Monday, June 20, 2005

Erwin Prasse, Who Captained Kinnick's 1939 Iowa Ironmen, Dies at 87

And now there are three.

Erwin Prasse, captain of the famous 1939 University of Iowa Ironmen football team, is dead at the age of 87.

Prasse died Saturday in Naperville, Ill., where he had lived for the last 52 years.

He had been one of only four members of the Ironmen who were still living.

George "Red" Frye of Albia, Ia., a Hawkeye teammate of Prasse, told me today the death was apparently the result of a fall.

"Erwin fell and his hit head last Friday," the 86-year-old Frye explained. "I had called him to see if he was interested in going with me to Iowa's first game [against Ball State] next season. We went to the 2004 season opener together."

Frye said not many people realized that Prasse's nickname in the 1930s was "Bisquits."

"He got the name because his father worked in a bakery and would bring bisquits and other things home from there," Frye explained. "Not many people knew about that nickname."

Although Nile Kinnick won the 1939 Heisman Trophy when he played halfback for Iowa, Prasse was the team's captain.

Visitation will take place Tuesday from 3 to 9 p.m. at Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home [44 South Mill Street] in Naperville. Services will be held at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the funeral home, followed by a church service at the SS Peter and Paul Church [36 North Ellsworth Street].

Prasse was Iowa’s second nine-time letter-winner Aubrey Devine was the first. Prasse lettered three times in football, basketball and baseball.

The Ironmen, coached by Dr. Eddie Anderson, had a 6-1-1 record that included back-to-back victories over Notre Dame and Minnesota.

Prasse was an all-American end his senior year [1939] in football after having been named all-Big Ten as a junior and senior. He was also a prominent starter at second base for two Iowa Big Ten title baseball teams.

He was taken in the ninth round of the 1940 National Football League draft by the Detroit Lions, and was drafted by major league baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals. He even played professional basketball for a few years.

He was a veteran of World War II, and was wounded in action. He worked for an insurance company most of his life.

Prasse and his wife, Norma, had 10 children.

Prasse was featured in my book, "Tales from the Iowa Sidelines," which was published in 2003, and is now in its second printing.

In a segment in the book, titled "Heisman Trophy Winner, But Not Captain," Maly wrote:

"The Main Main of the 1939 Iowa Ironmen was was Nile Kinnick, the do-everything halfback who went on to become Iowa's only Heisman Trophy winner.

"Kinnick, whose grandfahter--George W. Clarke--had been governor of the State of Iowa from 1913-1917, was an extremely intelligent young man who appeared destined for big things after his days as a Hawkeye star.

"Could he had been elected governor? A Senator? To an even higher office?

"Unfortunately, we'll never know.

"Tragically, Kinnick's life ended on June 2, 1943. As a Navy ensign, he died when his plane crashed on a training flight in Caribbean Sea. He was only 24.

"Kinnick grew up in Adel, Ia., a town just west of Des Moines, but spent his senior year in high school in Omaha, Neb. He and his teawmmates had been part of just two victories and one tie in 16 Iowa games under Coach Irl Tubbs in 1937 and 1938.

"Kinnick wasn't elected captain of the 1939 team. Instead, Prasse was.

"'Kinnick had counted on being captain, and I thought he certainly would be,"
said Prasse, who earned nine letters in football basketball and baseball at Iowa. 'But he had a bad ankle in 1938, and I was named our most valuable player.

"'Looking back now, what the hell difference did it make that I was the captain in 1939? The captain decides what you're going to do when the officials flip the coin, and that's it.'"

The surviving members of the Ironmen are Frye, Dick Evans and Henry Vollenweider.

"Evans and Prasse were the ends," Frye said. "Vollenweider was a fullback. He wasn't a regular, but he lettered. I played center and linebacker."

Frye said he is in excellent health.

"I've been doing some lawn-mowing and trimming today. I'm ready go to into the game," he joked. "Send me in."


Damon Archibald, who spent the last two seasons as an assistant on the Iowa State men’s basketball staff, today was promoted to associate head coach.

“I think Damon has done an excellent job for us,” coach Wayne Morgan said. “He has demonstrated that he has the maturity and acumen to be a successful head coach. We are extremely pleased he will be continuing his coaching career at Iowa State.”

When such appointments are made, one reason is so the coach who is being promoted can receive a pay raise.

“I am flattered and humbled to have this opportunity,” Archibald said. “However, I am more excited about being associated with one of the rising programs and hottest coaches in the country. This was a perfect Father’s Day gift.”

Archibald is entering his third season with the Cyclones after being an assistant at Southern California from 2000-03. The Cyclones made back-to-back postseason appearances in Archibald’s two seasons, advancing to the NIT seminfinals in 2004 and the NCAA second round in 2005.

Vol. 4, No. 354
June 20, 2005