Legends of the 715: Johnny Blood
Johnny McNally. You might know him better as Johnny Blood or “The Vegabond Halfback.”
If you go to Lambeau Field, you’ll see his name on the Lambeau Field façade with the names of the rest of the Pro Football Hall of Famers who played for the Packers. He’s one of the all-time great players of the game and one of their biggest characters.
And he has a couple of connections to the 715.
We could write a complete book on Johnny Bloods life and the charismatic stories about him. So we’ll try to keep this short. His first connection to the 715 was that, he was born here. In New Richmond to be exact, on November 27, 1903. He graduated from high school in New Richmond at the age of 14, attended the River Falls State Normal School from 1920-1922, then St. Johns in Minnesota, then transferred to Notre Dame, where he wanted to play football. The story goes that Notre Dame wanted him to play tackle, but he didn’t and didn’t play a down for them.
The next part of this story is how Johnny McNally got the name “Blood.”
In 1922, he and a former college teammate from St. Johns heard they could make money playing semi-pro football. However, McNally still had a year left of eligibility for college and didn’t want to give that up. Him and his buddy, Ralph Nelson, hopped on a motorcycle and headed towards the teams practice field. They passed a movie theatre where on the marquee it displayed the movie that was playing: “Blood and Sand.” As McNally puts it, “I turned my head and shouted, ‘That’s it. I’ll be Blood and you be Sand.”
McNally played in the NFL for 14 seasons, getting his first professional start with the Milwaukee Badgers in 1925. He also made two stops with the Packers and Pittsburgh Pirates, who would later become the Steelers. He was known as a halfback who could not only run the ball, but was extremely good at pass catching.
Another connection to the 715 for Blood was in 1935. Blood wanted back on the Packers team, but then coach Curly Lambeau wouldn’t take him back. In preparation for the upcoming season, the Packers scheduled a exhibition against the Chippewa Marines on September 2, 1935 at the Chippewa Falls Fairgrounds. Johnny Blood played for the Chippewa Marines in that game and used that game as a tryout to get back on the Packers. It worked, because later on Blood was back on the Packers.
There’s many legends and stories surrounding Johnny Blood from his playing days and his antics off the field. But his connection to the 715 is something not a lot of people know about. Now you do!
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