Class of 2017
“The Heart of a Missionary”
Naseby Rhinehart, thought he should have been a missionary. Knowing the work of a missionary he would have fit the role. "Money is the last thing they think about. They'll do anything for mankind and their reward is just to help people.” Naseby approached his athletic training job with much the same attitude. "I just love to work with athletes and young people. To tell the truth I find it a great challenge.” He called it “Something realistic, the appreciation a person gives to me is something money can't touch."
Naseby was born on May 6, 1911, to Wesley and Crawford Rhinehart on a plantation in Cordele, Georgia. His family moved to Milwaukee, WI when he was a young boy. Naseby was a humble, quiet man who grew up in a humble but not-so-quiet Milwaukee ghetto.
Naseby, the fifth of nine children, and was the only one to receive a college education. He grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood that he described as a cross section of noises. “People were always getting hurt, beat-up, cut or shot." He remembered, “Sirens were constantly going and that the commotion kind of lulled you to sleep.”
During high school, Naseby was an outstanding athlete and highly recruited by college’s across the country. His Lincoln High School team won city championships in football during 1928 and 1929. In 1928 he was named to the All-City team as an end, the first black athlete ever awarded the honor. In 1930 he was the Wisconsin High School Discus Champion. Backyard basketball was popular with Naseby and his friends during high school. Although his high school didn't have a basketball program, Naseby admits that it was his favorite sport.
Naseby’s first choice for college was Northwestern, but the school got into athletic recruiting trouble and he decided against it. He had scholarship offers to play football in the Big Ten but he was interested in playing basketball too. It was against Big Ten rules to allow African Americans to compete in basketball, so Naseby came to Missoula, a school he learned about as a kid.
"Mr. J.W. Dorsey took to me as a father," Naseby said. He was introduced to Dorsey as a junior in high school and remembered Dorsey telling him, “One of these days we're going to send you to The University of Montana”. James Dorsey was the son of a Buffalo Soldier from Ft. Missoula, a graduate of Loyola High School, and a former UM football player (1919-22). He was first Black graduate of The University of Montana. Dorsey was also a UM Law School graduate, who practiced law in Milwaukee.
When he came to Missoula in 1931, the lack of noise was deafening for Naseby. He said that the silence was the hardest part to adapt to. When Naseby got off the train football coach Burney Oakes met him and said he was smaller than he thought he would be.
Naseby gained such a reputation as a defensive end and downfield blocker that he became a marked man during a tight Grizzly-Gonzaga battle in Spokane. Try as they might, the Bulldog blockers couldn't block him so they turned to punching. Naseby could only stand so much of that, and finally hit back. Gonzaga had found a way to stop him. He was thrown out of the game.
Robert Mudd and his wife, a local African American couple who loved sports, provided Naseby a place to stay when he came to UM. It was against the University Dormitory Policy to allow African Americans to stay in the dorms. There were also "very, very few places we could go in town," Naseby said matter-of-factly. Local restaurant owners constructed racial barricades by putting up "No Coloreds Served" signs. The only restaurant that allowed African Americans inside was the Northern Pacific railroad station depot. Despite the racial creed popular in Missoula at the time, Naseby said that the university's students and faculty "accepted me with open arms”.
Why the difference between the campus and the community? Naseby felt that his role as an athlete had a lot to do with it, "Athletics has always been one of the greatest public relations tools”. He admitted that he probably would not have been as well accepted if he wasn’t an athlete.
On April 27, 1934, Evelyn Coleman and Naseby married and honeymooned in Kalispell and Glacier National Park. 1934 was also his final year as a Silvertip (FB player). He received just recognition for his play when he was awarded All-Pacific Coast Honorable Mention.
He achieved nine varsity letters, a feat accomplished by only 15 Grizzly athletes. In 1935 he was voted the winner of the Grizzly Cup, an honor given to one Grizzly athlete a year that displays “Outstanding loyalty, service and scholarship as well as athletic ability." The Grizzly Cup, one of the highest athletic awards UM can bestow, was won by Naseby's son Pete in 1958 also.
In his last basketball game of 1935, Naseby was introduced and people stood up and applauded for 15 minutes in the old Men's Gym. Naseby Rhinehart was a "household name”.
