Did an all-time football great, himself enshrined in the
College Football Hall of Fame, hide his deafness?
No one, except football historians would have heard of
Johnny Maulbetsch (Adrian College & University of
Michigan, 1911; 1914 through 1916). He got offers to
play pro football but turned them down for a career
as head football coach (Phillips University,
Oklahoma State and Marshall University).
Was he deaf? And if so, did he hide it?
There was a big football game between Michigan (7-2)
and Cornell (6-2) in 1916. The Cornell scouts
watched Michigan play, looking for clues – and
found one – everytime it was Maulbetsch’s turn
to run the ball, the quarterback would tap him
on the shoulder. Not just once – but everytime.
The Cornell defense looked for the shoulder
tapping and gang-tackled Maulbetsch each
time. It paid off as Cornell won 23-20,
and Maulbetsch was ineffective.
In a story written up about the game it said
Maulbetsch was “somewhat deaf.”
How deaf was he, if any? We probably will never