'The Glacier' and 'The Gladiator'

The results are in, and despite last-minute calls for Burleigh Grimes, Eric Lund and Gus Welch; two athletes dominated the voting as I sought your input to find the best all-time athlete from northwest Wisconsin.

The results are in, and despite last-minute calls for Burleigh Grimes, Eric Lund and Gus Welch; two athletes dominated the voting as I sought your input to find the best all-time athlete from northwest Wisconsin.

One, Bud Grant, was a three-sport star at the University of Minnesota and later became famous for his stern countenance and no-nonsense approach to coaching pro football. The other, David Greenwood, was so gifted as an athlete that he excelled in four sports and now earns his living at a fifth.

Not surprisingly, Grant was the heavy favorite among the over-60 crowd. They remembered his exploits growing up in Superior in the 1940s and raved about the ease at which he played the game. Those who watched Greenwood at Park Falls in the 1970s wrote of his ability to not only leave opponents awe-struck, but to also leave them black and blue.

Both are clearly legends of the north.

Harry "Bud" Grant grew up in Superior where he was pushed into sports by, of all people, the family doctor. According to William A. McGrane's book, "Bud: The Other Side of the Glacier," Grant contracted polio as a child. It left him with one leg shorter than the other, but Dr. Simcock told his parents that the best therapy was to give him a ball and a glove.


He never looked back.

"I started in baseball," he told McGrane, "but you have to understand about Superior. You're never really sure winter's over until June, so it makes for a very short baseball season. I spent most of my time playing football and basketball."

Already 6-foot-3 as a ninth grader, Grant played varsity football and started on the Superior Central basketball team that went to state in 1942. He excelled in both sports throughout high school and also starred on Superior's American Legion baseball team from which he was selected to pitch in the East-West all-star game in Comiskey Park in Chicago.

He went on to the University of Minnesota where won a total of nine letters in football, basketball and baseball in addition to becoming a legendary "town ball" pitcher during the summer. From Minnesota he moved on to play pro basketball with the Minneapolis Lakers and pro football with both the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League.

In 1956, he became head coach of the Blue Bombers before moving on to the Minnesota Vikings in 1967. He was a winner in both towns. He coached Winnipeg to four CFL titles and led the Vikings to four Super Bowls. Needless to say, he's enshrined in both the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Not a bad career for the kid with a limp.

David Greenwood, on the other hand, may not be enshrined in the hall of fame, but he is without a doubt as versatile of an athlete as ever played in Wisconsin.

In high school at Park Falls he won 12 varsity letters. In baseball he batted over .500 while splitting time as a pitcher, catcher and third baseman. In basketball, he twice helped lead Park Falls to the state tournament by scoring 27 points in two sectional games as a junior and 47 points in two games as a senior.


It was in that final game in Spooner in 1979 that Greenwood made one of his legendary plays. He broke out of a rebound scrum with the ball and headed for the basket with Mondovi's 5-9 point guard back to defend. A photo in the March 15 Spooner Advocate from that year shows the guard bracing himself to take the charge and the beginning of Greenwood's levitation. A second later he had sailed completely over the kid and had finger-rolled the ball into the basket.

Kids from northern Wisconsin aren't supposed to do things like that.

It was in track and in football, though, where his athleticism and toughness really flowed.

He was the first Wisconsin track and field athlete to high jump seven feet, and was the first to win a single event four times at state. In his senior year he nearly won the WIAA title by himself, scoring 30 points in winning the high jump, the long jump, and the 120-yard high hurdles. He went on to clear 7-foot-2 in the high jump at the University of Wisconsin and to set a then-school record in the decathlon.

In football, he was an all-Big Ten Conference safety and punter at Wisconsin, teaming with Matt VandenBoom to form perhaps the Badgers' hardest-hitting defensive backfield ever. In 1983, he became the highest-paid safety in pro football when he signed with the USFL's Michigan Panthers and later closed out his professional career with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Raiders.

By then he had obtained his PGA card (sport No. 5) and today lives in Florida where he is a professional golf instructor. Golf's slow pace is a marked change from the days not so long ago when he cut a swath through area high school football fields.

In one game against Ashland during his junior year, in fact, the hard-hitting Greenwood was flagged a couple of times for spearing. According to a story in the Oct. 11, 1977, Daily Press, an official approached Park Falls coach Lou Pirotta after the game to tell him that Greenwood really hadn't been spearing.

"The officials apologized to me," Pirotta explained. "They said they didn't want to slow the kid down, but they didn't want anyone to get hurt."


Such is the stuff of legends.

Carlo Kumpula is a longtime Spooner teacher, coach, official and fan who writes the Wisconsin Prep Spotlight, a weekly column about high school athletics. Comments and requests can be made to:

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