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DeCorrevont, Bill, 1918-1995

 Person

Dates

  • Existence: 1918-1995

William John “Bill” DeCorrevont was born in Chicago, Illinois on November 26, 1918, to Howard and Harriet (nee Erickson) DeCorrevont. After Harold’s death in 1935, the family moved to an apartment in a building on West Van Buren Street in Chicago, which was also home to a young Johnny Lattner, who would become a Heisman Trophy-winning star halfback for Notre Dame.

Bill DeCorrevont began both his football and baseball career at the now-defunct Austin High School on Chicago’s West Side. By the 1936 football season, DeCorrevont was one of Austin’s best players and a Chicago-area football star. That year, DeCorrevont helped Austin to defeat rival Tilden 31-13 for the Chicago Public High School League championship, qualifying them for Chicago Mayor Edward J. Kelly’s annual Christmas charity match. The game, which pitted Chicago’s Catholic School League champion, Fenwick High School, against the Public School League Champion, Austin High School, saw DeCorrevont score a touchdown and ended in a tie (19-19).

DeCorrevont continued to distinguish himself at Austin and make a name for himself in Chicago sports. In 1937, Austin High School beat McKinley High School 93-0, a new record, after DeCorrevont scored 9 touchdowns in 10 carries and kicked 3 extra points for a personal total of 57 points. His performance in the game gained him a spot in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! DeCorrevont’s most memorable high school game, however, was yet to come. On November 27, 1937, DeCorrevont and Austin High School (Public League) faced Leo Catholic High School (Catholic League) for Mayor Kelly’s annual charity game in Soldier Field. At that time, Soldier Field had only 76,000 seats, but managed to hold the record-breaking crowd, estimated at nearly 120,000, that turned out to watch DeCorrevont face off against Leo’s star, Johnny Galvin. In the game, DeCorrevont ran for three touchdowns, one for 47 yards, and passed for a fourth, leading Austin to a resounding victory, 26-0. The game garnered so much publicity for DeCorrevont that his broken collarbone (injured that December) gained mention in both the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times.

Accordingly, DeCorrevont became one of (if not the) most sought after high school recruits for colleges and professional football teams across the nation. Overall, DeCorrevont received scholarship offers from over 75 colleges, ranging from Ivy League schools to local community colleges. Warner Brothers Inc. flew DeCorrevont to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California in an attempt to persuade him to attend the University of Southern California. Various universities and teams tried to curry DeCorrevont’s favor with free trips to their campuses. In addition to the football scholarships and playing offers, DeCorrevont was also courted as a noted baseball played. The Brooklyn Dodgers (now the Los Angeles Dodgers), for example, extended an offer for a full contract if DeCorrevont decided to forego football for baseball. If he had accepted the offer, DeCorrevont might have played alongside Jackie Robinson in the 1940s.

A native Chicagoan, DeCorrevont did not want to stray too far from home, his widowed mother, or his high school sweetheart, for college. He chose Northwestern University for both its proximity to Chicago and its strong academic reputation, a choice which was possibly also aided by his familial connections to Wildcat football. One older cousin, George Wilson, had played as an end in the mid-1930s, and another, Jack Riley, had been an acclaimed football captain and All-American tackle at Northwestern in the 1930s as well. Enrolling at Northwestern alongside him were four former teammates from Austin: Alf Bauman, Sonny Skor, Chuck Feingarten, and Donald Johnson. DeCorrevont matriculated to Northwestern in 1938 and started playing on Northwestern’s football and baseball teams his freshmen year. He joined the Sigma Chi fraternity, as did his brother Howard “Bud” DeCorrevont (1917-1997) who attended Northwestern at the same time.

Although DeCorrevont began his Northwestern career in 1938 and was scheduled to graduate in 1942, he did not officially end his time at Northwestern or receive his degree (BS in Education) until 1945 due to his service in World War II. On March 16, 1942, DeCorrevont enlisted in the United States Navy and served as a Chief Petty Officer (Class A) through the duration of the war (September 1945). During his service, DeCorrevont was stationed for a time at the Great Lakes Naval Base just north of Northwestern, a base in Virginia, and a base in Bainbridge, Maryland. At each location, DeCorrevont played football, baseball, or both with local clubs and the official Navy team.

While still in the Navy, DeCorrevont was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the 14th round of the 1942 National Football League (NFL) draft, which was held in Chicago that year. However, did not begin to play professionally until his service ended in 1945, the same year he received his diploma from Northwestern. After a year playing as a running back for the Redskins in 1945, DeCorrevont was traded to the Detroit Lions in 1946, again to the Chicago Cardinals in 1947, and again to the Chicago Bears for his last two years of professional football (1948-1949). Throughout his professional career, DeCorrevont rushed for 233 yards, had 10 interceptions, and scored three touchdowns.

While serving in the Navy, he married his high school sweetheart Dorothy Lagorio (1919-1964), a fellow Austin High School classmate, in June of 1945.Together they had three sons, James, William Jr. and Robert. Following his professional football career, DeCorrevont opened a rug and furniture cleaning business in Chicago with his brother Howard. DeCorrevont later retired to Largo, Florida, where he died on September 6, 1995 at the age of 76.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

William "Bill" DeCorrevont (1918-1995) Papers

 Collection
Identifier: 31/6/127
Abstract William "Bill" DeCorrevont played football at Austin High and Northwestern University before entering professional football in 1945. The papers consist of biographical information, documents, clippings, and artifacts relating to his football career.