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Shep Homans

Sport: Football

Born: September 24, 1871

Died:March 30, 1952

Town: Englewood

Sheppard Homans, Jr. was born September 24, 1871 in Englewood. He was the son of Sheppard Homans, Sr, a wealthy insurance executive. His younger sister, Helen, was a fine tennis player who would win the U.S. Singles title in 1906. Shep was a superb all-around athlete. He was not over big or particularly swift, but he was tough, smart and coordinated. Shep excelled in almost every sport he tried, but his first love was football.

Shep enrolled at Princeton in 1889 and joined the varsity as a reserve. He spent the season watching the starting fullback, Snake Ames, from the bench as the Tigers went 10–0 and were declared the top college team. In 1890, Shep got his chance to start and made the most of it. He plowed and slashed his way to All-America status in a season that so impressed Grantland Rice as a young man that he hailed Shep as the embodiment of football of this era. On November 1st, the Tigers played Virginia in Oriole Park in Baltimore. A huge crowd turned out to see the Cavaliers get destroyed 115–0, but the game ignited big-time football fever in the South.

The 1891 team went 12 games before allowing a point before being shutout 19–0 in the final game of the season before 40,000 fans in New York. Shep had another exceptional season and was named an All-American by Walter Camp again—along with quarterback Philip King, the country’s first Jewish football star. Shep was injured in 1892 but played through the pain as Princeton completed a 12–2 season. After 11 games, the Tigers were 11–0 and had not yielded a point. But they lost to Penn 6–4 and Yale 12–4. Princeton held opponents scoreless in all 12 of the victories.

Shep was remembered for his accurate kicking and exceptional punting—a key duty for backs in that era—and his long runs from scrimmage. He was also a member of the Princeton wrestling team. After graduation, he decided to try his hand at the import game, focusing on wines and hard liquors. He actually returned to Princeton to take Spanish courses, believing they would give him an edge in that business. He eventually followed his father into the insurance business, where his skill with numbers made him a wealthy man. So did his marriage to heiress Loraine Vanderpool. Their son, Gene, became one of America’s top amateur golfers.

Shep continued to play sports, winning an indoor tennis championship in New York in his 30s and a senior golf tournament at Pinehurst in 1929 in his 50s. He passed away in 1952 at the age of 80 in Charleston, South Carolina.


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