How Jim Thorpe Became America’s First Multi-Sport Star

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Decades before Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders starred in baseball and football, Jim Thorpe was America’s original multi-sport athlete. A two-time college football All-American and charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Thorpe played six seasons of Major League Baseball and won two Olympic gold medals. The Native American excelled at nearly every sport he tried—from basketball to lacrosse—while breaking down barriers on and off the field.

Born in 1887 in present-day Oklahoma, Thorpe grew up in the Sac and Fox Nation. The kinetic child developed strength and endurance on 30-mile treks with his father to hunt and trap prey. 

“I was always of a restless disposition and never was content unless I was trying my skill in some game against my fellow playmates or testing my endurance and wits against some member of the animal kingdom,” Thorpe recalled.

Following the deaths of his twin brother and mother, Thorpe grew more rambunctious and skipped school, causing his father to send him to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.



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