An Open Letter to Jamir Thomas:
by Denny Highben ('69)
We’ll be talking about the 2018 football season for a long time. It, literally, was one for the history books.
Good luck at Washington State. There will be more than a few Tiger fans staying up late to see Pac 12 games, especially when it is the Cougars’ turn on the television. But before you and all the great Tiger seniors move on into adulthood. I want to tell you a little about one of the men whose record you eclipsed.
Whenever a Tiger record book made its way into our house when I was a kid, I would practically study it. Looking at win streaks, all the marks against out-of-state schools, and Paul Brown’s incredible teams filled hours of my youth. But there was a question to which I could not get an answer. The record book always listed the Tigers who won college scholarships, and then those who went on to play professional football. And yet one name disappeared between going to college and to the pros. He had some incredible records, so there was no doubt in my mind that he could cut it in the big leagues. However, no matter who I asked about him, no one could satisfy my curiosity. What happened to Bob Glass?
Finally, someone I questioned thought for a while and said, “I think he got killed in the war.” That sorrowful response always stayed with me. Now I had a hint, a mere hint, of the damage violence can do, especially so vast and vile as the darkness that confronted the earth in World War II. Even though the answer was inconclusive (“I think” is not ironclad proof), I knew it must have been true, because a talent like his surely would have been needed by a professional team.
Years later I was still curious about Glass. I asked some elderly folks if they knew him. Several said they saw him play, and he was unbelievable. One man told me about an incident in game against Warren. It seems the opposition was really piling on Glass and gouging at his face after he had been tackled. (Remember, this was before the invention of the face mask.) Finally, Glass had had enough. One particular defender was the main culprit, and Glass got up and knocked the offender to the deck with one quick punch. The storyteller didn’t mention any penalty, but the memory made him smile.
I was told that Glass lived with his grandparents while in high school. Someone else said he came to Massillon specifically to play football, but I have no evidence of that. Glass did not have a senior picture in the 1938 Massillonian but I figured that, living with grandparents during the Great Depression, a senior picture was beyond his means.
Bob earned a scholarship to Tulane University in New Orleans. Back then, freshmen played as a unit. They did not get a shot at the varsity until their sophomore year. The 1939 Tulane yearbook, Jambalaya, said this about him: “Bob Glass, the Massilon [sic], Ohio, back who threatens off the strength of his three performances against Southeastern at Hammond, Alabama, and L.S.U., to go down as a Tulane immortal, looms as the greatest prospect of a group that boasts many.” (Yes, a college publication misspelled Massillon and had difficulty with run-on sentences.)
In his sophomore year, the Green Wave went undefeated until being nicked 14-13 by Texas A&M in the Sugar Bowl. By the time the 1940 Jambalaya was printed, there was no more misspelling Massillon. Tulane had some mediocre seasons after that, but Glass did etch his name into Tulane history.
He graduated in 1942 with a degree in physical education. He was probably looking forward to becoming a football coach, after a stint in professional ball. But first, Glass went directly into the United States Marine Corps.
And Glass did become a Tulane Immortal, just as his freshman Jambalaya had predicted. With 120 other Green Wave alumni, he is forever remembered as a Tulane man who gave his life for his country in that gruesome war.
After the war, Evening Independent writer Luther Emery was making his way home and he stopped off to see his old friend, Paul Brown. They talked about the war and the effect it had on them, their friends, their beloved hometown. Emery never forgot the story, and he told us young reporters at The Independent several times.
“I said to Paul, ‘I suppose you heard that Bob Glass died on Iwo Jima,’” Emery said. “’Yeah,’ Brown quickly replied. ‘And I’ll bet it took a big bullet to stop him.’”
(Special thanks to Michael Murphy of the Tulane University Office of the Registrar.)