Sport: Basketball & Football
Born: September 11, 1884
Died: February 27, 1966
Walter Runge was born September 11, 1884 in Newark to Robert and Louise Runge, German immigrants. Walt grew up in Flushing, Queens with six siblings. His father worked for the city as an inspector. The games of baseball, basketball and football were evolving rapidly during Walt’s boyhood and he proved to be exceptional at each thanks to great strength, athletic skill and a nimble mind.
In 1902, Walt enrolled at Colgate University and was voted captain of coach Buck O’Neil’s football team as a freshman. He held this position for four years and game accounts from each season are peppered with his name. Walt played fullback and quarterback in an era before the forward pass, but was involved in almost every offensive play. He also played second base for the baseball team and competed in shot put for the track team.
Although football got more attention at the time, Walt was clearly head and shoulders above the competition on the basketball court. His quickness, anticipation and upper-body strength made him an ideal forward in this rough-and-tumble era. He was Colgate’s main “thrower” or shooter and was widely regarded as the top all-around player in the East. Years later, when the Helms Foundation retroactively chose All-Americans from 1905 to 1929, Walt was a member of the 1905 squad. He was voted team captain as a sophomore and led the team each year thereafter. In 1950, Walt would be the guest of honor at a celebration of a half-century of Colgate basketball.
Walt graduated in 1906 with 13 varsity letters. He and teammate Riley Castleman were the first students to earn four letters in one year. Walt went on to attend medical school. He settled in East Orange, a town he had known as a boy, but remained active in his support for Colgate football. In 1926, when Hall of Fame coach Dick Harlow announced he was leaving the school to coach Western Maryland, Walt was a member of the search committee that selected George Hauser. In 1959, Walt’s name was proposed for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, however he did not receive the necessary votes for enshrinement. He was enshrined in the Colgate Athletic Hall of Fame in 1980, 14 years after his death.