Position, years at Arizona: Quarterback, 1946-47
Honors, accomplishments at UA: Earned third-team All-American honors in 1947. … Led the nation in total offense in 1947. … Was All-Border Conference in football and basketball in 1947.
Why he made our list: Fred W. Enke was UA’s first major-college All-American, earning third-team Associated Press honors in 1947 when his 1,941 total yards — 1,406 passing, 535 running — led the nation. As a quarterback/halfback, his total that season included 364 yards in a late-season game against Kansas.
Enke, who earned all-state honors in three sports at Tucson High, spent three years as a Navy pilot after high school, before arriving at UA two weeks after World War II. He is on a short list of UA’s best all-around athletes ever, described in Abe Chanin’s 1979 book, “They Fought Like Wildcats,” as the school’s last great three-sport star.
He hit .345 as the captain of the baseball team in 1948, when coach J.F. Pop McKale was quoted in a newspaper report as saying Enke was the best pro prospect in the Southwest. Enke starred in basketball for his father, UA legend Fred. A. Enke, who also was a football assistant coach.
“As a kid coming out of high school, you think of going away to school,” Enke told Chanin. “But for me, it was going into military service, and after three years in navy aviation I got over wanting to go away from home.
“Oh, there was some criticism when I was starting guard for my dad on the basketball team, but I knew that playing for my dad would mean that I would have to tough it out or quit.”
Life after college: Enke, who had two years of football eligibility remaining, was the 47th pick of the 1948 draft, negotiating a contract with the Detroit Lions with the help of his friend and basketball teammate Morris Udall. Enke spent seven years in the league, remaining the most-accomplished UA quarterback in the NFL, although that’s a spotty history, to be sure.
Enke started 10 games as a rookie, completing 100 of 221 passes for 1,328 yards, which were typical passing numbers in the 10-team league. He played with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1952 and the Baltimore Colts for the next two seasons. His final NFL numbers: 68 games, 26 starts, 297 of 689 passing for 4,169 yards, with 31 touchdown passes and 53 interceptions. He rushed for 640 career yards.
Enke, who was a prominent cotton farmer after his playing days, lives in Case Grande. He is 88.
In partnership with the Arizona Republic, we are counting down the top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history. Leave your top 10 at AG’s Wildcat Report on Facebook, and check out azcentral.com for the countdown of ASU’s Top 50 football players.
No. 50 — LaMonte Hunley
No. 49 — Hubie Oliver
No. 48 — Rob Gronkowski
No. 47 — Jim Donarski
No. 46 — Ontiwaun Carter
No. 45 — Steve McLaughlin
No. 44 — John Fina
No. 43 — Glenn Parker
No. 42 — Bobby Lee Thompson
No. 41 — Marcus Bell