Pass It On®

Thorpe 14x48

They just keep coming. But that's what keeps me going.” Jim Thorpe

About This Billboard

When it comes to all-around excellence in athletic endeavors, Jim Thorpe stands tall. In 1999 the Associated Press placed him third on its list of top athletes of the century, behind only Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan.

Thorpe excelled not in one sport, but in many. He made a name for himself in track and field, professional basketball and football, as well as Major League Baseball, persevering despite racism and personal difficulty.

Though sports came easy for Thorpe, life did not. James Francis Thorpe was born a twin, but lost his brother to pneumonia when he was 9 years old. His mother died of childbirth complications just two years later. His father passed away after a hunting accident when Thorpe was 16 and attending the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

Thorpe was raised in the Sac and Fox nation in Oklahoma. Despite the hardships of his youth, he lived up to his native name, Wa-Tho-Huk, translated as "Bright Path."

His brilliant athletic career began at the Carlisle School. Though football was his favorite sport—earning him All-American honors in 1911 and 1912—he did not stop there. He competed in baseball, lacrosse, track and field, and even ballroom dancing, winning the 1912 intercollegiate ballroom dancing championship.

Indeed, 1912 was a big year for Thorpe. He became famous overnight with his outstanding performance at the Stockholm Olympics, where he won the gold medal for both the decathlon and pentathlon. Reportedly, as King Gustav of Sweden awarded Thorpe his medals, he said “You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.”

Alas, in 1913, Thorpe’s medals were stripped from him when the committee discovered he had played minor league baseball prior to competing in the Olympics, therefore violating the amateur regulations. After vigorous opposition to this ruling, in 1983 Thorpe’s medals, and his name, were reinstated in the record books.

Thorpe went on to play Major League Baseball, professional football, and basketball, where he led an all-American Indian team. He played for various MLB teams and finished his career with a .252 batting average, 91 runs scored and 82 runs batted in. Likewise Thorpe played for six different NFL teams. He even coached one of his teams, the Canton Bulldogs, while still a player. Thorpe’s talent did not go unnoticed—he was selected to the first All-NFL team in 1923.

The sheer excellence with which Thorpe performed every sport he ever competed in is an inspiration to many. Undoubtedly, Jim Thorpe is one of the greatest athletes this world has ever seen.

Excellence. Pass It On!

This billboard about Excellence features Jim Thorpe (1888-1953); athlete, Olympic Gold Medalist.

See Other Inspiring Billboards

  • Foresight helen keller
  • Helping others oral lee brown
  • Volunteering shifra mincer
  • Optimism thomas edison
  • Love carol donald
  • Rising above bethany hamilton
  • Commitment winston churchill
  • Charity albert lexie
  • Unity girl with flag
  • Shakespeare small new
  • Courage firefighter
  • Preparation chesley sullenberger
  • Stewardship jane goodall
  • Overcoming adam bender
  • Inspiration nelson mandela

View Full Billboard Collection

Pass It On®

Print

How did he finish 3rd? He should be #1 :(
Mike F, Calimesa, Ca

sweet
someone, somewhere

On the trip to Sweden for the olympic games a sports writer asked the coach where the team was. The coach pointed to Jim Thorpe who was lounging in a deck chair and said "There he is". I would reccomend the movie, "Jim Thorpe All American starring Burt Lancaster. A true all American hero.
john h., palestine tx.

I read somewhere that when King Gustav proclaimed Jim thorpe the greatest athelete in the word he responded,"Thanks King".
john h, palestine tx.

I think we need more people like Jim Thorpe. If we were to have excellence everyday, everybody would turn this world into a world full of success.Jim Thorpe didnt just show excellence in just one sport, but multiple and that's really good!
Christina D, Decatur Central

love it!
morgan p., decatur

Cool. Jim Thorpe!
Jasmin, Nebraska

cool
jake, mi

AWESOME!!!!!
jim, wisconsin

I love this story it reminds me of my DAD,[:
Carlyyy, Michigan

I read all the comments, they brought tears to my eyes. This billboard is special to me because these days, a "good" indian is often rated by how much casino $$ recieved. It shows as a great reminder of the things our native people have overcome and truely thrived. What a great story about a great man. I drive by the sign daily on the way to work. So many times I tried to remember to look this up as I hadn't heard of him or his story until today, I feel priviledged to now have learned this inspirational life story. He was also very handsome<>[];)
Debie R, California

Jim Thorpe is my grandfather, and I was involved in giving permission to use his image on the billboard. It was an honor for our entire family to see him posted so prominent\ly in front of the many thousands of Americans who revere his name and accomplishments. ESPN's naming him the 6th greatest athlete of the century was a sorry indication of their ability to accurately assess the sports world. The fans on Wide World of Sports named him No. 1. Leave it to the folks on the street. They know better than anyone else, especially those sports mavens on television who seek only sensationalism. We thank everyone in this column for their warm and genuine comments. Needless to say, his family agrees with all of you!
Mike K., Minocqua, WI

My great grandfather was a Sac and Fox Indian and went to Carlisle Indian school. I was thrilled to see Jim Thorpe's picture and the honor due him. Also, I like the title "World's Greatest Athlete." My Indian name is "Eagle Helps Him."
Jon P., Penna.

My name is Claude Iron Thunder! I am a member of the Ponca Tribe Of Nebraska. I live in Lincoln, NE. I commute to Omaha for work and see this billboard everyday! It makes me proud to be Native American - "PONCA PRIDE"!
claude I., NE

Great to see this Thorpe poster in a bus stop! What an inspiration he was and is and kudos to Values.com for honoring him.
Katey L, Washington, D.C.

I loved seeing this billboard, it reminds me of being in Glacier National Park, Montana, hearing a song about Jim Thorpe from Jack Gladstone. I never heard of Jim Thorpe till then, and never realized his true success. If you like Jim Thorpe look up his song, its on the Buffalo Cafe CD.
Lisa Marie O., Lena, WI

I love this billboard. Thorpe was the greatest athlete of all time. Period. He would beat entire track teams single handedly. In the 1912 Olympics, he competed in 17 events--a record that will never be broken. He was the most dominant NFL player of his era, played pro baseball and basketball and won 2 Olympic gold medals--including the decathlon. Who can top that?!!!
C. W., Pasadena, CA

"All American. Native American" is right! I absolutely love walking by this billboard in downtown DC. Jim Thorpe is a real hero that can inspire American youth of all ethnicities.
Darcy N., Washington, DC

As as Native American I am proud to see this billboard everyday on my way to work. Very inpsiring!
Kelly G., San Jose, California

I grew up hearing his name and his greatness and recently read a book about his life and am now even in more awe of how much of a inspiration he is to this country, Indian country!!
Melissa B., Washington, DC.