All week, Rock M Nation will be celebrating the induction of its inaugural class to the Rock M Nation Wall of Excellence. Today, we welcome the winner of our Tier IV category, honoring contributions from players from 1973 and earlier.
They knew good nicknames back in the day, didn't they? From The Bronx to Manhattan (Kansas), people knew of Pitchin' Paul. In an era where you ran first, ran second, ran third, and ran fourth, Christman's golden arm was too deadly for even Don Faurot to ignore. Mizzou had experienced sporadic success pre-Christman, but if Mizzou wasn't on the national map before Pitchin' Paul, they certainly were afterward. In three varsity seasons, Christman led Mizzou to 20 wins, a conference title, and their first true bowl bid, a trip to the 1940 Orange Bowl. He led the country in passing in 1940 and finished in the Top 5 for the Heisman Trophy twice.
From Todd Donaho's outstanding Mizzourah!: Memorable Moments in Missouri Tiger Football History, describing Christman's exploits against NYU in NYC:Even Babe Ruth might have been proud of Christman's one-man exhibition at Yankee Stadium. He clearly demonstrated to the 30,000 NYU fans -- and the Eastern writing elite -- that Pitchin' Paul was all he was cracked up to be.
Shirley Povich of The Washington Post was equally effusive: "The Dizzy Dean of the football field, young Christman did as he had promised to do. He came to New York touted as the Midwest's greatest passer, but he demonstrated that he could run that ball when he wasn't throwing it. They called him a 60-minute football player in Missouri and they were exaggerating only slightly. Against the Violet, he played 57 minutes."
If ever a Tiger were fifty years ahead of his time, it was Christman. His was a game meant for the latter half of the century, and his was a game deserving every bit of recognition we can give him. Welcome to The Wall, Pitchin' Paul.
Perhaps it's only fitting that one day after Don Faurot was enshrined as the first name on the Rock M Nation Wall of Excellence, Pitchin' Paul is right behind him.
Continuing in the apparent tradition of multi-sport letter winners being honored with induction into the RMN Wall of Excellence, Christman earned letters in both football and baseball. In addition to giving Ol' Mizzou's football program its first All-American (a feat he accomplished twice, mind you), the "Merry Magician" was thrice honored as an All-Big Six selection. He led the country in passing yardage and passing touchdowns in 1940 en route to leading the Tigers onto the national scene in the 1940 Orange Bowl.
Christman rewrote the offensive record books so effectively that the totality of his contributions has seemingly gotten lost in the numbers and in the annals of history. In addition to his passing and rushing exploits, Christman played safety, resulting in Christman seeing the field for a ridiculous 417 of a possible 540 minutes during his junior season.
After service in the US Armed Forces in World War II, Christman's successes at Missouri helped pave the way for a five-year stint with the NFL's Chicago Cardinals and one-year denouement in Green Bay. Christman led the NFL in yards per completion in 1946 and helped form the original "Million Dollar Backfield," which led the Cardinals to the 1947 NFL Championship.
Although some players' NFL contributions seem to outweigh or overshadow their contribution to Mizzou, Christman will forever be tied to his three years in black and gold. Christman's contribution will forever be associated with "the beginning" of Missouri football's relevancy in the national perspective.