Dale Van Sickel (November 29, 1907 – January 25, 1977) was a college football, basketball and baseball player during the 1920s, who later became a Hollywood motion picture actor and stunt performer for over forty years. Van Sickel played college football for the University of Florida, and was recognized as the first-ever first-team All-American in the history of the Florida Gators football program. Dale Van Sickel was born in Eatonton, Georgia in 1907, but grew up in Gainesville, Florida. Van Sickel attended Gainesville High School, where he played high school football for the Gainesville Purple Hurricanes. In 2007, eighty-one years after he graduated from high school, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) recognized Van Sickel as one of the “100 Greatest Players of the First 100 Years” of Florida high school football. He is generally regarded as the best high school football player produced in the state of Florida before the 1930s.
Van Sickel attended the University of Florida in Gainesvile. He played right end for the Florida Gators football team for three seasons from 1927 to 1929, on the opposite side of the line from left end Dutch Stanley. During his three years as a member of the Gators varsity, the team won twenty-three of twenty-nine games. Led by future Hall of Fame coach Charlie Bachman in 1928, Van Sickel and the Gators posted an 8–1 record during his junior season, outscoring their competition 366–44—the most points scored in the nation. The Gators’ sole 1928 loss was to Tennessee in Knoxville—by a single point, 12–13. The Associated Press, Newspaper Enterprise Association and Grantland Rice of Collier’s Weekly named Van Sickel to their respective 1928 first-team All-America squads, making him the first player from the University of Florida to be named a first-team All-American. As was typical of the 1920s era, Van Sickel played both offense and defense; his College Hall of Fame biography describes him as “a swift and sure-handed receiver on offense and a gifted defensive player.” Van Sickel was injured during his senior football season in 1929, and while he was productive, he was unable to post the same sort of numbers in 1929 that he did during his 1928 All-American season. He was also a first-team All-Southern Conference selection in both 1928 and 1929.
Van Sickel was also the team captain and a varsity letterman for the Florida Gators basketball and Gators baseball teams. He was later inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a “Gator Great,” and he was also the first Gator to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1975. The sportswriters of The Gainesville Sun selected him as the No. 11 all-time Gator player among the top 100 from the first century of Florida football in 2006. Van Sickel graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in 1930, and he remained at the university to be an assistant coach for the Gators football and basketball teams during the 1930 and 1931 seasons.
After his two-year coaching career, Van Sickel moved to Hollywood to begin a career as a movie stuntman, and had his first on-screen stunt role in the Marx Brothers’ 1933 film Duck Soup. Over the next thirty-eight years, Van Sickel appeared as an extra and occasional leading man in over 280 films and television episodes, and performed on-screen stunts in another 140. In addition to appearing in numerous B movies, he was a stunt man and on-screen extra in such Hollywood classics as The Searchers, North by Northwest and Spartacus. He was a founding member and the first president of the Stuntmen’s Association of Motion Pictures. Van Sickel died in 1977 in Newport Beach, California as a result of injuries received while filming a car crash stunt in 1975; he was 69 years old. Van Sickel was survived by his wife Iris and their daughter.
Bob Steuber (October 25, 1921 – November 29, 1996) was a halfback who played four seasons in the National Football League (NFL) and the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, Steuber was a standout on his high school football team. He attended the University of Missouri, where he quickly became one of the country’s most productive runners and scoring threats. He was second in the country in 1942 with more than 1,000 yards of rushing. Steuber was drafted by the NFL’s Chicago Bears and played briefly for the team before he joined the U.S. Navy and was transferred to Depauw University for training. Playing for Depauw’s football team in 1943, he led the nation in scoring.
After the war, Steuber signed with the Cleveland Browns of the AAFC, a new league set to start play in 1946. He was limited by a knee injury that year, however, and was traded to the Los Angeles Dons after the Browns won the first AAFC championship game. Steuber only played in three games for the Dons due to another knee injury, and he was again traded to the Buffalo Bills. A broken back toward the end of the 1948 season ended his playing career for good. Steuber then settled in St. Louis, where he worked as a sports announcer on the weekends. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1971 and the University of Missouri’s athletics hall of fame in 1990. His number 37 jersey is retired at Missouri.
Steuber grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and attended the city’s Christian Brothers College High School, where he starred as a halfback on the school’s football team. He attended the University of Missouri and played as an end on the Missouri Tigers football team under head coach Don Faurot starting in 1940. In 1941, he shifted to halfback and was assigned to kick extra points. He was third in the country in rushing that year with 855 yards as he and fellow halfback Harry Ice led a Missouri ground attack that ranked first in the nation. Missouri won the Big Six Conference championship and faced Fordham University in the Sugar Bowl at the end of the season. Missouri lost the game, played on a muddy field in New Orleans, by a score of 2–0.
Steuber’s success continued in 1942, when he was named an All-American and ranked second in the country in rushing, gaining 1,098 yards. He also was an effective passer, helping Missouri win the Big Six championship for the second year in a row. Steuber was named an All-American after the season. He was also selected to play in the East–West Shrine Game and the College All-Star Game, a now-defunct matchup between the National Football League (NFL) champion and a squad of the best college players from around the country. Steuber scored a touchdown as the college stars defeated the NFL’s Washington Redskins.
Steuber was selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the Chicago Bears, but he played in only one game for the team during the 1943 season before departing for the U.S. Navy during World War II. As the Bears went on to win the NFL championship, Steuber entered the Navy’s pre-flight training college and was transferred to DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, where he played basketball and football for the school’s teams. In football, Steuber scored 77 points in his first three games and finished the 1943 season with the highest scoring total in the country. Steuber was again transferred in 1944, ending up at Marquette University in the Navy’s V-5 training program.Later the same year, he left for the University of Iowa, where he continued to run track for the Iowa Pre-Flight Seahawks. A controversy arose after an official at the Amateur Athletic Union objected to Steuber’s participation in a meet because he had played professionally for the Bears. Steuber, however, was cleared to compete. Steuber also played baseball while at Iowa. At the end of the year, he moved to the Ottumwa Naval Air Station’s in Iowa and played for its Skyers football team.
Following his discharge from the military at the end of the war, Steuber was expected to rejoin the Bears. He instead was one of the first signings of the Cleveland Browns of the new All-America Football Conference (AAFC) in 1945 while he was stationed in Pensacola, Florida. Fritz Heisler, an assistant with the Browns, had coached Steuber while he was at DePauw and recommended him to Paul Brown, the Cleveland head coach. Steuber saw limited action with the Browns due to a knee injury, but the team posted a 12–2 regular-season record and won the first AAFC championship game. Brown advised Steuber to quit football because of the injury, but Steuber wanted to continue playing, and he was traded to the AAFC’s Los Angeles Dons after the season for Frank Yokas, a guard. Hampered by another injury to his knee, Steuber played in just three games for the Dons in 1947 before being acquired by the Buffalo Bills the following year. In a game against the Dons near the end of the 1948 season, Steuber suffered a broken back that put him in a cast for nine months and ended his football career.
Following his football career, Steuber settled in St. Louis, where he worked as a sports announcer on weekends. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1971. He was inducted into the University of Missouri’s athletics hall of fame in 1990. The University of Missouri retired his number 37 jersey. He died in St. Louis in 1996.