vote getter on the Ohio All-State Team while leading Newark to an undefeated season. He was recruited by Woody Hayes to play at Denison College and played on two undefeated teams while in college.
E - Bill DeLoach, Columbia (S.C.)
DeLoach was the leading vote-getter on the all-state team and he was a unanimous choice as the top player from South Carolina on the All-Southern team. He went on to play at Clemson.
E - Art Pacheco, Tucson (Ariz.)
Pacheco was a three-year starter for Tucson and never lost a game during his seasons on the varsity. Although he didn’t score, Pacheco was known for his blocking. He later played for the University of Arizona.
T - Othar Crawford, McComb (Miss.)
A three-time All-Big Eight Conference selection, Crawford was a junior in 1945. He went on to be a four-letter winner at Mississippi where he was also named team captain as a senior.
T - Bob Hames, Wichita Falls (Texas)
The all-state tackle for the semifinalists, Hames went on to earn all-conference honors at Hardin College.
G - James Harris, Duncan (Okla.)
Harris was the captain of the Demons and led Duncan to the state championship. He also earned a spot on the all-state team.
G - Stewart Graham, Male (Louisville)
Graham was the top blocker for a Male team that won the mythical state championship. He was also a member of the all-state team and the All-Southern team.
C - Jimmy Flowers, Highland Park (Dallas)
Flowers paced the Highland Park team that ended the year undefeated and tied for the state championship with Waco. He was an easy choice for first team all-state.
QB - Jim Holmes, Gothenburg (Neb.)
Holmes led Gothenburg to an undefeated season and a mythical state championship. He was a first team all-state selection while throwing for 1,279 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also had 10 rushing touchdowns.
RB - Al Pollard, Loyola (Los Angeles)
As a junior, Pollard was named the CIF Southern Section player of the year and was considered one of the top running backs to ever play in the CIF. He also earned MVP honors in 1946 as a senior. He played football at Army, where he earned All-American honors. He also played in the NFL, but he retired after seven years in the NFL and Canadian Football League combined.
RB - Bill Henderson, Lanier (Macon, Ga.)
The only unanimous all-GIAA selection, Henderson earned All-Southern honors two years in a row. He was also one of the top baseball players in Georgia, but he played only football at Georgia, winning all-SEC honors. He had a long high school coaching career, winning 285 games overall and three state championships while at Clarke Central during his 35-year career.
RB - Bobby Clegg, Istrouma (New Orleans)
Clegg was one of the top running backs in the South, earning a spot on the All-Southern team while leading Istrouma to a 10-1 record. He played college football at LSU.