In 1935, he earned his B.A. in Physical Education and was planning on going back to Milwaukee to become a police officer. In what he remembered as “purely accidental”, he became The University of Montana’s first and only athletic trainer. Doug Fessenden, UM’s football coach at the time, decided he would follow suit with many of the nation's top colleges and hire an athletic trainer. Naseby said he thought he would keep the job until he found something better, but he got so involved with it that he couldn't quit.
Naseby's popularity stemmed from his likable, calm personality. Friends, former athletes and fans douse Naseby with buckets of praise. Men would go to him for advice, and he unselfishly volunteered to help people in need. He tried to put a lot of benevolent comments in perspective. "I don't get angry too often because of the type of profession I'm in," Naseby said. He thought that if he were a coach it might be different. “Coaches do theirs and my share of getting mad."
Certain difficulties came with the new job. A racial incident at Texas Tech prompted the head football coach at the time to write a letter to them informing them that the Grizzlies had an African American athletic trainer. Texas Tech wrote back and said there was "no problem." When they arrived there was a problem. Cafeteria officials at the Texas Tech lunch room asked Naseby to leave. Instead of him departing by himself, the entire Grizzly Football Team filed out. True to Naseby's character, he was not bitter, nor was he during his lifetime. He looked on his early days at UM and calmly shruged off the obvious bias against blacks. "It just shows how much times have improved," he said.
Naseby agreed that he got much closer to the players than any coach could be. When he was not busy administering ice to a sprained ankle or giving whirlpool treatments to a knee injury, he said he and the athletes "had a hell of a lot of fun—just laughing and talking together."
The warm Naseby Rhinehart smile is merely a reflection of his personality, a reflection described in a touching telegram from former UM athlete, Ted Hilgenstuhler, on Naseby Rhinehart night, March 3, 1956. "Wish I could be there to see that quiet, warm, shining smile. It's a sight which burns as bright in my memory as the big "M" on the mountainside."
Naseby Rhinehart was inducted into the NATA (National Athletic Trainers Association) Hall of Fame in 1967. He held the honor above his host of other achievements. "They enshrine you" with your picture on a plaque, he said. The Helms Foundation is The Hall of Fame for athletic trainers. It is "something that usually happens to you after you are dead," he said, raising his eyebrows.
In 1971, he developed some of the first curriculum for athletic training. Naseby was also chosen as an athletic trainer for the 1972 Olympics, but declined the offer for personal reasons. With all the recognition he received, why didn't he go to greener pastures? "I love the people around here and I have no desire whatsoever to leave. But then nobody has dangled a lot of money in front of me," Naseby joked, showing his warm smile.
In 1993 the university named the training room in his honor. The Rhinehart Athletic Treatment Center was finished in the fall of 1999.
The first person an alum athlete looked up when they came to town was Naseby. Even young kids would come up and introduce themselves "as so-and-so's son." Not only had the man made a lasting impression on everyone he met, but he created institutional milestones.
Naseby has also been inducted into several other Hall of Fames, Montana Athletic Training, Montana Coaches and Pacific Northwest Athletic Training and now the Montana Football Hall of Fame.
Roy Robinson from a Missoulian article Sept 14, 2009: "Naseby was just an unbelievable individual," Robinson said. "He really did inspire a lot of us who came to the University of Montana. It was just incredible sharing the athletic field with Naseby." Robinson was a black track and football athlete from Glasgow who needed particular help healing some leg muscles, Robinson would be the first to say, without Naseby my career would not have continued to the NFL and the CFL. "Naseby was just an unbelievable individual," Robinson said. "He really did inspire a lot of us who came to the University of Montana. It was just incredible sharing the athletic field with Naseby."*
From Wiley Kendle: While at UM, he was an athletic training student under his mentor, Naseby Rhinehart. It was with Naseby that Wiley learned how to be the athletic trainer he is today. "Other than family, Nase is the most influential person in my life," Wiley said.
Tim Fox Montana Attorney General – Nasby "Doc" Rhinehart was a great man, and his wise advice, love for his athletes, and gentle spirit helped me to persevere through multiple sports injuries to succeed in school and sport. Truly Doc was one of the top 10 most influential persons in my life.
This has been excerpted from various newspaper articles and UM Archives Sources as well as "Dropping the Bucket and Sponge" by Matt Webber.
*from a story written by Bill Schwanke for the Missoulian, September 14, 2009
This article written by:
Dennis T. Murphy, MS, AT-Ret
Retired Athletic Trainer