North Central College - Naperville, IL

150 Moments: Bill Shatzer ’42, Cardinal football great

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Bill Shatzer ’42, 1940 Spectrum yearbook
Bill Shatzer ’42, 1940 Spectrum yearbook

Born in Lewiston, Pa., Bill Shatzer ’42 moved to Mooseheart, Ill., following the death of his father. He enrolled at North Central College in 1938 and proceeded to excel in a variety of sports here at the College.

Shatzer lettered three times each in basketball and baseball and twice in track. However, he may be best remembered for his accomplishments in football.

He lettered three times in football, with the exclusion of his first year when freshman student-athletes were not allowed to compete in varsity sports, and he was named the Most Valuable Player both his junior and senior years.  

After his graduation from North Central in 1942, Shatzer was set to play professional football with the Detroit Lions but was soon called to active duty in August by the U.S. Navy during World War II. He briefly continued playing football with the Iowa Pre-Flight Training Center’s Seahawks on the campus of the University of Iowa where he proved he was one the best football players in the country. He was named to the All Navy Pre-Flight Cadet All-American Team, before being transferred to another training base.

Tragically, on May 16, 1944, Shatzer was reported missing in action as an ensign in a bomber squadron and presumed dead.  

North Central honors Shatzer’s memory in several ways, including several awards, but probably most visibly in a bronze life-size statue of Shatzer (photo, left) that was placed in front of Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium at Championship Plaza in 2001.

Before each home game, the North Central football teams have gathered around his statue. Hand-in-hand, on one knee with heads bowed, the players say a short prayer before tapping the statue to honor him and others who have sacrificed their lives for their country.

In 2004, Shatzer was posthumously inducted to North Central’s Athletic Hall of Fame.