Pro Football: Once A Small Town Sport (1984)

By Jim Ridgeway

This film documents the football exploits of the Ironton Tanks and Portsmouth Spartans. The film was produced by Dr. Bob Barnett and Skip Hill and aired on PBS. A special 20th anniversary showing of this documentary will take place on Saturday July 24th at 6 p.m. Ohio University Southern Campus in Ironton, Ohio will host the event in its auditorium.

The film was narrated by Dave Dials and featured interviews with Glenn Presnell, Dr. Lou Chaboudy, Elmer Mayne, Harold Rolph, Ernie Caddel, and several members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame that played against the Tanks and Spartans. Joe Horrigan of the Professional Football Hall of Fame added commentary to the film. The film also featured several minutes of rare footage from a Portsmouth Spartans home contest.

Dr. Bob Barnett of Marshall University will introduce the movie. A noted author and professional football researcher, Dr. Barnett has published several articles on the Tanks and Spartans.

Chris Willis, Head of Research at NFL Films, will introduce Glenn Presnell. Willis spoke at Spartan Municipal Stadium when it received an Ohio Historical marker in 2004.

Rick Mayne of WNXT radio will be the emcee. Rick's grandfather, Elmer Mayne, was a member of the Ironton Tanks.

On hand will be the special guest, Glenn Presnell. On July 28, Presnell will be 99 years of age. An all-American at Nebraska, Presnell came to Southern Ohio in 1928 to play for the Ironton Tanks. In 1930, Presnell helped the Tanks defeat the New York Giants and Chicago Bears on a neutral field in Cincinnati. In 1931, Presnell joined the Portsmouth Spartans and nearly led that squad to an NFL title. Presnell was the NFL's scoring leader in 1933 and was named all-Pro.

After 1933, the Spartans' franchise was sold and subsequently moved to Detroit. Presnell and most of the Portsmouth squad became members of the Detroit Lions. Presnell kicked a NFL-record 54-yard field goal at Green Bay that lasted for nineteen years. That field goal was a team record until 1995. Presnell helped the Lions win a league title in 1935.

Glenn Presnell has been a serious candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame since the 1960s. Despite recommendations by Hall of Fame members, Presnell has yet to hear his name called for pro football's ultimate team.

By act of Ironton City Council, July 24, 2004 has been proclaimed Glenn Presnell Day in Ironton.

The public is invited to attend this free event and pay honor to Mr. Presnell and our professional football heritage. The event is sponsored by Ohio University Southern and the Portsmouth Spartans Historical Society.

Photos commemorating the event... Click Here!

Mr. Ridgeway is a member of the Portsmouth Spartans Historical Society. This article was originally published at, July 2004