Sept. 13, 2005
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -
Marshall University Director of Athletics Bob Marcum announced today that Pro Football Hall of Famer and Marshall Football legend Frank "Gunner" Gatski will be honored with the retirement of his number (#72) during Marshall's homecoming football game with UAB on October 15 in Huntington.
Gatski, who played center at Marshall from 1940 to 1942, will be the first player in school history to have his number retired.
"I am very honored to have my jersey number retired and being the only one makes it all the more special," Gatski said. "It all started at Marshall and the school has always treated me first-class whenever I have visited. I thoroughly enjoyed my career at Marshall and had so much fun there. I am thrilled and looking forward to coming back and being honored."
Gatski, a Farmington, W.Va. native, came to Marshall in 1940 thanks to an invitation from head coach Cam Henderson and the promise that if he earned it, he would get a scholarship. In 20 seasons as a high school player at Farmington High, to a college career at Marshall and Auburn (Following World War II), to a professional career that lasted 12 seasons with the Cleveland Browns and Detriot Lions, Gatski never missed a single game.
"We are looking forward to honoring Frank at homecoming," Marcum said. "His accomplishments are remarkable and a major part of the history and tradition of Thundering Herd football."
In over two seasons on the varsity squad at Marshall, Gatski, started 17 straight games at center, while also playing some at linebacker. It was during this time he picked up the nickname "Gunner" because of his hard-hitting style of play.
Marshall enjoyed great success during Gatski's time in Huntington. The Thundering Herd went 8-2 in 1940 and outscored its opponents 334-76 thanks in no small part to Gatski and his teammate College Football Hall of Famer Jackie Hunt. The following season, Marshall posted a 7-1 mark that included a win over Wake Forest. The 1942 season saw a different result due to the outbreak of World War II. With many Marshall players already called into military service the Herd managed just a 1-7-1 record.
Gatski answered America's call in late 1942 and became part of the U.S. Army's infantry division where he spent three years in Europe serving his country. When he returned from the front in 1945 he enrolled at Auburn University where he played for part of the 1945 season.
In the spring of 1946 Gatski impressed the Cleveland Browns enough in a try out to earn a contract. During his 11 seasons in Cleveland, the Browns posted a 110-23-5 record, won the AAFC title in each of the league's four years of operation, and then won three National Football League titles (1950, 1954, and 1955). His Browns teams played for the NFL title every year from 1950 to 1956 and Gatski was the anchor of the Brown's innovative "pocket protection" scheme for the quarterback that was the prototype for the modern center.
After failing the reach the title game in 1956, the only time in his career that ever happened, Gatski signed with the Detroit Lions and in 1957 helped the Lions to a 59-14 win over Cleveland in the NFL Championship.
Gatski retired following the 1957 season after starting 132 consecutive games. In his career, his teams won eight championships (four in the AAFC and four in the NFL) and played for the championship in 11 of his 12 professional seasons.
In 1985 Gatski was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is the only former Marshall Player ever to achieve that honor. His star-laden class included NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, Joe Namath, Roger Staubach and O.J. Simpson.
In addition to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Gatski is a member of the West Virginia Sports Writers Hall of Fame, and is a charter member of the Marshall University Athletics Hall of Fame.