Triple Wing

This article was originally posted on Direct Snap Football.

12 Feb 1966

Dear Bill:

Am very sorry that I have not gotten some material to you on the triple wing back as I promised. We have been getting this office transferred to Bill Murray at Duke and I haven’t had a chance to go into the archives and dig out the materials before going on an extended foreign trip in a few weeks.

The best I can do now is to give you a short resume and development of it and how it evolved. Also the formation and the variations that I used. It never had a good test. We hit a peak with it in 1932 — an 8-1 season — after defeating Princeton 3 years in a row on their own field with it.

I will jot down some illustrations on the enclosed pages.

Sincerely Yours,
D.O. McLaughry

P.S. The enclosed will give you a rough idea but when I get back I will dig out the orderly material that I know is somewhere.

The idea grew out of the close double wing, we were using it with a balanced line but it would be nearly the same from the unbalanced line. The first play used with a third wing back was the final game in 1928 vs. Colgate. I took the inside blocking back and set him outside the def. left end to block him in on a double reverse that finished up around him. It went from the 16 yd line for a touch down, the first time it was used.


The reverses off tackle went as follows: the front running guard took the place of the inside blocking back on most all inside blocking.



The fake reverse inside tackle was very strong. Sometimes we pulled the guards the opposite way on it.


#1 Back always faked blocking the end on all inside plays and forward passes. He set left as well as right.

The passes were thrown by the #3 back dropping back or by #4 on reverses. #3 would rise up with the ball, fake a pass and run up the middle. This was our draw play.

When the defenses over shifted toward the “setter” we had the following variation — particularly end runs to the short side.

As an illustration the following end run went 70 yards for a touchdown on the first play at Princeton in 1931.


Shifted back with a cross over step and a skip as he landed the ball was passed


Cross over step, then Rt. always facing the line


Fake reverse after the rt. wing back had shifted back.

We hit every hole 2 or 3 different ways, both running from the straight triple wing and with the one man shift.

It is necessary to have a good blocker and faker in the #1 spot, two good running guards.

The strength and advantages:
1. Blocking angles on all defensive players except short side end.
2. Five (5) eligible receivers either on or one yd back from the line of scrimmage.
3. Reverses — single and double very strong — build up the fake reverse with guard going opposite way.
4. Quick passes over the short middle to the #1 man, after the fakes at def. end — very good.

Following pass defeated Holy Cross in 1932 late in game.


If you would like to take a look at the original letter click here.

And courtesy of the AFCA, here is more about ‘Tuss’ McLaughery.

The Tuss McLaughry Award is given to a distinguished American (or Americans) for the highest distinction in service to others. It is named in honor of DeOrmond “Tuss” McLaughry, the first full-time secretary-treasurer of the AFCA and one of the most dedicated and influential members in the history of the Association.

The award was established in 1964. The recipient is endorsed by the AFCA Board of Trustees after being nominated by the McLaughry Award Committee.

McLaughry played a leading role in the development of the AFCA while at the same time establishing a reputation as a successful head coach at some of the most prestigious academic schools in the East. He worked diligently throughout his lifetime to advance the best interests of the football coaching profession.

Much of that work was done through the AFCA. In 1936, McLaughry was elected president of the Association and served the customary one-year term. In 1940, he began serving as the AFCA’s secretary-treasurer in a voluntary capacity. It was a duty that would continue for 20 years, until 1960, when he began receiving compensation for his work as the AFCA’s first full-time staff member. His position of secretary-treasurer was the forerunner of what is now the executive director’s post.

Born in Chicago in 1893, McLaughry grew up in Sharon, Pa. He attended Michigan State for one year, but later transferred to Westminster (Pa.) College, where he participated in football as a fullback.

McLaughry began his coaching career at Westminster in 1916. During his early days in coaching, McLaughry spent his spare time playing pro football with the Massillon (Ohio) Tigers. Knute Rockne was a teammate. He went on to become head coach at Amherst (1922-25), Brown (1926-40), and Dartmouth (1941-55). His most successful years were at Brown, where he had a 15-year record of 76-58-5. In 1926, McLaughry produced Brown’s only undefeated team. Two of his other teams at Brown had only one loss.

McLaughry was active as a coach on the All-Star circuit. In 1940, he coached the Eastern All-Stars to a victory against the New York Giants. Six years later, his College All-Star team defeated the Cleveland Rams. He also served four years on the coaching staff of the Eastern All-Stars for the Shrine game in San Francisco.

Here is a photo of DeOrmond ‘Tuss’ McLaughry, son John McLaughry and Colgate Coach Andy Kerr.

DeOrmond 'Tuss' McLaughry, son John McLaughry, Colgate Coach Andy Kerr

McLaughry retired from coaching in 1954, but continued in his capacity as chairman of the Physical Education Department at Dartmouth until 1960, when he accepted the appointment with the AFCA. He retired from that position in 1965.

The same dedication to duty and allegiance to high ideals that McLaughry displayed during his coaching career and years with the AFCA appeared in other areas of his life. More than 20 years after he graduated from high school, McLaughry earned his law degree at Northeastern (Mass.) University by attending night and summer classes. He was awarded two bachelor’s degrees, one master’s and one doctorate during his lifetime.

When McLaughry’s coaching career was interrupted by World War II, he served with distinction in the Marine Corps, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel by the time his three-year hitch was up. In charge of directing the physical conditioning program at Parris Island during the war, McLaughry was appointed judge advocate of general courts martial at the base his last year in the armed forces.

Among the honors McLaughry received for his contributions to football were the Stagg Award, presented by the AFCA in 1951, and induction into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1962.

He was 81 at the time of his death in 1974.

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