Pittsburgh Steelers: Best Coaches All-Time

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Pittsburgh Steelers. Mandatory Credit Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Johnny “Blood” McNally: Johnny McNally was an outstanding professional football player. While he suited up for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1934 when they were the “Pirates, he also played with them in 1937 and 1938. McNally became their head coach in 1937 and coached for three seasons with Pittsburgh.

“Blood” as he became infamously known, lived for 82 years until his death from pneumonia in 1985. Originally from New Richmond, Wisconsin, McNally was one of the NFL’s most colorful characters and one if its finest players. Having played his college ball at Saint John’s in Minnesota and then transferring to Notre Dame, Blood would spend 17 years in the pro football with seven different teams.

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As a head coach, Johnny McNally would leave the Steelers in 1939 and coach the Kenosha Cardinals from 1940-1941 and then back to his alma mater Saint John’s for the 1950, 1951, and 1952 seasons. As a player he was a member of NFL championship teams in 1930, 1931, and 1936.

He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1930’s and is not only in the Pro Football Hall of Fame but the Green Bay Packers’ Hall of Fame as well.

A veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II in which Blood McNally served from 1941 to 1945, McNally was a tough competitor who once played 60 minutes of football despite suffering from a collapsed kidney. Johnny Blood McNally had books smart to boot.

When he turned 50 years old, he went back to college at the University of Minnesota and earned a Master’s Degree in Economics. When McNally was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963, he was among the first class ever to be so honored joining the other 17 players and coaches who became the inaugural class in Canton, Ohio.

Johnny Blood McNally finally left us at the age of 82 in 1985 after suffering a stroke. How he got the nickname “Blood” had nothing to do with football. Instead, from his own famous words, he explains referring in this quote to his friend Ralph Hanson: “I saw the name of the movie that was playing, Blood and Sand with Rudolph Valentino. Ralph was behind me on the motorcycle, and I turned my head and shouted, ‘That’s it. I’ll be Blood and you be Sand.”

The rest is history as was his life including a stint as a player and head coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Next: He Served Just One Season