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Harvey Grimsley

Sport: Football

Born: March 15, 1922

Died: January 7, 2021

Town: Orange

Harvey Grimsley was born March 15, 1922 in Haleburg, Alabama and grew up in the Essex County town of Orange. He was a gifted three-sport athlete, excelling at football, basketball and baseball in high school, where he often went head-to-head with Larry Doby. Harvey’s uncle, the much younger brother of his mother, was Monte Irvin, who was just a few years older than Harvey. Harvey’s older brother, Preston, was enrolled at Morgan State and that was his plan, too—until World War II intervened. Harvey enlisted and was trained as an aquatics engineer; he worked as a specialist in Europe attached to Patton’s Third Army.

After the war, Harvey was prepared to attend college on the GI Bill. He was set to go to Morgan State when Heinie Benkert, a Rutgers football star from the 1920s (and his football coach and history teacher at Orange High), intervened and talked him into playing for Rutgers.

In 1946, freshmen were still allowed to play varsity sports as a result of lingering wartime manpower shortages. When Harvey showed up for practice the first day, coach Harvey Harmon saw his beefy physique and told him to go stand with the linemen. Harvey objected, insisting he was a running back. His punishment for questioning the coach was demotion to the JV.

After a big game against Navy’s JV, Harvey was promoted to the varsity. In a game against Johns Hopkins, Coach Harmon inserted him in the fourth quarter and he ran for long touchdowns the first two times he touched the ball. A few weeks later, he scored twice again in a huge 13-–0 upset of Harvard, a Top 20 team at the time. The Queensmen finished the year with blowout wins over Lafayette, Lehigh and Bucknell to capture the Middle Three Conference crown.

In 1947, Harvey had his best game, against Lafayette. With the conference title on the line, he broke a scoreless fourth-quarter tie with three touchdowns on a rain-soaked field to win 20–0. The next Scarlet Knight to score three times in one quarter was Ray Rice, in 2007. In his final collegiate game, against Fordham in 1949, Harvey broke loose for a spectacular 63-yard TD in a 35–14 victory. It was the 28th of his career. Rutgers won the Middle Three crown in each of Harvey’s varsity seasons, finishing 28–8 during his four years. During the first three of those years, his quarterback was the team’s future coach, Frank Burns.

After graduation, Harvey suited up for the semipro Woodbridge Golden Bears. Among his teammates was Harvey Creekmur, brother of future NFL Hall of Famer Lou Creekmur. Harvey entered the field of education in the 1950s. He received his teaching certification at Seton Hall and taught high school in Newark and Piscataway—while also coaching football. The 1954 South Side High (now Shabazz) squad went on to win the city championship. In the 1960s, he took a position as a teacher and counselor at Rutgers and in the 1970s moved to Illinois, where he worked as an administrator at Governor’s State University and Southern Illinois University. In 1993, Harvey was inducted into the Rutgers Football Hall of Fame along with Deron Cherry and three others. He passed away in 2021 at the age of 98.


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