1922 Football Team Honored as Origin of University’s Nickname
BRISTOL, Tenn., Oct. 19, 2022 – It’s been a century since a sports writer with the Bristol Herald Courier watched King’s football team compete on the field, applauding the “smashing line plunges and perfectly executed runs” that resulted in a 206-0 score against Lenoir College on Oct. 21, 1922.
The next day, an Associated Press writer picked up the story and passed it on to newspapers across the country, including The New York Times, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, and Detroit Free Press. The headline of the story read “King College’s Victory was ‘Tornado’ of Week’s Games.”
There it was — the birth of a nickname and 100 years of tradition.
The 1922 team roster included King Hall of Fame players like Max Osburn, Elton Sharp, Fred Reuning, and others. King’s 6-2 overall record that season was followed by an 8-0-1 record in 1923, and in the two seasons, King outscored opponents 1,005 to 61.
In celebration of that season and the longtime traditions that have followed, King is reaching out to contemporary Hall of Fame alumni to discuss why being a Tornado is important to them.
“Being a Tornado means being a part of a community where people care about each other,” said David Hicks, King’s athletic director. “There is a passion here for our traditions. There is a passion for our history. Most of all, there’s a passion for impacting the lives of others, and that’s something we are proud of at King.”
The sense of community that originates at King contributes to student-athletes’ ongoing pride in the University.
“It’s an honor to be a part of the Tornado,” said April Marrone-Taylor ’04, a King Hall of Fame volleyball player. “It’s an experience that will make an everlasting impact on your life. You have to engulf it, appreciate it, and enjoy it.”
Likewise, Steve Nida ’74, Ph.D., fondly remembers the days when his father, Al Nida, served as a King Hall of Fame basketball coach from 1967 to 1995.
“I can’t help but have a personalized connection to King,” said Nida. “My father achieved great things with the basketball program. I had a close relationship with King and its community because of my family, and I am eternally grateful for my time at King.”
As part of the 100th anniversary celebration, King is also hosting a fundraising campaign with a goal of 206 donors of $100 or more. Donations can be made to specific teams or to the Tornado Athletic Club general fund, and will go to elevate the student-athlete experience.
“When I think about how we got the name, I think of the similarities between the King Tornado of that day, and the mission and the vision of the college,” Hicks said. “Even 100 years ago, King was impacting people’s lives.”
For more information about King University, visit www.king.edu.
This Bristol Herald Courier story was picked up by the Associated Press (AP) and published nationwide on Oct. 22, 1922. The AP headline called King’s defeat of Lenoir College the “Tornado of the Week’s Games,” leading to the University’s enduring nickname.
A photo in the Bristol Herald Courier features the lettermen of King’s 1923 football team, including King Hall of Fame quarterback Max Osburn, defensive end Fred Reuning, running back Elton Sharp, and others. The squad led King to be the nation’s highest-scoring team over a span of two seasons (1922-1923).