Carlisle football player and Wyola resident Charles Dillon makes history with infamous 'Hunchback' trick play

Tall Tales of Truth
By 
Dana Wilson
Thursday, July 22, 2021
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Carlisle Indian Industrial School football player Charles Dillon, or “Follows Her” was Irish and half Sioux, from Crow Creek, South Dakota who settled in the Wyola area with a Crow wife.

It was 1903 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, home of one of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, one of the era's "Kill the Indian, Save the Man" institutions, The Carlisle school newspaper was called “The Red Man And The Helper." It where famous football coach Pop Warner was charged to teach the "noble savage" the new game of football.

Warner later coached super athlete and Olympian Jim Thorpe. Undersized and understaffed, Warner had to develop plays that would rely more on brains rather than brawn to outwit Carlisle's opponents, who consisted of Ivy League schools like Harvard, Princeton and Yale. Still in its infancy, the game was a lot rougher than it is today. Helmets were leather with no face masks.

The “hunchback” or “hidden ball" play consisted of the ball placed into a hidden pouch sewn into the jerseys of some of the players by Carlisle tailor, Mose Blumenthal, who also owned the local men’s clothing store. One of the players Charles Dillon, or “Follows Her,” as he was known by the Sioux people. Dillon was half Irish and half Sioux, from Crow Creek, South Dakota.

An excerpt from “The Real All Americans” by Sally Jenkins, read “One of their larger players, a Sioux lineman who stood nearly six feet and weighed 190 pounds, Dillon was a perfect choice for the trick play; although he was a guard in the Carlisle line, he had scathing foot speed, able to run the hundred-yard dash in ten seconds."

The game happened on the Harvard gridiron, in an excerpt from the Pro Football Hall of Fame website article entitled “The Trick Play Originates With a POP”:

“The play was designed for a kickoff and with Carlisle leading Harvard at the half 'Pop' was ready to unveil the trick up his sleeve. Set to receive the ball to start the second half, Warner instructs his team to run 'hiddenball.' As the ball descended into the arms of quarterback Jimmie Johnson, the other players huddle around him, facing outward. Hidden from view, Johnson slipped the ball up the back of Dillon’s elastic waste. The huddle split apart, and each player feigned carrying the ball. The Harvard Eleven had no idea which player possessed the ball. By the time they realized what had happened, Dillon was tumbling across the goal line."

In the end, Carlisle fell short by 1 point, but everyone was hyped because of the success of the play. There was always a rivalry between Carlisle and Harvard, Warner was happy that he proved them a lesson that the noble savage wasn’t just a "dumb Indian." While at Carlisle, Dillon learned the blacksmith trade then married Carlisle graduate Rose LaForge of Wyola.

Rose LaForge was the daughter of famed White Crow Indian, Thomas LaForge, who’s autobiography “Memoirs of a White Crow Indian” can still be found in book stores.

Another interesting note, Dillon was mentioned in a book by Lee Rostad called “The House of Bair; Sheep, Cadillacs, And Chippendale” where he shod some horses for them or something or other. The couple settled on Rose's allotment in Wyola and had several children, Dewitt, Anna (Yellowmule), Johnny, Rosebud (White Man Runs Him) — my grandma — and Ruby Mauro. They also had a child named Luzenia who died as a small child.

He worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a Blacksmith and was evaluated as “a good man."

Years later, my dad and grandson of Dillon told me the story of the hunchback play, I even found it in a sports blooper book at the Wyola School Library. Dillon also must have enjoyed some celebrity status, as his wedding announcement appeared in the Feb. 6, 1906 edition of the Washington Post: “Wedded At Carlisle; Charles Dillon Indian Football Player and Bride Coming to Washington".

There was a brief article about the “famous Sioux Indian football player." It discusses the number of attendees, and the bride's court and their respective tribes. In a more recent Billings Gazette article that ran on 01/20/20, entitled “Montana Greats," the section entitled “Wyola; Charles Dillon, football….” recounts his famous touchdown.

In Dillon’s own words and penmanship from “The Record of Graduates and Returned Students” U.S. Indian School, Carlisle, PA., he writes (in very good penmanship), his response to this question; "9. Tell anything else of interest connected with your life":

“Have nothing much of interest to tell of myself only I have plenty to eat plenty to wear and plenty of cash. I have as I have stated held Gov. Blacksmith position and never have a chance to put much improvement on my ranch, but have invested quite a sum for farming implements, horses, cattle, chickens, etc. as I intend to ranching sometime near future."

The odd thing about this is I’ve never heard any family members brag about Dillon. Being strapped for a good story, I did my own research, and by golly, everything that I had heard about him was true, nothing embellished, like there is a paper trail, photos, newspaper articles, websites and school records to verify it all.

So, what kind of athletes were his descendants? Well, I do know that my uncles, the Whiteman brothers were all athletes; Butch, Vernon and the late John played some good basketball.

Once in a tournament, as told by my uncle Vernon, “in Livingston, the refs were giving us heck, all the way through the game, John got knocked down, and the ref called a foul on him. He was all upset and frustrated that he punched the ref and knocked him down. He got kicked out of that game, and I think they named a rule after him… 'the John Whiteman rule'.”

I think that was probably about 1972, a time when discrimination wasn’t a hidden thing, it was expected, and just about 20 years since the storefronts in Sheridan, Wyoming had signs that read “No Dogs or Indians Allowed." 

John Whiteman enjoyed several years of success at Hardin High School as head coach, leading the Dawgs to the state tournament several times and winning at least a couple.

The great-grandsons of Charlie Dillon also enjoyed success in both football and basketball, winning state titles in basketball. I am proud of this heritage, and also proud of the fact that he originated in Crow Creek, South Dakota, he settled in my hometown of Wyola, Montana — Home of The Mighty Few.

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Dana Wilson is a sports writer for the Big Horn County News. His occasional Tall Tales of Truth can also be found at www.bighorncountynews.com. To suggest a topic or local legend to research email Wilson at sports@bighorncountynews.com

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