Gene “Tuffy” Ronzani was a chief contributor to the Golden Age of Marquette University (Milwaukee) sports in the early 1930s as the first of two MU nine-letter athletes.
He was born in Iron Mountain, a small mining town in Michigans upper peninsula and entered Marquette in the fall of 1929, following his two brothers Anthony and David Ronzani of a 1st generation Italian family. Gene went out for freshman football, track and basketball and made all three varsity teams his sophomore year. “I wasn't interested in individual records,” he once mentioned. “What good does it do if you score all the points and the team loses? Why, I can't even remember my records.” But his records were history. In football under Coach Frank Murray, the 1930 team marched to a nine game undefeated season under the sparkling leadership of Ronzani and John Sisk. Tuffy played either quarterback or fullback on offense and safety or linebacker on defense. He and Sisk both were to become All-Americans.
Ronzani was second in scoring his sophomore year. During Ronzani's junior year the Hilltoppers (as Marquette teams were called then) compiled an 8-1 record. As a senior, he led the gridders to a 5-3-1 record, not fully indicative of the hard fought games and near misses.
While Ronzani was on the basketball squad the cagers did not suffer a losing season. Marquette garnered records of 11-7, 11-8 and 14-3 under Coach Bill Chandler. The Tribune said, “Ronzani particularly had a rollicking time of it, as he roamed all over the floor, scrambling anyone in his path and usually coming up with the ball in the wildest sort of melee.”
In Track, Ronzani under Coach Con Jennings, was a consistent team man in shotput and javeline. He competed with Marquette's 1932 Central Collegiate champions, and also tried out for the US Olympic team in the Spring of 1932. After graduation Tuffy joined the Chicago Bears' National Football league championship drive. After Ronzani's playing days, he joined the Bear coaching staff and served in a coaching position under The Coach and Bear owner George “Papa Bear” Halas until 1950. In 1950 he was hired as head coach and General Manager of the Green Bay Packers. Tuffy introduced the first Black American player into the Packer lineup as Green Bay's coach, a move he was widely criticized for at the time. As head coach and General Manager, Ronzani's first game was against the Detroit Lions at aging City Stadium in Green Bay. The 22,096 fans were first introduced to new green and gold uniforms. Both jerseys and pants were kelly green with gold numbers on the tops, two gold stripes around the upper sleeves, and a one inch gold stripe down the side of each leg.
Gene Ronzani's football genius originated such formations as the double-wing, the shotgun offenses and the umbrella defense. It is now believed that many of his formations were his way of confusing his good friend and then arch rival George Halas. Both coaches new all to well each others on field football tactics.
In tribute to his fantastic career at Marquette, a Milwaukee Tribune story in 1932 honored him saying that “Ronzani easily finds a place for himself among Marquette's immortals.”
The Above information is taken from: An article believe to be from the Milwaukee Tribune written by Barb Schumaker. Also, above information can be found in Author Larry D. Names book; “The History Of The Green Bay Packers”, Subtitled “The Shameful Years”, Ptd. 1995.
Gene Ronzani was the first Marquette athlete to win nine letters. He played on Marquette’s undefeated grid squad of 1930 and captained the 1932 team. In the final football game of his career, Ronzani rushed for 137 yards and five touchdowns in 21 carries as Marquette drubbed Drake by a 45-0 margin. He served as co-captain of the 1932-33 basketball squad, helping that unit to a record of 14-3. His big game of that year took place when he scored in double figures in a big win over Notre Dame. As a track athlete, he had a javelin throw of 188' 5” that set a Marquette Stadium record during his junior year.
As he was winding up his college career, the Marquette Tribune wrote: “Gene Ronzani is Marquette’s greatest all-around athlete and one of the best in the land. He was an All-American in football, rated with the best in basketball, and was an important point winner in track. Marquette and intercollegiate athletics will miss this grand athlete.” After his days at Marquette, he was a member of the Chicago Bears’ organization from 1933-49. He also served on the coaching staff of the Green Bay Packers, 1950-53. Inducted in MU's Hall of Fame in 1972.