A look back at Toledo’s finest coach Bob Snyder

. February 27, 2017.
Tom-Cole

With Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh both being born in Toledo, this area has a strong influence on the current college football scene. But nobody holds a stronger grip as a football legacy than Toledo’s own Coach Bob Snyder. Every time you watch a football game and the offense is wide open, say thank you to Coach Snyder. Bob was one of the most gifted football players to come out of the city of Toledo. He was an all-State selection in football, playing at Libbey High School in 1930 and 1931.

From Ohio U. to the NFL

Bob went on to play at Ohio University as an incredible two-way player and also the punter and field goal kicker. Bob, who was later named to the Ohio University Hall of Fame, was drafted by the Pittsburgh Americans in 1936, a new pro football team in a league trying to rival the NFL. In 1937 Bob Snyder played with the Cleveland Rams; but Bob found his real home in professional football in 1939 when he went to play with the Chicago Bears He was a quarterback and a great kicker and the Bears won a number of championships. For a time, Bob held a number of Bear’s kicking records. Bob transitioned to coaching as the LA Rams assistant coach in 1946 and then as Head Coach in 1947 (the youngest in the NFL), where his flashy quarterback was Bob Waterfield, whose wife was movie star, Jane Russell. Bob created an offense in LA in ’47 that broke all the passing and points scored records, and they turned LA upside down in ’47 — the quarterback, the coach and the movie star.

Conclusive stops

Bob’s coaching career continued as he went on to USC as an assistant coach in 1948, Green Bay Packers assistant in 1949, Toledo University Head Football Coach 1950, head coach of the Cavalry Stampeders in 1953, Villanova Assistant in 1954, then became assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers and West Virginia and then back to Toledo as Head Coach of a semi-pro team that played at Skeldon Stadium, the Toledo Tornado’s. When Bob moved into coaching he had a unique ability to visualize a completely different way to play football— the T-Formation. What Edison was to electricity, Bob Snyder was to quarterbacks, the passing game and modern offense.

Several innovations

This is an example of Bob’s innovation. No one had ever thrown a forward pass to a running back. All passes went to wide receivers; Bob decided to put a running back in motion and throw him the ball. That changed the game of football forever, ushering in the modern passing offense you watch today. Bob was the first to give African Americans the opportunity to play pro football in the NFL with his signing of Kenny Washington. Bob also hired Dick Houston, the first African American coach outside of traditional all-Black colleges, at the University of Toledo in 1950. He was used as a special assistant coach consultant and asked to install the modern T-formation at Notre Dame which then had six undefeated football teams and four national championships. But all this does not tell the full story of the Coach. The little stories about Bob provide a full picture of his genius. Years ago, my wife, Karen and I would meet Coach and his wonderful wife Maggie for breakfast many Saturdays. Bob would draw plays on a napkin or a menu, a constant flow of football information. I was coaching a high school team at the time and I asked him about a goal line running play he drew. As I pressed him about the play his face went radish red and Coach said, “Run it. It will work, Dummy.” I chuckle about it now. If Coach liked you, he called you “Dummy.” That next Friday night, my high school football team was lined up by the goal line. I called Bob’s play. We had practiced it in earlier in the week. We ran it and scored a touchdown.

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