Eddie Cochems

Eddie Cochems

Edward B. "Eddie" Cochems (February 4, 1877 in Sturgeon Bay, WisconsinApril 9, 1953 in Madison, Wisconsin) was the first American football coach to build an offense around the forward pass.

The Father of the Forward Pass

Writing in his book "The Anatomy of a Game: Football, the Rules, and the Men Who Made the Game", which was published posthumously in 1994, College Football Hall of Fame coach David M. Nelson (1920-1991) states that "E. B. Cochems is to forward passing what the Wright brothers are to aviation and Thomas Edison is to the electric light."

Great figures in the sport such as Walter Camp and Pop Warner were unenthusiastic about the forward pass. [Nelson, David M., Anatomy of a Game: Football, the Rules, and the Men Who Made the Game, Pages 127-128, 1994] But Cochems, the coach at St. Louis University, recognized its fantastic potential and immediately capitalized upon the play only five months after it had become officially legal.

The first legal forward pass was thrown by St. Louis' Bradbury Robinson to Jack Schneider in a game against Carroll College (Wisconsin) at Waukesha on September 5, 1906.

"St. Louis Post-Dispatch" sportswriter Ed Wray (John Edward Wray, 1873-1961) [ [http://www.mosportshalloffame.com/inductee_detail/Ed+Wray/184?month_offset=-3 Missouri Sports Hall of Fame Entry for Ed Wray] ] covered SLU football throughout the Cochems era. By the 1940s, Wray was a columnist and had served as the paper's sports editor for 38 years [ [http://www.baseball-fever.com/showthread.php?t=57538&page=4 Baseball Fever, Meet The Sports Writers, John Edward (J. Ed) Wray] ] . In an October 1947 "Wray's Column", he wrote, "the football world in general and the college and professional treasuries in particular are indebted to Cochems and Robinson and St. Louis University... That's because the tremendous rise of gridiron interest everywhere can be traced directly of the Cochems-Robinson forward passing and to the improved spectacle it has made of this fine and manly game."

The "Air Attack" Takes Flight

According to archives at St. Louis [ [http://www.slu.edu/readstory/more/7166 SLU Archives] ] [ [http://www.slu.edu/readstory/more/7166 St. Louis University Article on the Centennial of the Forward Pass] ] , Cochems (pronounced coke-ems) didn't start calling pass plays in the Carroll game until after he had grown frustrated with the failure of his offense to move the ball on the ground.

In that historic 1906 game, after an earlier Robinson-to-Schneider attempt fell incomplete [ [http://daily.phanaticmag.com/2007_08_01_archive.html "Courtesy of the National Football Foundation", "This week in college football history", The Phanatic Magazine, August 31, 2007] ] (which resulted in a turnover to Carroll under the rules at that time), Cochems called for his team to again execute the play he called the "air attack".

Robinson threw the fat, rugby-style ball for a 20-yard touchdown pass to Schneider. The play stunned the fans and the Carroll players. St. Louis went on to win, 22-0.

1906 Season: St. Louis 407 – Opponents 11

Cochems created an offensive scheme that propelled the Blue & White to an undefeated (11-0) 1906 season. They led the nation in scoring, annihilating their opponents 407-11.

The highlight of the season was St. Louis' shocking 31-0 thrashing of Iowa. Coach Nelson reports that "eight passes were completed in ten attempts for four touchdowns" in the Iowa game. "The average flight distance of the passes was twenty yards."

Nelson continues, "the last play demonstrated the dramatic effect that the forward pass was having on football. St. Louis was on Iowa's thirty-five-yard line with a few seconds to play. Timekeeper Walter McCormack walked onto the field to end the game when the ball was thrown twenty-five yards and caught on the dead run for a touchdown."

"Cochems said that the poor Iowa showing resulted from its use of the old style play and its failure to effectively use the forward pass", Nelson writes. "Iowa did attempt two basketball-style forward passes."

"During the 1906 season [Robinson] threw a sixty-seven yard pass ... and ... Schneider tossed a sixty-five yarder. Considering the size, shape and weight of the ball, these were extraordinary passes."

t. Louis' "perfect exhibition" of the passing game

The 1906 Iowa game was refereed by one of the top football officials in the country... West Point's Lt. H. B. "Stuffy" Hackett. He had officiated games involving the top Eastern powers that year. Hackett, who would become a member of the football rules committee in December 1907 and officiated games into the 1930s, was quoted the next day in Wray's "Post-Dispatch" article: "It was the most perfect exhibition... of the new rules ... that I have seen all season and much better than that of Yale and Harvard. St. Louis' style of pass differs entirely from that in use in the east. ... The St. Louis university players shoot the ball hard and accurately to the man who is to receive it ... The fast throw by St. Louis enables the receiving player to dodge the opposing players, and it struck me as being all but perfect."

