Who is Jack Trice?
Iowa State plays their home football games at Jack Trice Stadium, a name whose origin meant nothing to me (I assumed, like countless other college stadiums, it was in honor of some athletic department mega-donor). Until last weekend, my only experience with the state of Iowa was through Kevin Costner’s portrayal of Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams – which, turns out, is pretty accurate corn-wise. I also vaguely seem to remember that Star Trek’s Captain Jim Kirk was from Iowa, but he’s also fictional, leaving my legitimate Iowa knowledge still at zero. Regardless, some friends and I jumped in my car last Friday and road tripped the 10 hours to Ames to see OU play Iowa State. The Sooners won big, and we had a blast but what stood out was a story that I had never heard before about this stadium’s namesake.
In 1923, Jack Trice became the first African American athlete to represent Iowa State College (now Iowa State University). Now, I fancy myself an amateur college football historian and was a little embarrassed that I had not heard of this man before. Clearly he must have been an All-American or Heisman trophy winner, holding multiple school records to warrant having a stadium named after him, so it bothered me that such a noteworthy piece of college football trivia had eluded me. But given my complete ignorance of all things Iowa, I decided to do some research.
The reason I (and probably you) have never heard of Jack Trice is because he only played in one game. On October 6, 1923 the Iowa State football team traveled to Minneapolis to play the University of Minnesota. Trice, a tackle, sustained severe injuries but continued to play, insisting his health was manageable. Trice’s injuries were not due to inadequate 1920’s football equipment or the basic wear and tear of a violent sport. Trice’s injuries were because of repeated targeting by Minnesota players intent on harming a black player. Jack Trice died two days later.
Ninety years later, the school still carries the weight of this injustice. Despite being brutally attacked during the game, Trice refused to quit and leave the field. His unjust death far outweighs his actual resume in Ames. That says something about the human heart. Titles, trophies, rewards – these things fade, but death stays with you. It changes you. Death means something.
Perhaps this is what is so compelling about Jesus. He had no title, no platform. He was born into poverty and was raised in a carpenter’s shop. And when he died, he only had 120 people united around his message. But two thousand years later, it is his sacrificial death that has grabbed the hearts and minds of billions of people.
Great teachers come and go, great leaders and thinkers change countries and governments; but there was only one man who was the embodiment of these brilliant, counter-cultural, ground breaking ideas who also laid down his life for his enemies.
May we live and work as people who embrace Jesus’ sacrifice for us so that we may sacrifice on behalf of others.