Milton R. Rhenquist

Inducted: 1987
Born: 04/03/1892
Died: 02/05/1956

Milton Rhenquist, born on June 6, 1897, was the son of Frederick and Albertina (Bachman) Rhenquist. His family relocated to the Fairmont area in southern Minnesota, where he bravely enlisted in the Army and served overseas in WWI. This early display of resilience and dedication set the stage for his future achievements. After his military service, he journeyed to Lindsborg, Kansas, where he attended Bethany Academy as a prelude to enrolling at Bethany College. In this Swedish-run institution, he shone in football for three years. He is the only football player from Bethany College to play professionally in the National Football League for nine years. He played for the Kansas City Blues (1924), Cleveland Bulldogs (1925-1926), Kanas City Cowboys (1927), Providence Steam Roller (1928-1931; and Boston Braves, 1932. He was voted as an All-Pro in 1928 and 1929.

Milt was a giant for that era (6’3″ and 230 pounds), and he was often described as looking “just like a Viking.” Affectionately known as “Swede,” he was listed at three positions on the line: guard, center, and tackle. He won an NFL Championship with the Providence Steam Roller in 1928. The Providence Steam Roller played their home games in the Cycledrome, built by Peter Laudatti, who owned the team with Judge James Dooley. The Cycledrome seated 10,000 in the bleachers surrounding a wooden banked cycle track. The oval track steeply banked around the turns but was flatter on the straightaways, barely leaving enough room inside it for a football field. The players’ benches and some seating for fans rested on the track, which ran up against the sidelines. Players tackling or being tackled near the edge of the field frequently wound up in the first row of seats. The stadium included only one dressing room, built to accommodate a few bikers and not the Steam Roller team. The field had a press box and a small area for parking, which was adequate for 1928 when few people owned cars. The Providence Steam Rollers won the 1928 NFL championship, the last defunct NFL franchise to do so. Rhenquist retired from professional football in 1932. He appeared in 77 games and won one championship.

While playing for Providence, he met Mary McKenna of Pawtucket, married her in 1930, and took up residence on Broad Street in Central Falls. He also formed a close bond with his running back on the Providence Steam Roller, Rhode Island Hall of Fame inductee Jack Cronin, who secured him a job as a guard in the state prison. There, Milt selflessly dedicated his time and talent to the development of football and baseball programs for the inmates. As he ascended to the rank of captain of the guards, the prisoners paid Rhenquist the tribute of naming their baseball diamond “Swede Park.” This testament to his impact on the inmates’ lives truly reflects his character and inspires us with his selflessness.

Cronin also got Mily another position – line coach at LaSalle Academy, where Cronin was the legendary head coach. In the 1955 season, Milt’s last, La Salle, shut out East Providence in their traditional Thanksgiving Day game with a score of 26-0. That victory clinched the tenth Class A championship for Ls Salle since Milt joined the team in 1935. The Cronin-Rhenquist dynasty also produced a national high school co-championship in 1945. Lou Gorman, later general manager of the Boston Red Sox, was a member of that team. Gorman was inducted into The Rhode Island Hall of Fame in 1993. The quarterback on that 1945 team was Don Panciera, who later played at Boston College and the National Football League.

Rehnquist, who had been diagnosed with a heart condition, died of a heart attack at his post in the state prison on February 5, 1956. Associates from La Salle, the Sherman-LeClere-Montiero American Legion Post, and the state prison attended his burial service in Moshassuck Cemetery, Central Falls. Milt had no children, and he was survived by his wife, Mary, and his sister, Mrs. Homer Geitz of San Jose, California.

Milton Rehnquist, a man of remarkable achievements, was inducted into the Bethany College “Athletics Hall of Fame in October 2019 and into The Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 2023. These honors stand as a testament to his enduring legacy and the respect he commands even after his passing.

For additional reading: 1928 Providence Steam Roller, Rosters, Stats, Schedule, NFL Publications

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