Did you know that Naval Station Great Lakes was once home to competitive football and baseball teams? Most famously, the Great Lakes Bluejackets football team that played and won the January 1, 1919 Rose Bowl game; known then as the Tournament East-West Football Game. Later, during World War II, many well-known college and professional athletes played on the baseball and football teams at Great Lakes.
This football jersey, featuring #72, was owned and worn by Emil J. Drvaric, who played on the 1943 Bluejackets. After being drafted into the Navy, Drvaric was sent to Great Lakes in March 1943. He had already played for and served as captain of the University of Wisconsin’s freshman football team in 1942. Following his service at Great Lakes, Drvaric played on the Navy All Star team in Pearl Harbor in 1944 and 1945. After the war, he played for Harvard University from 1946-1948. Due to the style of the jersey, it was likely worn by William Crawford, another Great Lakes football player, during the 1942 season and re-issued to Drvaric in 1943.
This football was used by the Bluejackets during the 1943 season. After the season ended, Drvaric wrote all of the game scores onto the football. Great Lakes finished that season with a 10-2 record and nationally ranked #6 in the Associated Press college football poll, making it one of the most successful seasons of Bluejackets football. In fact, in the final game of the season, the Bluejackets beat the previously undefeated and top-ranked team from University of Notre Dame.
Artifacts like these makes the stories behind them come alive. For example, the extensive repairs found on the jersey tell us that it really was worn on the field. It took a beating and needed to be repaired before it could be used again.
Visit the National Museum of the American Sailor website for more information on our collection.