Taking full advantage of the early passing rules

Cochems had immediately grasped the strategic advantage of passing under the rules that had been established after the 1905 season.

To get a head start, Cochems received permission to take all 16 of his new St. Louis players for two weeks of pre-season workouts in secluded Lake Beulah, Wisconsin. ["Eddie Cochems Called Father of Forward Pass", "Wisconsin State Journal", page 15, October 11, 1944] Those August workouts prepared the team for the game at Carroll.

Cochems continued to relentlessly drill his men once they got back to St. Louis. "(A) Cochemesque feature of the practice," according to St. Louis sports columnist Dan Dillon, "was his placing his two star forward pass artists -- Robinson and Schneider -- in front of the big score board in center field (at Sportsman's Park)." Writing on October 24, 1906, Dillon was astonished that the pair "actually pitch the oval much after [the] baseball idea at certain marked spots on the board. The accuracy exhibited by those men in throwing the ball was simply marvelous and if some of the Eastern critics who are reputed opposed to the baseball throw for the forward pass could see this pair execute the play it is certain they would change their views."

One of Cochems' star players, Frank Acker, explained the impact of the 1906 rules in an interview with Wray published on September 20, 1945: "The passer then had to run five yards to the right or left of center before passing and as a result the field was marked off in five-yard squares, like a checker board, and not merely with parallel lines 10 yards apart.

"The most important difference in the rules was that an incomplete forward pass was not brought back to the point of origin, but went to the enemy at the point where it grounded. The effect was, on the fourth down, the same as if the ball had been punted.

"If the St. Louis U. receiver caught it, he could run for that touchdown. If he muffed, the ball went to the foe some 40 yards or more from the point it was thrown... Wouldn't that do things, today?"

By the time of the interview, Acker was, according to Wray, "a stocky, broad-shouldered 59-year old guy"... a retired physician and real estate investor. But even 39 years distant, the memories of those early days of college football were fresh. "Robinson threw the long passes and Schneider the bullet-fast short ones," Acker recalled. "Robbie's shots were so dangerous that the opposition assigned three men to take care of him.

"We ran our plays from the T formation... Our opponents' attention to Robbie made things easy for us... When Robbie started a play three of our backs went in one direction... But the ball was passed to me direct and I went in the other, with no interference, usually hitting a hole in the line."

Acker concluded, "I am a football fan and see all the big games but I've never seen longer or more accurate passing than the Robinson-Schneider team showed me... It should be remembered that they used a bigger and fatter football, harder to grasp, and offering greater air resistance than the narrower "projectile" of today... I'd back Robinson against any of the pitchers today, big ball and all."

Men on a mission

Cochems and his charges took it upon themselves to convert the football world to their belief that the forward pass had fundamentally changed the sport.

Cochems was quoted in early November 1906 that, "I think the forward pass is sensational. My men never think of throwing the ball underhand. They throw it overhand as hard as they can."

The coach detailed his concepts in letters and wires to influential men in the sport. As Coach Nelson wrote, "Cochems had the passing and scoring statistics, which he broadcasted widely."

When the "Father of Football", Walter Camp, needed an article on the state of the forward pass after the 1906 season, he invited Cochems to write it. The St. Louis coach produced a 10-page article entitled "The Forward Pass and the On-Side Kick" for the 1907 edition of Spalding's "How to Play Football", a booklet that Camp edited. The coach explained in words and photographs (of Robinson) how the forward pass could be thrown and how passing skills could be developed. " [T] he necessary brevity of this article will not permit of a detailed discussion of the forward pass," Cochems lamented. "Should I begin to explain the different plays in which the pass... could figure, I would invite myself to an endless task."

The coach even urged the redesign of the football itself... to make it better fit the passer's hand... more aerodynamic... in other words the football we know today.

The "St. Louis Star's" W.G. Murphy (William G. "Billy" Murphy, 1875-1925) reported on November 7, 1906 that the prostelitizing included indoctrinating the youngest fans: "In pursuance with Coach Cochems' plan to popularize the new game, [Clarence "Pike"] Kenney, Schneider, Acker, Robinson and other members of St. Louis U.'s team visited a number of the local schools Monday and addressed the students on the fine points of the game."

"Little respect"

"It's really a puzzle to me why the other teams are not given new style plays by their coaches," Cochems observed. " [The] Eastern elevens are using nothing but the old-style formations... It will be a matter of a season or two until the coaches throughout the country come around to my way of thinking or I will be badly mistaken."

