“Black Mamba”. “Super Mariota”. New additions to a prolific history of great Duck nicknames. Another great one? “Scrappy.” As in, Floyd “Scrappy/Scrap Iron” Rhea, one of the more interesting linemen to play for Oregon in the early 1940’s.
Born in Rhea’s Mill, Arkansas on September 21, 1920, Rhea’s family moved to California shortly thereafter, with Floyd growing up in Fullerton. Following his graduation from Fullerton High School, Scrap Iron played as a freshman for Fullerton Junior College. Following his year at Fullerton, Rhea transferred to Oregon.
He arrived at Oregon in 1940. He was primarily a left guard on both offense and defense during his career at Oregon, wearing uniform number 42. During his first two years as a Webfoot, as the Ducks were generally referred to in that era, Floyd was a reserve. As a senior in 1942, Rhea became the starter. He also served as a placekicker. Rhea was the winner of the Hoffman Award as the team’s outstanding player in 1942.
While not being named as an All-America, or even All- Pacific Coast Conference, Rhea impressed enough people that he was drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 15th round of the 1943 NFL draft. He was also selected, along with tackle Dick Ashcom to play in the 1943 College All-Star game (the Oregon media guide mistakenly states they played in the 1940 College All-Star game).
While he did not play with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1943, Rhea did briefly play with the Chicago Cardinals for one game in 1943, returning one kickoff. An injury ended his first season in the NFL. Apparently, the fact that Rhea had completed his college eligibility in 1942 escaped the notice of those officials who were selecting players for the East-West Shrine game following the 1943 season.
Despite the fact that Oregon did not field a varsity football team in 1943 and 1944, Rhea and two of his teammates from the 1942 team, Dick Ashcom and Bill Mayther, were selected to play in the January 1, 1944 East-West Shrine game. Mayther and Ashcom did play. Contrary to the Oregon media guide, Rhea did not play in the 1944 game. Shrine game officials discovered prior to the game that Rhea had played for the Cardinals during the 1943 season, disqualifying him.
Floyd would play eight games with the Brooklyn Tigers in 1944 at both guard and linebacker, starting seven games at left guard. Rhea would play eight games with the Boston Yanks in 1945, and conclude his NFL career with two games in 1947. Those were not the only professional teams Scrappy played for. He also played for the Hawaiian Warriors of the Pacific Coast Professional Football League in 1946 and 1947. It was in Hawaii that Rhea’s playing career would come to an end. In December 1947, Rhea and three of his teammates were banned from the league for betting on games. Ten other players were suspended indefinitely. Hawaii still managed to win the league championship. The banishment would not make much difference as the league folded during the 1948 season.
Following the end of his professional career, Rhea went into teaching, first in elementary schools in the Los Angeles area, and later as a coach for many years at Los Angeles Harbor College. While primarily a football coach, Rhea also coached tennis, golf , and baseball. Scrappy’s 1964 football team went undefeated. However, they were denied a berth in the Junior Rose Bowl game because they could not guarantee the sale of 10,000 tickets and did not have a marching band.
Rhea is a member of the Los Angeles Harbor College Sports Walk of Fame.
Sadly, Floyd Rhea passed away on December 12, 2010, but the name “Scrappy” will live on.