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Encyclopedia Dubuque

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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.




HOERNER, Lester J. "Dick"

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Lester J. "Dick" Hoerner

HOERNER, Lester J. "Dick" (Dubuque, IA, July 22, 1922--Fullerton, CA, Dec. 11, 2010). Hoerner's athletic career saw him named All State, All American (1946) and All Pro. Hoerner's illustrious career began as a fullback at DUBUQUE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL. He won nine letters competing in football, basketball and track. He was named to the all-state team in 1939 and 1940. In the state track meet of 1941, he received a first, two seconds, and a third competing in the shot put, javelin, discus and hurdles. (1) He was inducted into the Iowa High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 1980.

Hoerner played with the Hawkeyes in 1942 topping the team by scoring 40 points. (2) He then entered military service where he played for the 71st Division Red Circlers. On Thanksgiving Day 1945, the team won the European championship. Hoerner returned to play football with Iowa in 1946 and was named to the All-American Team. He rejected another year of eligibility to accept an offer to go professional. (3)

Hoerner's quality as a player led to him being drafted number one by the Los Angeles Rams. A 230-pound fullback, Hoerner with the teams's "Bull Elephant Backfield." Playing with Deacon Dan Towler, Tank Younger and either Bob Waterfield or Norm Van Brocklin at quarterback, the four starters weighed between 900 and 1,000 pounds. (4) He played an important role in Los Angeles' capturing of the 1951 NFL Title, in a rematch against the Browns (defeating Cleveland 24 to 17), with Hoerner scoring the first touchdown of the contest. (5) He was selected to play in the inaugural 1951 Pro Bowl. (6) One of his greatest accomplishments was scoring two touchdowns in one pro championship game. At the time, he was one of only four players to make such an accomplishment. (7) He made the All-Pro team three times before moving to Dallas Texans for the 1952 season. He retired after signing a two year contract with Detroit. (8)

At the end of the 1952 season, Hoerner sold advertising for radio station KLIF in Dallas, Texas. He then moved to California working for American Aviation, an aircraft company. He then worked for Standard Coil as the head of the allocation department. In 1954 he began managing a restaurant in Whittier, California. (9)

In Lakeland, California, Hoerner established a youth football program that eventually spread through much of the state. (5) He was a member of the inaugural Senior Athletics Hall of Fame in 1992. He was a cousin of Joseph HOERNER and C. Michael "Mike" REILLY.

In an obituary in the Telegraph Herald, Hoerner was described as a short-yardage specialist who excelled in goal-line situations. The 6-foot-4, 220 pound Hoerner ran for 2,172 yards and 30 touchdowns in his pro career, including a ten-touchdown campaign in 1950. He had 80 career receptions for 1,188 yards and four scores.

On September 5, 2017, an email was received that is copied below:


                     You have an excellent article about Lester " Dick" Hoerner, possibly Dubuque's best 
                     athlete ever. Anyway, he and I were fraternity brothers at University of Iowa in 1947 
                     (not important). What may be important is the tremendous compliment paid to Dick in 
                     1946. In 1946 the war was just over, and everyone was wild for the return of college 
                     football. At season end two teams were undefeated: Army and Notre Dame. During the war 
                     years, Army went through its opponents like a lawnmower through spring grass. Anyway, 
                     it was arranged for the two teams to play. There was no TV then, but the whole nation 
                     was glued to the radio. The expectation had been that Army would continue to dominate, 
                     but the two teams played to a SCORELESS TIE! A little later, Notre Dame was asked to 
                     name its most respected backfield: It named Blanchard, Tucker and Davis -- all Army -- 
                     and DICK HOERNER, of Iowa! To those who like me were then into college ball and who were 
                     intensely proud of Dubuque and Iowa, no greater compliment could have been paid in 1946. 
                     Army had been near to worship during the war, and for Dick Hoerner to be named best 
                     backfield by the team which had held Army to a tie was like being elevated to a rank 
                     never before utilized. This may be lost on the fans of today, but "back then" it said of 
                     what he was -- one of the very best football players ever. If you can find somebody my 
                     age I think they will agree that this was one of the truest and finest honors paid to Dick. 
                     For all his strength and speed -- for his size he was incredibly fast! --he was a perfect 
                     gentleman! It was my privilege to know him. If football is played in Heaven, Dick is on 
                     the first team.
                                                 Donald R. Kunz

---

Source:

1. Kalvelage, Clark. "Hoerner Now in Business," Telegraph Herald, April 1, 1955, p. 25

2. "Hoerner Was All-Pro Two Years With Rams," The Telegraph-Herald, August 31, 1958, p. 25

3. Tigges, John. They Came From Dubuque, Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1983, p. 7

4. "Ex-Senior Football Star Headed for the IHSAA Hall," Telegraph Herald, November 9, 1980, p. 32

5. "Dick Hoerner," Find a Grave, Online: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=62932797

6. "Dick Hoerner." Find a Grave.

7. "Hoerner Was All-Pro..."

8. Ibid.

9. Kalvelage.

Telegraph Herald, Dec. 14, 2010, p. 1B