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Harry Rockafeller

Sport: Football

Born: August 26, 1894

Died: April 5, 1978

Town: Asbury Park

Harold Joseph Rockafeller Jr. was born August 26, 1894 in Asbury Park. Quick and rugged, Harry was a standout athlete at Asbury Park High, excelling in football, basketball and track. Harry and his brother Jack were terrors on the gridiron. Jack went to Penn and Harry became a star football player for Rutgers, bookending with Paul Robeson at the end position and earning All-America honorable mention in 1915. When the two players graduated, they were hailed as the greatest gridders in Queensmen history.

After serving in the army during World War I and working for US Rubber in New Brunswick, Harry followed the path of many star athletes and returned to his alma as a coach in the mid-1920s.

In 1927, Rutgers made Harry head coach of the football team. He flourished in this position, but preferred running all of the school’s sports programs, and Rutgers honored his request to become Graduate Manager of Athletics in 1931. He continued to coach the “150-pound” teams—the rough equivalent of a JV—and led them to three straight unbeaten seasons.

Known on campus as “Rocky,” Harry was a popular figure. When football coach Harvey Harman was drafted during World War II, he returned to the sidelines for four years and coach the team to a conference title in 1945.

From 1952 to 1961, Harry served as Athletic Director at Rutgers, retiring at the age of 66. By then he was known as Mr. Rutgers. In 1970, he was inducted into the Helms Athletic Hall of Fame. He also served as Mayor of Piscataway and headed Rutgers’ fundraising efforts. Harry passed away in 1978 at the age of 84.



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