What if I were to tell you that the Byrd Stadium we all know and love was once considered to be named after somebody entirely different? Would you believe me if I said that there was once a man to walk this campus who was a superstar on the gridiron, a phenom on the baseball diamond, a three-event track star, a letterman on the basketball court, and a glorified American hero all rolled into one? This was the life of Bill Guckeyson, Maryland’s greatest all-around athlete of all-time.
Guckeyson, who attended the university from 1933-1937, played three years of varsity football for Maryland. In these three years, he was Maryland’s most outstanding half-back. Not only could he run the ball successfully and score an abundance of touchdowns, but he was also dynamic in catching the ball out of the backfield and throwing superior blocks for his teammates. In addition, he was an exceptional defender in coverage and even kicked and punted for the team. In one exciting game in 1935, he recorded an 85 yard punt from behind his own goal line. Guckeyson was all-state and all-conference all three years he played varsity. There wasn’t a facet of the game he wasn’t good at.
He took part in track for only two full seasons, but in those two seasons he scored 213 points with the discus, shot, and javelin and was conference champion with the spear in 1935 with a throw of 204 feet and 5 inches. When his arm was no longer able to sustain the wear of three track events, Guckeyson turned to baseball instead and played one season at Maryland. Despite not participating in pre-season practices, Guckeyson batted .320 for the season and could cover a lot of ground in the outfield. He also played basketball for two years at the university. While he was not as prolific in basketball as he was in his other sports, his play was described as “gratifying to most any coach”. Guckeyson would later go on to West Point where he would prove that he could retain the title of best all-around athlete at a different institution by participating in track, basketball, baseball, soccer, and even hockey. Guckeyson graduated from West Point in 1942.
Unfortunately tragedy struck on May 21st, 1944 when Guckeyson’s Army bomber was shot down over Germany during World War II. Guckeyson now rests in an unknown grave in Germany. Many of his mates swore they saw him bail out of his plane before it crashed, but how he met his fate was never discovered, a truly heartbreaking end to such a talented life.
Here is the link to the Alumni Magazine that discusses naming the football stadium after Guckeyson: http://archive.org/stream/maryland19univ#page/n365/mode/2up