Wolves, Rabbits and Bear
Written by Gordon Pynes
Coach Ed Rabb came to Atlanta after World War I bringing a football with him. Shortly thereafter a teenage boy saw his first football game watching LSU and Arkansas play.
The contest was so brutal and bloody that he left at halftime. Coach Rabb asked that boy to play football on an Atlanta team to be known as the Wolves.
Reluctantly, Louis Franklin “Bear” Allday decided to give the gridiron game a try. So began the saga of Atlanta’s first great all-around athlete in the early 1920’s.
For no apparent reason, Allday had been dubbed “Bear” as a child by an uncle. That name stuck for a lifetime.
He immediately became a football star as Coach Rabb used him at quarterback with a great ability to run. As a college player he was listed at 5 foot, 7 inches and 170 pounds so he was probably a bit smaller in his high school years.
Speedy and shifty in the open field Bear began a touchdown parade for Atlanta High School against teams such as Texas High and Arkansas High. The Texas High game in 1922 boasted the “largest crowd in this part of the country”.
Other romps were over Hope and Nashville, Arkansas. The Atlanta Wolves fought Tyler to a scoreless tie and then rolled over Mount Vernon by an incredible 117-0 score.
In 1923 the Atlanta team honored Coach Rabb by renaming themselves the Rabbits. Bear Allday was elected Captain of that first Rabbits’ team in 1923.
He continued to excel with long runs, throwing touchdown passes, intercepting passes and as the team punter.
Earning a starting spot at Wesley College in Greenville, Bear began a stellar college career. He lettered in track, football, baseball and basketball at Wesley in 1925 and was recruited to play for the Centenary College Gents in Shreveport in 1926.
After a super season with the freshmen team Mr. Allday established himself as one of America’s best running backs. Centenary became a national power in 1927 racking up wins over four foes from the Southwest Conference: SMU, Baylor, Rice and TCU.
The Gents finished the season undefeated under Coach Homer Norton who would later lead the Texas Aggies to a National Championship.
Bear gave the Gents many thrilling moments in 1927-28.
For example, against the Rice Owls he rushed for over a 100 yards and set a record with a 101-yard runback of an intercepted pass.
Versus Louisiana Tech he scored three touchdowns in the first ten minutes of the game reeling off runs of 22, 55 and 65 yards.
A sportswriter described the Atlanta boy as “one of the best ball toters in Dixie”. During the 1928 season Centenary beat the Texas Aggies 6-0 at Kyle Field in College Station with Allday playing a key role in the win. He also continued his punting chores and was a team Captain.
Bear loved the game of football and went on to play professionally for the Memphis Tigers in 1930.
Later in life he would say that baseball was his most cherished sport. As a second baseman he led Centenary with a .421 batting average. Bear entered the pro baseball ranks with a St. Louis Browns’ farm team in Wichita Falls.
His professional baseball career spanned four years ending with a stint in the Texas League with the Galveston Bucs. In one game he homered over a port barrier that had never been topped before.
A football shoulder injury and broken arm after being hit by a pitch hampered his baseball play. However, the death of his father in 1932 brought an end to an outstanding athletic career as he came home to Atlanta to run the family business.
He would assist Atlanta baseball great Hub Northen to provide the lights for a baseball field here. During World War II as the Rabbits’ coaches went to war he took over as football coach and led his old team to a winning season.
An outstanding business and civic leader he passed away in 1984.
Louis Franklin “Bear” Allday was the Atlanta Rabbits first football great. His athletic feats are far too numerous to cover in this article.
Needless to say Bear deserves to be a charter member of the Atlanta Athletics Hall of Fame.