Cochems was, in fact, badly mistaken. It would be seven years before Knute Rockne began to follow Cochems' example at Notre Dame. Rockne himself observed, “One would have thought that so effective a play would have been instantly copied and become the vogue. The East, however, had not learned much or cared much about Midwest and Western football. Indeed, the East scarcely realized that football existed beyond the Alleghanies…”. [ [http://www.slu.edu/readstory/more/7166 St. Louis University Article on the Centennial of the Forward Pass] ]

The East's initial disinterest in the pass confounded Coach Nelson as well: "eastern football had little respect for football west of Carlise, Pennsylvania... [they] may not have recognized what was happening in the West, but the new forward-passing game was off to an impressive start."

Other Head Coaching experience

Cochems' job at St. Louis was his third head coaching position.

After graduating from Wisconsin where he had been a star player from 1897-1901, [ [http://www2.jsonline.com/sports/century/oct99/century11101199.asp Christl, Cliff, "Famous Firsts", "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" Online, October 11, 1999] ] Cochems signed on as head football coach at North Dakota Agricultural College (now North Dakota State University) [ [http://www.cfbdatawarehouse.com/data/coaching/alltime_coach_year_by_year.php?coachid=402 College Football Data Warehouse] ] . His first season at Fargo (1902), his Aggies [ [http://www.gobison.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=26023&SPID=714&DB_OEM_ID=2400&ATCLID=187673 Official Web Site of North Dakota State University Athletics] ] went 4-0, outscoring their opponents 168-0. The next year, they finished 5-1.

In 1904, Cochems returned to Madison as an assistant. It was at this time that he encountered Brad Robinson, who had played for the Badgers in 1903. They shared a fascination with the potential of the forward pass and became fast friends. But they weren't together very long. Robinson got into a fight with the "school bully" and was dismissed from the team. He transferred to St. Louis where he played the 1904 season. In 1905, Cochems was a candidate to become head coach at Wisconsin ["Straw Vote Favors Phil King", "Chicago Tribune", page A2, December 11, 1904] but Phil King was returned to the position and Cochems departed to become head coach at Clemson.

When the "new rules" were adopted in advance of the 1906 season, Robinson maneuvered to have Cochems hired at St. Louis and the key characters were in place for a new chapter in the history of the sport.

Cochems led the Blue and White eleven through the 1908 campaign. He coached only once more in his career, guiding the University of Maine to a 6-3 finish in 1914.

In the late 1930s, at the end of his "post-coaching" career, Cochems retired to Madison. Even at the age of 60, the spark was there. When the position of head football coach at St. Louis opened up in 1940, he put in his name. [Casserly, Hank, “Ed Cochems, Local Man, Seeks St. Louis U Grid Coaching Post”, "The Capital Times", page 11, January 23, 1940] But the job went to another Wisconsin native, Marquette grad and one-time Green Bay Packer Dukes Duford. [Associated Press, "Billiken's Coach To Begin March 15", "Christian Science Monitor", page 16, February 1, 1940]

Athlete at Wisconsin

Cochems began his playing career at Wisconsin as an end before moving to halfback and joining what was a feared Badger backfield for the 1900 season. [Doherty, Justin and Alvarez, Barry, "Tales from the Wisconsin Badgers", page 5, 2005]

Max Loeb, a classmate of Cochems and an editor of the "Wisconsin Alumni Magazine", remembered the Wisconsin star as "one of the most spectacular men of my time... Wonderfully built, handsome and affable, I saw Eddie make a 105-yard run for a touchdown. Was that a thrill!" ["Wisconsin alumnus", Volume 50, Number 5, page 9, February 1949] According to the "Wisconsin alumnus", left halfback Cochems',"100 yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Chicago in 1901 brought him undying fame as a gridder." ["Wisconsin alumnus", Volume 54, Number 10, May 1953]

Football historian and pioneering coach Parke H. Davis believed there was "no exploit in football so difficult of achievement and so rare as the full-field run from kick-off to touch-down." Writing in the November 1913 issue of "St. Nicholas Magazine", Davis, who coached Wisconsin in 1893, went so far as to say, "Theoretically, such a performance would seem to be impossible. Actually, however, it has been accomplished thirteen times against elevens of major strength in the past forty years, and probably has been achieved as many more against minor teams." Davis reported that Cochems "caught the ball from kick-off on his ten-yard line, and dashed and dodged, plunged and writhed through all opponents for a touch-down... Cochem's great flight presented all of the features of speed, skill, and chance which must combine to, make possible the full-field run... he boldly laid his course against the very center of Chicago's oncoming forwards, bursting their central bastion, and then cleverly sprinting and dodging the secondary defenders."

