Sept. 11, 2000
by Alan Wasielewski
Playing end for a college football team in the early 1940s was not a simple task. Players competed on both sides of the ball in those days and a team had to have an end who could catch and block on offense, then have the strength left on defense to eliminate runs around his position on the line.
Bob Dove could handle all these assignments and more while playing end for Notre Dame from 1939-42. Dove fits all the descriptions of an old-school football player. He had a tough on-field demeanor and was recognized by head coach Frank Leahy as one of the best battlers on the team.
“He’s the kind of boy who gets tears in his eyes even in scrimmage,” Leahy said.
“That’s how intense he is about football.”
That intensity helped Dove become a two-time consensus All-American. The best end in the nation back in 1941-42 has now been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He will be officially inducted at the National Football Foundation’s 43rd annual award dinner on Dec. 12, 2000, in New York City.
“I thought it was all over,” Dove said.
“I played over 50 years ago and didn’t expect this to happen. I was thrilled when I heard the news.”
Dove was nominated by the Hall of Fame’s Honors Review Committee, which considers players who played more than 50 years ago. Dove was the first-ever choice for induction by the review committee.
He was also the first sophomore to earn a starting spot on the Notre Dame varsity team in 11 years for the ’39 season, and was known for his blocking and pass-catching abilities. To this day, Dove also takes pride in his defensive prowess.
“Defense was my game,” he said.
“I played for both (Elmer) Layden and (Frank) Leahy. We ran the box offense under Layden, then Leahy eventually switched to the T. I was able to catch a few passes in the T.”
Every catch Dove made was a big play. The quarterbacks of the early ’40s did not attempt 40 passes a game, so any completion could turn the tide of the game. “Pigeon,” as Dove’s high school teammates called him, sparked the 1942 27-0 Irish whitewash of Stanford with a 44-yard touchdown reception from Angelo Bertelli. A 10-yard grab in the ’42 Navy game in Cleveland, his only reception of the contest, put the ball on the one-yard line and set the Irish up for their only touchdown in a 9-0 victory.
Dove also was counted on to open up lanes for the running backs along with left tackle Lou Rymkus. On defense, he was challenged to force the play to the middle of the field and clean up any interference. Adept all these skills, Dove earned the Knute K. Rockne Memorial Trophy in 1942 as the country’s best lineman.
Playing in the years before a facemask was introduced, Dove had his share of bumps and bruises, but one broken nose in the 1940 season stays etched in his mind.
“We played Navy in Baltimore (Nov. 9, 1940) and I broke my nose,” Dove said.
“But we had Monday off for some reason, so I stopped at home (Youngstown, Ohio) on the way back to South Bend. By the time I saw the doctor, it was Thursday and it was too late to fix it correctly.”
Dove, the doctors and the coaching staff had to make the choice to break his nose again to reset it and miss a few weeks of football, or play the rest of the season with his nose out of joint.
“The choice was obvious,” Dove said.
In the next game against Iowa, Dove caught a pass across the middle and took a hard hit from a Hawkeye defensive back.
“It felt like the whole stadium hit me,” Dove explained.
“But the hit was so hard it broke my nose again. That defender did what the doctors couldn’t do.”
The Hawkeye defensive back offered Dove his apology for the hard hit, but Dove thanked him for the opportunity to get his nose fixed correctly.
A third-round peofessional draft pick by the Washington Redskins, Dove spent three years in the Marine Corps before playing nine seasons for several different professional teams. He earned the distinction of playing in the first-ever Pro Bowl in 1951.
Dove served as an assistant coach from 1969 through ’86 for the Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills, the University of Detroit and Youngstown State. He currently resides in Canfield, Ohio.