Best known as one of the acclaimed “Four Horsemen” of Notre Dame football, Elmer Layden would put his stamp on Loras College as the start of his coaching career before serving as commissioner of the National Football League.
Layden arrived at Columbia College, now known as Loras College, in 1925, following in the footsteps of fellow Notre Dame alumnus Edward N. Anderson. His arrival would continue the Loras tradition as the “Little Notre Dame.” Layden would steer Loras to an 8-5-2 record and the 1925 Western Interstate Conference Championship during his two seasons heading up the Loras football team.
He would also serve as basketball coach from 1925-27.
Before his time at Loras, Layden would establish his legend on the gridiron as a fullback at Notre Dame as part of what is considered the best backfield of all time. He would earn All-American honors his senior year and cap his college career with three touchdowns in the 1925 Rose Bowl.
Following his departure from Loras, the Davenport, Iowa native would serve as head coach at Duquesne University for seven seasons before returning to his alma mater for seven more. He would finish his coaching career with a record of 103-34-11.
The National Football League would come calling soon after with an invitation to serve as their first commissioner in February 1941. Layden would navigate the league through World War II. He would establish the tradition of playing the national anthem before each contest, a practice insisted should continue even after the war ended, saying, “The playing of the national anthem should be as much a part of every game as the kickoff. We must not drop it simply because the war is over. We should never forget what it stands for.”
Elmer Layden entered the College Football Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class in 1952. The Loras Athletics Hall of Fame inducted him as a member of its first class in 1983.