Football Urban Legends Revealed #5

This is the fifth in a series of examinations of football-related legends and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of all the previous football legends.

Let’s begin!

FOOTBALL LEGEND: Edgar Allan Poe played an early form of football.

STATUS: False (plus a bit of technical truth)

Reader David wrote in to ask:

I know this sounds weird but I heard that Edgar Allen Poe played some early version of football. Is that true?

That’s not true, I’m afraid, David, but it’s interesting to note just how much truth is involved in it! You see, Edgar Allan Poe was a member of the very first All-American football team!

It just wasn’t the world-famous author and poet, but rather, his grand-nephew, NAMED after his grand-uncle!

American football just was not around when Poe was living.

Heck, it was still in its nascent stages by the time his grand-nephew took the field as quarterback for Princeton University’s football team!

There’s a good joke about Poe’s playing days that one time, after he led Princeton to a rousing defeat of Harvard, a Harvard supporter remarks, “Is he related to the great Edgar Allan Poe?” to which a Princeton supporter retorts, “He IS the great Edgar Allan Poe!”

In any event, Poe was named to the first ever All-American Team for Football in 1899.

Poe went on to become the Attorney General for Maryland.

Thanks for the question, David!

FOOTBALL LEGEND: Two Detroit Lions players received a Gold Record while they were still playing pro ball!


If the saying “every actor wants to be an athlete and every athlete wants to be an actor” is true, then I suppose that must be true for singers and athletes, as well.

As pointed out in last week’s Music Legends Revealed, for a time in 1970, it was certainly true for Marvin Gaye, as Gaye really wanted to pursue a career in professional football.

He never got as far as being allowed to try out (so we’ll never know if he ever really had any chance of doing so, although we do know that he got in very good shape), but he was allowed to train with the players during the offseason (it being Detroit and he being one of Motown’s biggest artists).

While there, Gaye befriended a lot of the other guys training during the offseason.

Two players he particularly became close with were young Detroit standouts Mel Farr (running back) and Lem Barney (cornerback)…

Farr and Barney came in together in the 1967 NFL season, and they made headlines by winning the Rookie of the Year Award and the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, respectively (Barney is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame).

As mentioned before, the two became friends with Marvin Gaye. That spring of 1970, while he still had hopes of being able to try out for the Lions, Gaye was also working on the song “What’s Going On.” Gaye initially planned on producing it for the Motown group, The Originals, to sing, but he was cajoled by other Motown producers that HE should do the song.

Part of the conceit for the song is that Gaye’s “character” in the song is at a party. So Gaye had various Lions players and their friends, wives, etc. do the ambient crowd noise for the party. Meanwhile, both Farr and Barney had actual lines in the song – they’re the guys who “greet” Gaye at the beginning of the song.

The song was a gigantic smash hit, and Gaye gave gold records to both Farr and Barney for their role with the song!

Pretty neat, huh?

Sure beats “The Super Bowl Shuffle”!!!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is

One Response to “Football Urban Legends Revealed #5”

  1. Sorry for mi english, Im from Spain, but how i can be updated when you make new post?

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