100 Days, 100 Detroit Lions: #17 Gover “Ox” Emerson

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In this Sunday edition of 100 Days, 100 Detroit Lions, we honor the best offensive guard and linebacker from the great Portsmouth Spartans/Detroit Lions’ teams of the 1930s.

17. Gover “Ox” Emerson

Offensive Guard / Linebacker / Center. 1931-33 Portsmouth; 1934-37 Detroit; 1938 Brooklyn Dodgers

How the 5-foot-11, 203 pound Emerson ever got the nickname “Ox,” is anyone’s guess. His first name, Gover, was given to him in honor of the family pet, a mule named Governor. While Gover was neither a mule nor an ox, there was no mistaking him for a force on the NFL gridiron during the 1930’s. He was a consensus all-pro pick in 1932, 1934, 1935, and 1936. He was dominant at offensive guard, as well as defensive linebacker, during those two-way days. A stalwart for the Portsmouth Spartans beginning in 1931, he followed the team to Detroit and helped the franchise win their first NFL title in 1935.

A native of Texas, Emerson played college ball at the University of Texas in Austin. He was an All-Southwest Conference guard for the Longhorns in 1930, and was selected team captain for his senior year in 1931. It was then that authorities discovered he had played two downs as a freshmen. The result was a loss of his amateur eligibility. Emerson and his football future then migrated to Portsmouth, Ohio, where he joined the NFL Spartans of Coach Potsy Clark.

After his Lion career ended, Ox joined Potsy Clark in Brooklyn in 1938 to begin working as an assistant coach for the NFL Dodgers. However when injuries depleted the team’s line, Gover donned the cleats once again to fill the void. In 1969, the Pro Football Hall of Fame selected Emerson to its All-Pro Squad of the 1930’s.


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