DeOrmand “Tuss” McLaughry

Inducted: 1971
Born: 1893
Died: 1974

DeOrmond “Tuss” McLaughry was an American football player and coach. He began his coaching career at his alma mater, Westminster (PA) College, in 1916. During his early days in coaching, McLaughry spent his spare time playing professional football with the Massillon (Ohio) Tigers. Knute Rockne, famed coach at the University of Notre Dame, was a teammate. He went on to become head coach at Amherst College and Brown and Dartmouth Universities. His most successful years were at Brown, where he had a 15-year record of 76-58-5. In 1926, McLaughry produced Brown’s only undefeated team. Two of his other teams at Brown had only one loss.

McLaughry was born on May 19, 1893, in Chicago, the son of James and Mary (Graham) McLaughry. He had at least seven siblings. He grew up in Sharon, Pennsylvania, and attended Michigan State University for a year before transferring to Westminister College in Pennsylvania. He is best known for his triple-wing formations and the Brown University “Iron Men” – the only undefeated football team in the school’s history.It was 1926, the first year as Brown head coach for McLaughry, when the “Iron Men” legend was born. It began with Yale, rated as the East’s best team going into the game. Brown scored a touchdown in the first quarter, and McLaughry decided to sit on the lead by playing the 11 starters for the whole game, not making a single substitution as Brown won the game. So McLaughry decided not to break up a winning combination and played Dartmouth the following weekend, again with no substitutions. A crowd of 13,000 attended the game, which was vast for Hanover, N.H., and extra police were called in to handle the traffic. The “Iron” men did not get off to a good start when Dartmouth opened the game by advancing to the Brown 10-yard-line. At that point, Brown called a time-out, and Ed Kevorkian, a sophomore guard, yelled, “That’s as far as the bastards go!” And it was. The Iron Men went the whole way and won 10-0. Their return to Providence was celebrated by a torchlight parade through town and a bonfire and speeches on the campus. By this time, the team was attracting national attention. The big question was would McLaughry continue his no-substitution policy for the upcoming game against Harvard?

McLaughry admitted that he had some pregame worries of his own. He expressed concern that his starters were getting overconfident. The “Wooden Men,” as the substitutes had been titled, were beginning to complain about not playing. McLaughry also objected to the nickname. “They’re not “Iron Men,” he told a reporter from the Brown Daily Herald. “They are just 11 college boys having a good time playing football.” He also said that he wouldn’t keep the “Iron Men” intact against Harvard unless it was necessary.

All 53,896 seats in Harvard were sold for the game, the largest crowd ever to watch a Brown team play. There were several other “firsts” for this game. An automobile club posted signs to guide Rhode Island fans to the game. The Brown Daily Herald urged fans not to take part in any mob tactics, such as tearing down the goalposts, if Brown won. The game was filmed and shown at four Providence theaters. Although it was a bruising game, Brown took a 14-0 lead into the fourth quarter. With two minutes to play, McLaughry signaled six substitutes to warm up to go in the game. Cries of “No! No!” came from Brown and Harvard fans alike. Everyone wanted to see the Iron Men complete the game. But Tuss sent the substitutes in, and they scored the third touchdown in a 21-0 victory. The Iron Men did not protest when the substitutes entered the game. The Providence Evening Bulletin approved of McLaughry’s decision to substitute, calling it “a fitting climax to a great afternoon.” A farm publication called The Rural New Yorker took note of Brown’s pre-game milk-drinking habit with a quote: “In the great football game of life, you can have no finer friend than a cow.” Brown had two more games to play to complete the season without a defeat. They beat New Hampshire easily, then played to a 10-10 tie with Colgate and an undefeated season.  

McLaughry served as the head football coach at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania (1915-1921), Amherst College (1922-1925), Brown University (1926-1940), and Dartmouth College (1941-1954.) He was also the head basketball coach at Brown from 1926 to 1929. His coaching career at Dartmouth was interrupted after two years due to World War II, where he served as a lieutenant colonel in the United States Marine Corps.

After he left coaching, McLaughry was a professor of physical education at Dartmouth from 1955-60. He was on the NCAA football rules committee from 1945-54. He served the American Football Coaches Association as secretary, president, and finally executive director from 1960-65. The Coaches Association in 1951 gave him the A.A. Stagg Award “for service to football,” and in 1964 started the Tuss McLaughry Award “for service to mankind.” Recipients of this award have included Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Bob Hope, Lyndon B. Johnson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Gerald Ford.

McLaughry married Florence Jackson on August 21, 1911, in Detroit. The couple had three children, Robert, Jeanne, and John, who followed in his father’s footsteps and played and coached football. He was the head football coach at Brown University from 1959 to 1966 and served with the Marines in World War II as a Major.

Twenty years after graduating from high school, Tuss McLaughry attended night and summer classes to earn his law degree from Northeastern University. He died in 1974 at age 81.

Tuss McLaughry was inducted into the College Hall of Fame as a coach in 1962. Of all the coaches inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, McLaughry is the only one with a winning percentage under .500. He was inducted into the Brown University and Rhode Island Heritage Halls of Fame in 1971.

Scroll to Top