The long return was one of Cochems' three touchdowns in the 35-0 victory over Amos Alonzo Stagg's Maroons. He scored two touchdowns in a 39-5 victory over Chicago the previous season.

Cochems was credited with four touchdowns in a 54-0 trouncing of Notre Dame in 1900.

The Badgers posted a 35-4 record during his four seasons of play

Cochems was a three-sport participant at UW [ [http://www.uwbadgers.com/ Official website of Badger athletics] ] ["The Wisconsin alumni magazine" Volume 30, Number 10. July 1929)] , playing football, track and baseball. He captained the Wisconsin nine in 1901. ["Captains of the Baseball Nines of the Colleges Composing the 'Big Nine'","Chicago Tribune", page 19, March 31, 1901]

Organizer and political activist

After leaving St. Louis in 1908, Cochems began a life as an "organizer, speaker and as political campaigner." ['Eddie' Cochems Dies; Was U.W. Grid Star", "The Capital Times", April 9, 1953]

According to his obituary in Madison's "The Capital Times", "Cochems was director of the National Speakers Bureau in 1912 during the campaign of Theodore Roosevelt, and again in 1916 during the Hughes campaign. He also served actively in the Coolidge and Hoover campaigns."

During World War I, he served as executive secretary of the New York Mayor's Committee on National Defense and served as the civilian aide to the Adj. General at Long Island. ["The Wisconsin alumni magazine", Volume 19, Number 9, July 1918]

He was a national organizer for the American Commission for Relief in Belgium.In 1925, Cochems was living in New York and corresponded with Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. seeking assistance in gaining patronage from Republican Party National Chairman William M. Butler. [ [ Cowan's Auctions, Historic Americana, December 5, 2008] ] Roosevelt was sympathetic but unable to help:

:Jan. 15th 1925

:E.B. Cochems, Esq.:71 West 50th Street:New York City.

:My dear Ed:

:I am very sorry, but I don’t think there is a thing I could do. You see, you are at the head of the stream, if you are close to Butler. He is the National Chairman, and he has the say on Federal patronage. All you have got to do is to get him to make a motion, and it will be o.k. On the other hand, how could I get the National organization to recognise you on the strength of what I had done for Butler. They would say, very logically, that Butler could recognize anybody he wishes to recognize, without help from them he would speak to them himself.

:With Best Wishes for the Coming Year,


:Theor. Roosevelt.

Cochems led an effort to end Prohibition as the president of the Association of American Rights -- Repeal of the 18th Amendment. [" 'Eddie' Cochems Dies; Was U.W. Grid Star", "The Capital Times", April 9, 1953] He also served on the staff of the Gibson Private Relief Association of New York.

Football legacy

Despite the dimensions of Cochems' contribution to football, his story is now the stuff of trivia. [ [http://www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/2006/09/05/forward-pass-has-100th-anniversary/ Douglas, Jeff, "Forward pass has 100th anniversary", Associated Press, September 5, 2006] ]

St. Louis' exploits were certainly no secret to the rest of the football world. Referee Hackett, who was at the center of Eastern football, witnessed them personally. Walter Camp gave Cochems ten pages in the 1907 Spalding yearbook. "The New York Times" published Cochems' concepts on the "scientific" nature of football in January 1908. ["Football Is Scientific", "The New York Times", January 5, 1908]

Even after he left coaching, Cochems remained connected to the sport and interacted with its leading figures.

He attended meetings of the Rules Committee ["Football Rules Are Interpreted", "The New York Times", September 23, 1911] ["Football Solons Interpret Rules", "The New York Times", September 24, 1920] with the likes of Walter Camp and John Heisman.

He became a well-known game official. In 1921, he was the umpire for the Notre Dame - Army game played at West Point. [Ward, Arch, "In the Wake of the News", "Chicago Tribune", page 19, November 1, 1941]

Cochems' role in revolutionizing the game was recognized by the sport's old hands into mid-century.

Newbery Medal winning author Harold Keith called Cochems the "Pioneer of the Forward Pass" in a feature article in the November 1944 issue of "Esquire Magazine". [Keith, Harold, "Pioneer of the Forward Pass", "Esquire", November 1944]

"New York Times" columnist Arthur Daley [ [http://www.baseballlibrary.com/ballplayers/player.php?name=Arthur_Daley Baseball Library: Arthur Daley] ] , the first sportswriter to win the Pulitzer Prize, wrote in 1949 that Rockne and Gus Dorais, "caught a much larger share of immortality than they actually deserve, including credit for inventing the forward pass. That, of course, belongs to Eddie Cochems of St. Louis...". [Daley, Arthur, "Sports of the Times", "The New York Times", November 16, 1949]

In 1952, Dorais himself was trying to set the record straight, telling the United Press that "Eddie Cochems of the St. Louis University team of 1906-07-08 deserves the full credit." [Casserly, Hank, "Hank Casserly Says", "The Capital Times", page 1, September 17, 1952]

Years passed and a generation of first-hand observers died out. They were replaced by generations influenced by the popular 1940 film "Knute Rockne, All American" in which Rockne was portrayed as the originator of the pass.

