football, 1940-42

inducted February 18, 2006

Everyone knows that the Heisman Trophy goes to the nation's top college player. Sixty years ago, the Heisman played second fiddle to the Maxwell Award, presented by the Maxwell Club of Philadelphia, also to the nation's top player.

Paul Governali earned the Maxwell Award in 1942, when he was the best quarterback in college football and just missed the Heisman Award, finishing second to Georgia's Frank Sinkwich, a running back.  

He was a consensus All-American, earning the honor from Associated Press, United Press, Collier's and the All-American Board. The AP named him the East's Best All-Around College Athlete.

And, oh what a season he had! He threw for 1442 yards in nine games that 1942 season, completing 19 passes for touchdowns - both set new collegiate records - and completed 52 percent of his passes, yet another record. In the season opener that year, a 39-0 blanking of Fort Monmouth, he threw five touchdown passes!  More than 60 years later, that still stands as a Columbia record, now shared with John Witkowski.

In the era of the run, the man they called "Grover" was the nation's dominant passer. He completed 175 passes in three seasons for 2513 yards and 25 touchdowns, totaling 3333 yards of total offense. He once rushed for 180 yards in a single game and his 39.97 yards per punt stood as the Lions' career record for more than 50 years.

Little wonder that legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote that Governali "was the closest approach to a one-man team that I have ever seen."

An All-Eastern League baseball star as well, Governali had offers from pro football and baseball following his 1943 graduation. He disdained them to enlist in the Marines, serving three years. After his discharge, he joined the Boston Yanks pro football team.

Governali had lost few of his skills in the service. He completed 83 of 192 passes for 1293 yards and 13 touchdowns his first year, then hit 108 of 252 for 1775 yards and 17 TDs in 1947. He was traded to the New York Giants early in the season, excelling for the local team with 85 for 197 for 1461 yards and 14 TDs. He continued to punt, averaging 43.7 yards per kick in 1946.

Following a lackluster 1948 season, Governali retired from pro football and returned to Columbia, working as an assistant coach while pursuing his doctorate, which he received in 1951.

He left Columbia in 1956 to become head coach at San Diego State. Governali directed the Aztecs to an undefeated season that year, but the program did not continue to do well, and Governali left the sidelines after five years to become professor of physical education.

He passed away in 1978 at the age of 57.