Herb's Archive features excerpts from interviews about
Gipp’s deathbed request and the “Win One For the Gipper” speech. They
are from Michael Steele’s book “Knute Rockne A Bio-Bibliography.”
Novelist, short-story writer and Professor of English at Notre Dame.
player, coach, curator of the Notre Dame
Sports and Games Collection, writer and Notre Dame football historian.
The following interviews were held during the last
weeks of 1979 when the author was in South Bend for his initial research at
Notre Dame's International Sports and Games Collection. For the most part,
the people interviewed have had or still have a direct connection to Knute
Rockne or the preservation of his memory in the collection's materials.
Richard Sullivan was a professor of English at Notre Dame. The author and
Professor Sullivan have been friends for fifteen years, and the author
recalled that Mr. Sullivan often referred to his experiences as an
undergraduate at Notre Dame in the twenties, when he was teaching.
INTERVIEWER: Just a personal opinion now; this is a hard one: Do you think
that there's any possibility that Gipp, talking to Rock in 1920, actually
made a death-bed request? We know for a fact what Rockne said to his players
for the 1928 Army game. Then Chevigny said, "That's one for the Gipper" when
he scored his touchdown in the second half. That much we know happened.
There were people who heard Rockne say all this to the team, and the players
from Army and Notre Dame heard Chevigny say that as he crossed the goal
line. Now, what's your estimation? Do you think that Gipp actually said this
to Rockne? Number one, do you think it's possible or number two, does it
SULLIVAN: Number one, it is possible. (Pause.) Number two, yes, perhaps in
the interest of truth, it does matter. Certainly, I would never be able to
pronounce on it, whether it happened or not.
INTERVIEWER: You take it as truth?
SULLIVAN: No, I don't take it as truth. I say I think it matters whether
it's the truth or not. I'd like to know myself whether it's true or not.
INTERVIEWER: I'll tell you if I ever find out.
SULLIVAN: But I think, Mike, honestly, that I find it quite compatible with
my own image of Rockne that he would make it up. Though I don't mean for a
moment that it isn't quite possible that Gipp did say that to Rockne on his
death bed. It could be. Or Gipp could have said something close to
that and Rockne could have elaborated a little.
INTERVIEWER: Sure, and of course, in the throes of death as Gipp was for two
or three days; he was in the hospital for fourteen days or more. Of course,
if it were a mere fabrication, Rockne would not have been aware of any moral
SULLIVAN: Not a bit, no.
INTERVIEWER: Taking a death-bed. ..
SULLIVAN: I think he used it, I'm sure he used it, in terms of the standard
pep talk, you know. Lord, we've all had pep talks in one way or another, and
they don't always adhere strictly to the very literal truth. So I don't
think Rockne was thinking of this as a lie. Indeed, he might not have
thought about it two minutes before he said it.
INTERVIEW WITH CHET
This interview was arranged for the author by Mr. Herb Juliano, curator of
the Sports and Games Research Collection at Notre Dame. Chet Grant had been
instrumental in founding this collection in the mid-sixties. He has been a
fixture around Notre Dame football since before Gipp's playing days.
INTERVIEWER: We know what Rock said to the players in the 1928 Army game.
And we know that the halfback said, "That's one for the Gipper!"
GRANT: That was Chevigny.
INTERVIEWER: Yes, now do you think that Gipp made the request? You knew Gipp
and you knew Rock.
GRANT: I think it's credible, highly credible. Not only that, but I have a
friend, Ed Healy, a Dartmouth man, who donated his services to Rock on the
field. He was there in the dressing room and so testified a couple of times
in my presence when this sequence occurred. He said that's the way it was.
And, anyhow, no matter whether he had or not, I would have to answer I don't
see why not. At the time I rejected it. I never heard Gipp referred to as
Gipper before. I thought it was an affectation of some kind. In retrospect,
considering all that could be involved, I see no reason why it shouldn't be
accepted or to try to explain it. What's the difference?
INTERVIEWER: That's one of the things that I'm working with. So many things
have become facts, are taken to be facts, by people in later generations.
GRANT: Well, it's the essence of it that counts. So, that's not contrary to
INTERVIEWER: Since I came here, I've learned that there was a brother in the
room [with Gipp and Rockne]. I don't have his name, but somebody remembers
GRANT: Well, I don't know about it. I'd have to question it myself.
Sometimes fables become facts in time. Sometimes witnesses have heard the
fable so often that they've translated it. [This is a crucial observation in
the study of the life of Knute Rockne.]
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