Arkansas’ First NFL PlayerPosted: June 27, 2012
In a couple months, Greg Childs, Jarius Wright, Jake Bequette and Joe Adams will join a long, prestigious list of former Razorbacks to play in the NFL. Indeed, more than 140 Hogs have logged time in the nation’s top football league.
When did this list begin?
Ninety years ago, with 23-year-old Ben Winkelman, a Fayetteville native who ended up playing for the now-defunct Milwaukee Badgers for three seasons. There’s not much readily accessible online about this team, but thanks to the good folks at ProFootballReasearcher.org, we know 1) Milwaukee was one of three NFL teams of the era (along with Green Bay & Racine) and 2) Winkelman, at 6’1” and 190 pounds, apparently was a crackerjack end. He earned third-team All-Pro honors in 1923. Granted, the newspaper responsible for dispensing these honors was based in Wisconsin, but still…
So, what happened to the Big Wink?
Again, online details are sketchy, but according to fanbase.com decades later Winky wound up coaching at Oregon and San Jose State, where he was by helped the famed youth football patriarch Pop Warner, then an SJSU athletics consultant. Apparently, Winkelman found a home in central California. He died near Sacramento in 1981, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.
It’s doubtful many Arkansans are still around to recall Winkelman in his athletic heyday. Still, this Razorback’s place in the state’s athletic history shouldn’t be forgotten.