EAST LANSING, Mich. – Former Michigan State All-Americans and College Football Hall of Famers Brad Van Pelt and John Pingel will have their names added to Spartan Stadium’s “Ring of Fame” prior to MSU’s Sept. 18 home game against Notre Dame, according to an announcement made Wednesday, April 28 by Athletics Director Mark Hollis. Van Pelt and Pingel join Spartan legends Don Coleman, George Webster, former MSU President John Hannah and Charles “Bubba” Smith on the “Ring of Fame.”
“During their respective playing careers, both Brad Van Pelt and John Pingel were bigger than life sports figures, and it is only fitting to honor them by adding their names to the ‘Ring of Fame,’” Hollis said. “Van Pelt has been labeled the modern day Jim Thorpe by his teammate Joe DeLamielleure, while Pingel has been described as the Doak Walker of his era. As members of the College Football Hall of Fame, they truly rank among the greatest players in Spartan history.”
“Brad Van Pelt and John Pingel are two players that didn’t simply compete at the collegiate level – they excelled,” MSU head football coach Mark Dantonio said.
“Brad certainly ranks as one of the greatest multi-sport athletes in MSU history. The fact that he became the first defensive back ever to win the Maxwell Award as the nation’s best player speaks volumes. I had the great fortune of getting to know Brad and whenever we had a chance to visit, I could sense his Spartan pride. He was a genuinely nice guy, who certainly impacted a lot of lives during his college and pro careers.
“In the late 1930s, Pingel was one of the nation’s best all-purpose players, who could impact the outcome of a game with his ability as a runner, passer and punter.
“We’re excited about adding the names Van Pelt and Pingel to the ‘Ring of Fame’ and paying tribute to these College Football Hall of Famers.”
Born April 5, 1951, in Owosso, Mich., Van Pelt became a three-year starter for Coach Duffy Daugherty and earned first-team All-America honors as both a junior and senior. As a sophomore in 1970, he had 80 tackles (42 solos, 38 assists) and a career-high six interceptions. As a junior, Van Pelt recorded 92 stops (51-41) and picked off four passes. He returned two interceptions for touchdowns against Oregon State in 1971, with returns covering 40 and 47 yards. As a senior, the 6-foot-5, 221-pound safety produced 84 tackles (42-42) and four interceptions. In 1972, he became the first defensive back ever to receive the Maxwell Award as the nation’s top collegiate player.
Van Pelt finished his collegiate career with 256 tackles and 14 interceptions.
A second-round draft pick by the New York Giants in 1973, he spent 14 years in the National Football League and earned All-Pro honors five times (1976-80). His pro career totals include 20 interceptions, 14 fumble recoveries and 10 sacks.
Van Pelt earned seven varsity letters at Michigan State while participating in football (1970-72), baseball (1971-72) and basketball (1971-72).
He was named to the Lansing State Journal’s MSU Centennial Super Squad in 1996 and inducted into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2000, College Football Hall of Fame in 2001 and Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 2002. Van Pelt died on Feb. 17, 2009, in Harrison, Mich. He was 57.
Born Nov. 6, 1916, in Mount Clemens, Mich., Pingel appeared in 28 consecutive games from 1936-38 for Coach Charlie Bachman and helped the Spartans to a combined record of 20-6-2 (.750), including the school’s first-ever postseason bowl appearance. His likeness is preserved in one of the sandstone panels above the main entrance to Jenison Field House.
As a junior, Pingel accounted for 1,146 total yards and 12 TDs while leading the Spartans to an 8-1 regular-season record and a trip to the 1938 Orange Bowl against Auburn. The 6-foot, 178-pound halfback led the team in rushing in 1937, with 117 carries for 665 yards (5.7 avg.) and five TDs. Pingel completed 30-of-68 passes (.441) for 481 yards and seven scores, and he also led the nation in punting with his 42.6-yard average. He was named second-team All-American by The Associated Press and selected third-team All-American by the International News Service. In a 19-14 come-from-behind victory in Week 2 at Michigan, Pingel hooked up with Ole Nelson for scoring plays of 30 and 42 yards. His 42-yard strike to Nelson with less than 10 minutes to play in the fourth quarter proved to be the game-winning score. In Week 3, he averaged 52 yards per punt in a 3-0 loss at Manhattan. Pingel scored three rushing TDs in a 21-7 win over Marquette in Week 5, including an 8-yard gallop. He threw TD passes of 12 yards to Eddie Pearce and 29 yards to Nelson in a 13-6 Homecoming victory over Carnegie Tech in Week 8. In the regular-season finale at San Francisco, Pingel scored on TD runs of 75 and 36 yards and averaged 50.8 yards per punt as Michigan State recorded its sixth-straight win, 14-0.
As a senior in 1938, he played 451 out of a possible 540 minutes while accounting for 1,127 yards and 12 TDs. Pingel rushed 110 times for 556 yards (5.1 avg.) and five scores and connected on 54-of-101 throws (.535) for 571 yards and seven TDs. He also averaged 41.8 yards on 99 punts, and his 4,138 punting yards still rank as the NCAA single-season record. Pingel earned first-team All-America honors from the AP, INS, Central Press, Newspapers Enterprise Association and Liberty Magazine. In Week 5, Pingel carried 19 times for 115 yards, including TD runs of 23 and 28 yards, and threw a 3-yard TD pass to Nelson as Michigan State knocked off previously unbeaten Syracuse, 19-12. In Week 8, he had three TD passes in a 20-14 victory at Marquette, including a 10-yard scoring toss to Jack Amon with less than two minutes remaining.
Pingel became the seventh pick in the first round of the 1939 NFL Draft (held on Dec. 9, 1938) by the Detroit Lions. In his only season in the NFL, he started eight of nine games and produced 644 total yards and four TDs. Pingel completed 27-of-48 passes (.563) for 343 yards, three TDs and four interceptions. He gained 301 yards on 74 rushes and scored one rushing TD. Pingel ranked third in the NFL in punting with his 42.8-yard average (32 punts for 1,368 yards).
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1968 and the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1973. Pingel died on Aug. 14, 1999, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He was 82.