Introduction of William "Johnny" Grinnell, presented by Dan Dewing, Class of 2019 and Football Team member
One thing my teammate Brett neglected to mention about Fish Ellis is that he was also a great recruiter.
As a teenager, Fish was a mentor to another Medford resident named William “Johnny” Grinnell. And while serving as a teacher and coach at Brighton Academy in Maine before coming to Tufts, Fish first recruited Johnny to attend Brighton Academy and then recruited him again to attend Tufts.
And what a blue-chip recruit Johnny Grinnell turned out to be! Like his mentor, Johnny was a true multi-sport athlete. In fact, he played the same four varsity sports that Fish played at Tufts - baseball, basketball, football and track. Although Johnny was All-New England in basketball for three seasons, he --- like Fish --- garnered most of his accolades in football.
For the football Jumbos, Johnny starred at the end position on both sides of the ball for the 1934 team that became the second undefeated squad in Tufts history. That group, which was led by Tufts’ winningest football coach Lew Manly, allowed only one touchdown all season and outscored its opponents 91-9. Along with teammate Walt Froehlich, Johnny was selected as an All-American that year.
After his college playing days were over, Johnny coached at three Massachusetts high schools --Lexington, Wilmington and Brookline. He served our country as a lieutenant in the Navy during World War II as a lieutenant, and from 1946-1948, Johnny was the head football and basketball coach at Northeastern University. He was also the first president of the Tufts Jumbo Club.
In 1997, thanks to the tireless work of fellow Tufts Athletics Hall of Fame inductee Rocky Carzo, Johnny was inducted in the National College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana. It should be noted that Johnny is the only Jumbo ever to receive this very prestigious honor.
Unfortunately, Johnny passed away a few months before he was to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. However, that great honor -- together his membership in the inaugural class of Tufts Hall of Fame inductees -- create a lasting legacy for a gentleman who was admired just as much for who he was as a person as for what he accomplished on the field of play.
The following quote from Coach Manly says it best: “They say football coaches build character. I would like to say in the case of Johnny Grinnell, it was he who built character into the coach.”