By Ole Miss Media Relations
MCB QUANTICO, Va. – The late Charlie Conerly, who compiled an All-American career at Ole Miss and then an All-Pro career with the New York Giants, will be inducted into the United States Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame at the Clubs of Quantico Friday, Aug. 6.
The Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James F. Amous, will host the 2010 luncheon ceremony to celebrate the achievements of Conerly, Harry Liversedge, Gregory Burgess, and James Phelan. Conerly will be represented by his widow, Perian Conerly.
A former Sergeant, Conerly was the 1948 NFL Rookie of the Year and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Liversedge, a former Marine Brigadier General, held the U.S. National Javelin Record in 1915 and won the Bronze Medal in the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium.
An Active Duty Marine Major, Burgess is a 1992 Olympic Silver Medalist in the 200-meter Individual Medley and 17-time Collegiate Swimming All-American. Phelan, a former Marine First Lieutenant, holds the record for total National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball games coached with 1,354 and was the National Coach of the Year in 1962 and 1981 with the Mountaineers of Mount Saint Mary’s University.
The United States Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame honors former Marines who have excelled both on and off the athletic playing field. Established in 2001, Hall of Fame inductees will be enshrined in the National Museum of the United States Marine Corps at the Heritage Center near Quantico, Va.
Thirty-three former Marines have been selected for the Hall of Fame since it was founded in 2001. Past inductees include baseball legend Ted Williams, Olympic great Robert B. Mathias, International Boxing Hall of Fame member Ken Norton, and golf legend Lee Trevino.
Born Sept. 21, 1921, in Clarksdale, Miss., Conerly was an all-around athlete in high school and received a scholarship to play football at the University of Mississippi in 1941. However, the attack on Pearl Harbor compelled Conerly to leave school to enlist in the Marine Corps.
In 1942, Conerly was sent to the Recruit Depot in San Diego to begin his training as a Heavy Machine Gunner. In December 1943, Conerly left San Diego aboard the U.S.S. George F. Elliott and sailed towards Guadalcanal in preparation for the initial offensive landing of Guam on July 21, 1944 and remained there until February 1945.
Briefly, Conerly boarded the U.S.S. Frederick Funston and sailed toward Iwo Jima. After a week on board, the U.S.S. Frederick Funston headed back towards Guam to combat the remaining Japanese force on the island.
Conerly returned to the states and received an honorable discharge in December 1945, where he quickly resumed his college football career at Ole Miss. His time in the Pacific did not slow down the Clarksdale native as he earned All-SEC honors in 1946 when he completed 65 of 124 passes for 609 yards and averaged 42.8 yards on 56 punts.
During the 1947 season, Conerly set national collegiate records in passing yards, pass completions, and consecutive passes without an interception. Running for nine touchdowns and passing for 18, Conerly led the Rebels to their fist ever SEC title as he earned consensus All-America honors as well as SEC Player of the Year and SEC Back of the Year, while placing fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting. Coached by John Vaught, the 9-2 Rebels capped their season by defeating TCU in the Jan. 1, 1948 Delta Bowl in Memphis, Tenn.
In 1948, Conerly signed with the New York Giants and was an immediate starter. That season, Conerly placed second in the league in all major categories including passing yards, touchdowns, and rating. Despite the Giants 4-8 record, Conerly received the National Football League Rookie of the Year Award.
By 1950, Conerly led the Giants to the playoffs by capturing first place in the NFL American Division and earned his first of two Pro Bowl honors. After the 1953 season, the Giants record worsened and led to a coaching change. Conerly decided to retire from the game and return to Mississippi. The Giants hired Jim Lee Howell as their new head coach, who quickly hired Vince Lombardi as offensive coordinator. Howell paid Conerly a visit at his home and convinced him to return to the Giants for the 1954 season.
After converting Tom Landry from player to defensive coordinator and the emergence of Frank Gifford at halfback, the Giants had all the right pieces in place. Conerly led the 1956 Giants to their first NFL Championship since 1938 with a 47-7 route of the Chicago Bears. Conerly earned his second Pro Bowl honor and was named The Sporting News first-team All-NFL.
The Giants returned to the championship game in 1958, losing to the Baltimore Colts in what was to become “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” The nationally televised game featured 12 future NFL Hall of Famers and marked the first time a championship game would enter into sudden death overtime.
During the 1959 season, the 38-year-old Conerly led the NFL in passing and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. The Giants were back in a rematch at the championship game against the Colts, but once again fell to Johnny Unitas and company.
In his final NFL season in 1961, the 40-year-old Conerly broke several Giants records in passing yards, touchdowns, games played, and attempts. The only player to surpass Conerly was Phil Simms during the 1980’s and 1990’s. New York retired Conerly’s number 42 jersey in 1962 and he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1965, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1966 and the Ole Miss Athletic Hall of Fame in 1987.
In February 1996, Conerly passed away at the age of 74. Shortly after his passing, The Conerly Trophy was created in his name and is presented annually to the top college football player in the state of Mississippi. Some notable Ole Miss recipients include Deuce McAllister and Eli Manning.
Also to be honored at Friday’s induction ceremony will be numerous Marine champion athletes to include the 2009 Marine Corps Male and Female athletes of the year, Capt. Robert Hillery (running/triathlon) and GySgt. Quiana Scott (basketball).
Captain Hillery, Commanding Officer of H&S Company, Weapons and Field Training Battalion, Camp Pendleton, Calif., competed in over 37 running and triathlon events throughout Southern California during 2009. He ranked in the top five in the grueling events he competed in and was named as the 2009 Camp Pendleton Male Athlete of the Year.
GySgt Scott, a personnel chief currently deployed to Afghanistan, was a key member of the Camp Pendleton Varsity Women’s Basketball Team. She participated in a number of tournaments while averaging 12 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocks per game. She was selected to the All-Marine Women’s Basketball team and was named the team captain. Her performance and leadership on and off the court earned her a spot on the Armed Forces Basketball Team that was scheduled to compete at the Conseil International du Sport Militaire World Basketball Championship. However, she had to decline as she was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan. GySgt Scott was selected as the Camp Pendleton Female Athlete of the Year.