1923: Owned by Ole Haugsrud and sponsored by a local hardware store, the Duluth Kelleys were the NFL’s northern most franchise. This created a disadvantage for the team before it ever played a game, as harsh winters limited their schedule and forced them to play most games on the road. The Kellys would earn a win in their first game at Duluth Athletic Park, beating the Akron Pros on September 30th. A week later in their first game against their rivals from the Twin Cities, the Kelleys blanked the Minneapolis Marines 10-0 for their first road win. The Kelleys coached by Joey Sternaman would eventually win their first four games, including a second win against the Marines in Duluth. However, once November arrived the Kellys would face a tough road, losing their final three games all away from Duluth as they posted a record of 4-3.
1924: Coached by Dewey Scanlon the Duluth Kelleys would have a strong second season, once again starting the season with a win at home, beating the Green Bay Packers 6-3. The Kelleys would once again win their first four NFL games, playing several exhibitions along the way to help keep the team in financially viable, especially with the inability to play home games late in the season. Once again the Duluth Kellys would win a pair of games against the Minneapolis Marines, before suffering their first loss on November 9th on the road against the Green Bay Packers 13-0. The Kelleys final game of the season would be a 9-0 road win over the Rock Island Independents. The Duluth Kelleys would finish the season in fourth place in the NFL with a league record of 5-1. They would post an overall record of 8-1-4, earning three wins and three ties in a variety of exhibition against local semipro teams. Despite their success, the Kelleys were nearly relocated to Kenosha, as the Maroons failure led the city to try and restock the team, but Ole Haussgsud made sure the team would remain in Duluth.
1925: In their third season the Duluth Kelleys would only be able to schedule three league games, as they lost their sponsorship with Kelley-Duluth Hardware. All three games against NFL teams would result in loses as the team was on the verge of folding. Fortunately they managed to stay afloat by continuing to play exhibition games, winning four and tying one against semipro teams in Minnesota and Michigan.
1926: With professional football in Duluth on the verge of failing, Ole Haugsrud was able to keep the team afloat by signing one of the biggest stars in College Football, Ernie Nevers of Stanford who was childhood friend of Haugsrud. Nevers was one of the most sought after players as the Chicago Bears and Red Grange’s AFL both looked to sign the two sport star, who made his pitching debut with the St. Louis Browns giving up a home run to Babe Ruth. The signing of Ernie Nevers paved the way to a new nickname as the Duluth Kellys became Ernie Nevers’ Duluth Eskimos. Playing all but one game on the road, the Eskimos by blanking the Kansas City Cowboys 7-0. The Eskimos played well early in the season, posting a record of 4-1-1 in their first six games. However, November would bring on the hard times as they went winless in their next four games. The Eskimos would bounce back to win games against the Canton Bulldogs and Hartford Blues. The Eskimos would go on to finish the season with a record of 6-5-3 good enough for eighth place in the crowded 22 team NFL.
1927: The Duluth Eskimos coached by Ernie Nevers would become a traveling team, playing all nine games on the road. The road would be a tough one for the Eskimos as they started the year with a 20-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers. The Eskimos would get their only win of the season in Week 2, beating the Pottsville Maroons 27-0. The Duluth Eskimos would not get another win, losing their final seven games including a 27-14 loss to the Chicago Bears on December 11th. The game would be the final ever played by the Duluth Eskimos who sold their franchise back to the NFL following the season. The Eskimos franchise would end up being purchased by a New Jersey promoter and placed in Orange in 1930, but there would be no official connection between the Duluth Eskimos and Orange Tornadoes. Eskimos Owner Ole Haugsrud a chance to but the Minneapolis Red Jackets in 1929, but he passed it up. Haugsrud would not pass another opportunity in 1961, when the NFL returned to the Land of 10,000 Lakes with an expansion team called the Minnesota Vikings. In 2008, Duluth’s pro-football foibles would be chronicled in the movie Leatherheads, with a team that was very loosely based on the Eskimos.
©MMXV Tank Productions. Stats researched by Frank Fleming, all information, and team names are property of the National Football League. This site is not affiliated with the Duluth Eskimos or the NFL. This site is maintained for research purposes only. All logos used on this page were from Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page.
Page created on February 17, 2015. Last updated on February 17, 2015 at 9:55 pm ET.