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Walter Bachman

Sport: Football

Born: March 19, 1879

Died: November 11, 1958

Town: Phillipsburg

Walter Ellsworth Bachman was born March 19, 1879 in Phillipsburg. Powerfully built as a boy, he became a star lineman for Phillipsburg High School under coach Babe Rinehart. Walter crossed the Delaware to play college ball for Lafayette and made the varsity as a freshman guard in 1898. As a sophomore, coach Samuel Nelson moved him to center and the results were nothing short of sensational. The Leopards went 12–1, with its only loss to Princeton, later declared the national champion for the 1999 season.

Walter’s size (200 lbs.) and quickness made him a good blocker, but it was his willingness to sacrifice his body to open up holes that earned him the nickname “Scrappy.” On defenWBachman2se, his keen eye for offensive formations enabled him to be in on almost every tackle. Though his job was to clog the middle on running plays, often he would take a step or two back from the line when he sensed a play would be going around end—giving him a clear path to the ball in back of the line—and he was rarely wrong. This lateral defender would come to be called a “roving center” and was the forerunner of the modern linebacker. Scrappy Bachman was one of the first and undoubtedly the best of his era.

In 1900 and 1901, Walter Camp named Walter a second-team All-American, and he was picked as first-team on a number of other lists. Camp's vivid description of his play leaves little doubt that he was functioning like a modern MLB. In addition, he was usually the first man down the field covering punts and often tinkered with new blocking and tackling techniques. Walter was named team captain in 1901 and in his final game, a 29–0 shutout of Dickinson, he was unstoppable as usual: “Wherever he was needed, there was he to be found. Brilliant in the extreme was the playing of Captain Bachman.”

After graduation, Walter played a little pro football and participated in the World Championship tournament in 1902. He decided to try his hand at coaching. He was an assistant at Allegheny College and went 13–3 in two seasons at Texas A&M.

College football was still a young sport and Walter decided to put his degree to work in a more secure business. He took a job with the Lehigh Valley Railroad and worked as a yardmaster until his retirement in the 1940s. He passed away at the age of 79 in an Easton, PA hospital.


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