89 years ago today, the Brown football team accomplished something truly astounding. For the second straight week, the Bears’ 11 starters played every minute.
You read that correctly. Brown’s starters played both sides of the ball and the team made no substitutions for two games in a row - both victories. Though it was common that players would play both sides of the ball, it was rare for the same 11 to go two games without a substitution. The group of players were appropriately nicknamed the “Iron Men.”
Brown employed this strategy not out of desperation, but because it gave the team the best chance to win. Its starters were that talented and well conditioned.
"This group of players has one of the most unquenchable spirits I have ever seen," coach DeOrmand "Tuss" McLaughry told The Spokesman-Review on Nov. 17, 1926. The Bears shut out Yale and Dartmouth in the two weeks they made no substitutions, giving them a 6-0 start to their season.
McLaughry stumbled across the idea of making no substitutions by accident. According to the College Football Historical Society, McLaughry realized he had kept his starters in midway through the contest versus Yale and decided to keep them in because they were playing well.
The “Iron Men” didn’t play a complete game the rest of the year, but they did log heavy minutes in certain contests. The 11 starters played 58 minutes of Brown's Nov. 13, 1926 victory over Harvard.
The Bears finished the season 9-0-1, which remains their only undefeated season in school history.