Bronko Nagurski (November 3, 1908 - January 7, 1990) was an American football player of Ukrainian Canadian origin.
Nagurski was born in Rainy River, Ontario, Canada, and his family moved to International Falls, Minnesota, on the Canadian-United States border when he was still a boy. His parents were immigrants, ethnic Ukrainians from the Polish Ukraine. Nagurski became a standout at the University of Minnesota, where he played fullback on offense and tackle on defense and was named an All-American.
According to legend, Nagurski was discovered and signed by a University of Minnesota athletic officer (a scout) who had gotten lost and asked for directions to the nearest town. Nagurski (who had been plowing a field without a horse) lifted his plow mud and used it to point in the direction of town. He was signed on the spot for a full ride football scholarship.
Nagurski turned professional to play for the Chicago Bears from 1930 to 1937. At 6 feet 2 inches and 235 pounds, he would have been a formidable presence in any era of the NFL, and in his day he was a dominant force in the league, helping the Bears win several division titles and two NFL championships. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a charter member on September 7, 1963. After leaving football, he built a career as a professional wrestler, becoming a three-time world heavyweight champion.
During World War II, professional football teams were short of players and in 1943 Bronko Nagurski returned to the Bears for one season. He scored a touchdown in the Bears' championship victory against the Washington Redskins, then returned to wrestling until his retirement in 1960. He lived out a quiet life on the shores of Rainy Lake on the Canadian border.
He died in International Falls and is buried there in the Saint Thomas Cemetery. After his passing, the town of International Falls honored him by opening the Bronko Nagurski Museum in Smokey Bear Park. It is the only museum dedicated to a single football player ].
In 1995, Nagurski was again honored when the Football Writers Association of America voted to have his name attached to college football's Defensive Player of the Year trophy (Bronko Nagurski Trophy).
Nagurski became a professional wrestler after retirement to have an income and even won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. He wrestled from 1933 until 1960.
A fictionalized eyewitness account of Nagurski's comeback game is the subject of a dramatic monologue in the film version of Hearts in Atlantis.
Another account is in the William Goldman's novel Magic.