This is a busy weekend for KU sports fans. Big-12 basketball ends the same weekend conference baseball play begins. The basketball team is positioning itself for a top seed in the NCAA tournament while the baseball team attempts to make some early season noise in the most difficult of all environments. Given this immediate action, it might be easy to overlook the quiet passing of a KU alumni who well might have been the greatest single athlete in Jayhawk history. Otto Schnellbacher passed away in his Topeka home Monday at age 84.
Schnellbacher played football and basketball at Kansas in the years immediately following World War II. In 1947 he was named to the football All-American team as a wide receiver. Otto was also an all-conference pick for all four of his years in basketball. He was simultaneously captain of both the football and basketball teams. His amazing ability to play both sports on such an elevated level earned him the nickname "The Double Threat from Sublette," referring to the rural Kansas town where he had grown up.
Following his years in Lawrence Otto went on to play both basketball and football on the professional level. His years playing football in New York (first as a member of the New York Yankees football team, and later as a member of the Giants) established him as one of the premiere players in the early days of professional football. Otto was named to the NFL all-pro team two of the four years he played at the pro level. After 1951 he retired to take a job with an insurance company in Topeka. Times were different back then.
Otto is a member of the University of Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
A more complete obituary of Schnellbacher can be found in the New York Times this week.