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Legends: Houghton’s Gundlach was All-American at Harvard

Herman Gundlach, a Houghton native, is pictured during his playing days at Harvard University. (Courtesy Photo/Harvard University)

HOUGHTON — Herman Gundlach had a long and colorful career, first on the football field, and later in other endeavors.

But the Houghton High product always made his mark in whatever he was doing.

The late Gundlach, better known as “Winks” to his friends, had a prolific athletic career at Houghton.

He was the captain of the football team and also starred in track and field for the Gremlins.

“We were a little above average in football,” Gundlach said in a 1988 interview. “Calumet was the football power around here in the 1930s, they always beat us.”

But Gundlach showed enough promise to gain a football scholarship to Harvard, then a prestigious power in the sport.

The Crimson were ranked just below teams like Army, Alabama, Notre Dame, California, etc.

“It was a good brand of football,” he said. “We could play with just about any of the teams.”

Gundlach, who was 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, saw a lot of time in the line. He played on both sides of the football — a common trait in those days.

Elected captain of the team in 1934, Gundlach gained All-American honors as an offensive lineman.

He also competed in lacrosse at Harvard and excelled in that sport as well.

“I really liked lacrosse, it was a sport where strategy was important,” he said.

His All-American status earned him a roster spot for the College All-Star Game annually played at Soldiers Field in Chicago against the champions of the National Football League. The Bears won the game, 3-0.

Gundlach became a teammate to future President Gerald Ford and a fleet-footed receiver from Alabama named Don Hutson.

He remembered both of them well.

“Gerry Ford was a good lineman at Michigan and he was quite talented. A little stubborn but a good teammate,” he said. “Hutson was a graceful receiver but a little on the aloof side.”

Hutson, of course, later became a Hall of Fame player for the Green Bay Packers.

He was also friends with Dominic Vairo, a former opponent from Calumet. Vairo went to Notre Dame and gained honors as an end for the Fighting Irish.

The Boston Redskins, who were in the NFL, chose Gundlach in the draft. But after playing just two games, Gundlach had contract issues with Redskins owner George Marshall and decided to go elsewhere to find an occupation.

“I ended up getting married and went to work for my father’s construction company,” he said. “Then came World War II and I ended up in the Army.”

Herman, who gained the rank of captain, went home after the war ended and eventually took over the family business.

He and Vairo were lifelong friends and often visited each other.

Gundlach was inducted into the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame in 1973. He died in 2005.

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