Dr. William T. Osmanski

Inducted: 1978
Born: 12/29/1915
Died: 12/25/1996

Dr. William (Bill) Osmanski began his great football career at Central High School in Providence, Rhode Island. He was born in Providence on December 29, 1915. He earned All-State honors twice and led his team to the Class A state championship in 1934. He picked up the nickname “Bullet Bill” during high school. Osmanski was primarily a straightaway power runner as a fullback, gaining most of his yardage through the middle. After graduation, Osmanski entered Holy Cross College. He played freshmen football, baseball, and track in his first year. The next three years were highly successful both for Holy Cross and Osmanski. Between 1936 and 1938, Holy Cross was a nationally prominent football power. During these three seasons, the team compiled a 23-3 record.

As a sophomore, Osmanski was selected as an All-East fullback. Bill’s coach, Andy Kerr, described him as “one of the hardest running backs I have seen in years.” He repeated his All-East recognition in his junior year. In his senior year, Osmanski was named All-American. Osmanski’s attributes on offense were bursting speed, instinctive balance, controlled momentum, and tackle-breaking power. On defense, Bill’s instant response and vicious aggressiveness behind the line destroyed opponents’ plays often before they reached the line of scrimmage. His jersey number, 25, was retired by Holy Cross. 

Osmanski was chosen to play with the College All-Stars in 1939 against the New York Giants. His performance in the game earned him a contract with the Chicago Bears, who drafted him number six in the first round. However, Bill was not interested in playing professional football. Bears’ owner and coach George Halas convinced Osmanski that he could study dentistry at Northwestern University while playing pro football.

In his rookie season, Bill was the leading ground gainer in the NFL, with 699 yards in 121 carries. He was also selected to the All-Pro team. The following season, he was chosen again as All-Pro as the Bears won the world championship. Osmanski played on four NFL championship squads during his seven-year pro career. In the Championship game against Washington in 1940, Osmanski got things off to a rollicking start. “On the second play of the game, I took the handoff and slanted off left tackle,” he said after the game. “The end had been only partially blocked, so I dipped to avoid him, something not in the playbook. George Wilson threw a block and wiped out two men, and I went 68 yards for the TD with only 55 seconds elapsed.” He rushed for 109 yards in what remains the most one-sided championship game in the league’s history. Final score: Chicago 73, Washington nothing. While playing for the Bears, he also attended dental school at Northwestern. As a rookie dentist, he practiced with the team in the morning, rode the bus to his office in the afternoon, and then commuted back across town again in the evening for a team meeting. During his career with the Bears, Osmanski had 368 carries for 1,750 yards, 12 catches for 170 yards, and 21 touchdowns. 

In October 1943, Osmanski and some of his Bears teammates announced they would join the United States Navy. Osmanski was attached to the United States Marine Corps, working as the head football coach at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in 1944. With the 1st Marine Division, he served in the battles of Guam. Guadalcanal, and Okinawa. In March 1945, he received a citation from the Marine Corps when he rescued a Navy doctor from quicksand while they were searching for bananas. 

After World War II ended, Osmanski was attached to the 2nd Marine Division, which served as the occupying force in Nagasaki, Japan. On January 1, 1946, he captained the Isahaya Tigers in the Atom Bowl against Heisman Trophy winner Angelo Bertelli’s Nagasaki Bears. After trailing 13–0 at halftime, Osmanski scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Although the two had promised to end the game in a tie to ensure troop morale remained high, Osmanski kicked the game-winning extra point in the 14–13 Tiger victory; when Bertelli confronted him, Osmanski apologized and remarked, “It was an act of God! Either that or force of habit. ” 

Upon his discharge from the Marines in 1946, he rejoined the Bears and played in the same backfield with his brother Joe. He retired from playing in 1947 and returned to Holy Cross to serve as head coach for two seasons before deciding to devote his full attention to his dentistry career in Chicago.

Osmanski married Mary Gavin in 1946. They had six children: Mary, William, John, Kathleen, Stephen, and Robert. 

Following his coaching years, Osmanski opened a dental practice in Chicago. He also assisted in developing football mouthguards and was the president of the Illinois Dental Society. Osmanski is a member of the Collegiate Football Hall of Fame (1973), the Helms Foundation Hall of Fame (1976), the National Polish-American Hall of Fame (1977), and the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1979.)

He was inducted into The Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 1978. 

Bill Osmanski died on Christmas Day, December 25, 1996, at 81. 

  1.  “1939 NFL Draft Listing”. Pro-Football-Reference.com. .
  2.  Larkin, Will (June 21, 2019). “Ranking the 100 best Bears players ever: No. 77, Bill Osmanski”Chicago Tribune, January 26, 2020.
  3.  “Bill Osmanski Lost To Bears; Goes To Navy”. The Daily Record. AP. October 16, 1943. .
  4.  “Bill Osmanski to Coach Camp Lejeune Marines”Chicago TribuneAP. September 19, 1944.
  5.  Birtwell, Roger (January 9, 1948). “Osmanski Passed Up 3 Other Bids on Hunch H.C. Would Call”The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 26, 2020
  6.  Fitzpatrick, Ray (March 6, 1945). “Bill Osmanski Gets Citation For Saving Pal”The Journal-Standard. .
  7.  “Play Atomic Bowl Grid Game Jan. 1”Mansfield News JournalUP. December 29, 1945. Retrieved January 26, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  8.  Flaherty, Vincent X. (April 4, 1946). “Bertelli Tells One on Osmanski”Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph.  
  9.  “Osmanskis Signed by Chicago Bears,” Winona Daily NewsAP. July 30, 1946. Retrieved January 26, 2020 
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