The Memphis Tigers professional football team of the late 1920s and early 1930s never played a down in the National Football League, but that didn’t stop them from becoming one of the era’s most successful clubs – including laying a legitimate claim as the sport’s national champions in 1929. Author/historian Wylie McLallen (Tigers by the River: A True and Accurate Tale of the Early Days of Pro Football) joins Tim Hanlon to discuss the story of the Tigers’ exploits in the Depression Era world of “independent” gridiron competition – as well as the team’s sizable role in helping shape the early years of organized American professional football, including:
- Becoming one of the first competitive pro squads to emerge from outside the sport’s traditional Northeast and Midwest strongholds;
- Notching signature 1929 wins over the NFL’s formidable Chicago Bears and previously undefeated champion Green Bay Packers;
- Declining an offer to subsequently join the NFL in 1930, as team owners struggled to keep the team financially alive;
- Leveraging their on-field success into forming a challenger (and decidedly Southern) “American Football League” in 1934; AND
- Succumbing to macroeconomic realities in 1935, but enduring for future generations as the officially designated nickname for the University of Memphis’ athletic teams.