St. Louis discontinued intercollegiate football in 1949 [ [http://www.slu.edu/readstory/more/7166 St. Louis University Article on the Centennial of the Forward Pass] ] , the same year Robinson died. Cochems passed away in 1953. Ed Wray had retired as sports editor of the "Post-Dispatch" in 1946 and stopped writing entirely in 1955. Without an advocate left to tell it, the story of what happened in Wisconsin and St. Louis in the early 1900s faded into obscurity.

Cochems was twice nominated to the College Football Hall of Fame, the last time in 1965, ["Leahy Nominated to Hall of Fame", "The New York Times", January 7, 1965] but was not elected. Neither was Robinson.

Career sports publicist Phil Dynan spent ten years researching the origin of the pass. His 1967 article, "Father of the Forward Pass", appeared in the Sunday supplement "This Week". Dynan got right to the point in the first paragraph: "...it's about time that somebody voted Edward B. Cochems into the Football Hall of Fame." [Dynan, Phil, "Father of the Foward Pass", "This Week", "Des Moines Register", pages 16 & 22, October 15, 1967]

But it never happened.

As Tampa Bay Newspapers columnist Bob Driver lamented in 2006, "Cochems’ name is mostly a footnote in football history, despite his achievements as the forward-pass pioneer". [ [http://tbnweekly.com/content_articles/103106_vpt-02.txt Driver, Bob, "A brief history of the forward pass", Tampa Bay Newspapers, Oct. 31, 2006] ]


Cochems married May Mullen of Madison in August 1902. They were together until his death and had five children: daughter Elizabeth and sons John, Henry, Phillip and David, who was killed in action in Essen, Germany in the closing weeks of World War II.

Cochems died after a long illness on April 9, 1953 in the same Madison hospital in which his 14th grandchild had been born a week earlier. [" 'Eddie' Cochems Dies; Was U.W. Grid Star", "The Capital Times", April 9, 1953]


Cochems is a member of St. Louis Billiken Hall of Fame [ [http://slubillikens.cstv.com/boosters/stlo-boosters-hof-members.html Billiken Hall of Fame] ] , The University of Wisconsin Division of Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame and the Madison Sports Hall of Fame. [ [http://madisonsportshalloffame.org/hall_of_fame.html Madison Sports Hall of Fame] ]

He was named one of the 30 greatest Wisconsin athletes of the 20th century in the December 27, 1999 issue of "Sports Illustrated". [ [http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/features/1999/states/wisconsin/ CNN/Sports Illustrated: The 50 Greatest Sports Figures: Wisconsin] ]

Since 1994, the St. Louis-Tom Lombardo Chapter of the National Football Foundation has recognized "Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football" with The Eddie Cochems Award. [ [http://stlnff.tripod.com/id5.html St. Louis-Tom Lombardo Chapter of the National Football Foundation] ]

ee also

* 1906 college football season
* Bradbury Robinson
* College football
* Forward pass
* History of American football


* St. Louis University archives
* University of Wisconsin archives
* Boyles, Bob and Guido, Paul, "50 Years of College Football", 2007
* Gregorian, Vahe, "100 years of Forward Passing; SLU Was the Pioneer", "St. Louis Post-Dispatch", September 4, 2006
* Watterson, John Sayle, "College Football: History, Spectacle, Controversy", Pages 106-107, 2000
* Nelson, David M., "Anatomy of a Game: Football, the Rules, and the Men Who Made the Game", 1994
* Danzig, Allison, "The History of American Football: Its Great Teams, Players, and Coaches", Page 34, 1956
* "Wisconsin alumnus", Volume 54, Number 10, May 1953
* "St. Nicholas Magazine", November 1913
* "The Wisconsin alumni magazine", Volume 15, Number 2, November 1913
* "American Gymnasia and Athletic Record", Volume IV, No. 5, Whole Number 41, Page 62, January 1908
* Cochems, Eddie, "The Forward Pass and the On-Side Kick", Spalding's "How to Play Football"; Camp, Walter, editor, 1907
* Memoirs and scrapbook of Bradbury N. Robinson, Jr., 1903-1949


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