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‘Tack’

Originally published in the Mayo Alumnus, October 1967.

Here’s a football season quiz for alumni.

Just 60 years ago this man captained his high school football, track and basketball teams. When his father frowned at the time sports took from his studies, are man characteristically vowed to work his way through medical school. There were a dozen jobs along the way, but basically it was sports that made it all possible.

After a year of pre-med at Penn State supported by an athletic scholarship, he transferred — without scholarship or funds — to the University of Pennsylvania. he starred (and ate at the training table) with a series of fine teams while working toward the M.D. he received in 1913.

He was a strong ball carrier, our man, but it was linebacking that had most to do with the substantial All-America consideration he had in 1911-12. Probably his greatest game was against Michigan in the latter year. Pennsylvania, down by three touchdowns at the half, came back to win 28-21. Our man, playing 55 of the 60 minutes with a broken nose (“noses break easier after the first time”), scored a touchdown and wrecked Michigan’s running game with tackle after slashing tackle. He still cherishes the game ball teammates game him after that one.

It was another fine football player and surgeon, the late Otis Lamson of Seattle, who interested him in considering Rochester, Minnesota for postgraduate work. Offered a Mayo surgical fellowship for the fall of 1914, our man who wrote with professional terseness that “other commitments make it impossible for me to begin work before November” (the other commitments: coaching Dickinson College’s football team to make money to pay off some bills).

At Rochester, our man came increasingly to concentrate on chest surgery, a speciality which was to bring him international recognition. Football, which had helped to make it all possible, was behind him — but not a nickname that follows him to this day. Because of the joy and skill with which he cut down runners, teammates called him “Tack” — short for “Tackle.”

How far did you have to read before recognizing Dr. Stuart W. Harrington?

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