College Football’s Golden Era & Willard “Billy” Anderson

College football is what brought the Anderson Group to New York 100 years ago. For many years, baseball was considered America’s pastime, but after World War I, college football became “America’s greatest sporting spectacle.” During this time, Willard “Billy”, “Andy”, “Swede” Anderson was the star half-back for the Syracuse Warriors. 

Before college, Willard was a star full-back for the Muskegon, Michigan Muskies. Muskegon High School is the winningest high school program in Michigan to this day, ranking 7th in the nation. During his Junior year, Willard was captain of Captain of the Michigan All-State Team that won the Western State Championship. Following his Junior year, he enlisted in the Navy to serve his country in WWI. While overseas, he played in a football game between Destroyer Flotilla United States and Battle Squadron of the United States at the Royal Cricket Grounds. The game ended in a 0-0 tie and it was reported that “Anderson was a star.”

Upon returning home, Billy was fighting for a starting position on the 1920 Syracuse Warriors varsity football team. After a strong year on the Freshman team, he would be listed as the starter at left half-back days before the opening game against Hobart. The team had high expectations going into the season with the Syracuse Herald saying: “Together with many other leading universities the Syracuse football machine, already touted as destined to become one of the greatest football elevens in the eastern circles, will this afternoon open its 1920 gridiron season against the Hobart College Warriors”. The game would end in a rout, as Willard would score a touchdown to make it 21-0 early in the game. Syracuse would go on to win 55-7 despite most of the starters being pulled at halftime as they cruised to victory. During his time at Syracuse, each of Billy’s teams had winning records.

At the Anderson Group, we are proud of what Billy accomplished  on and off the field. Much has changed in the 100 years since he took the field for Syracuse, but our family’s love of football and sports remains as strong as ever. Billy’s son, Bill, would even go on to play a part in the founding of the Albany Metro Mallers in the 1970’s. Though we’ll never get to see him play, we can’t help to imagine what it would have been like to attend a game during college football’s golden era.

“In 1922, Walter Camp, The Father of American football wrote: “No one knows where the enthusiasm of the public for football will stop but it is easy to see why it started”. Big games in the 20’s began to draw 75,000+ enthusiastic fans who paid $3.00 for their seats to cheer on their favorite teams.”

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