Football as we know it today wouldn’t exist without Knute Rockne. The legendary coach of the University of Notre Dame revolutionized the use of the forward pass and the backfield in motion. Rockne led the Fighting Irish to six national championships and five undefeated seasons. He also died before his time. In 1931, his plane crashed in the Flint Hills, not far from what is now the Kansas Turnpike.
The Kansas Turnpike Authority commissioned us to create a memorial for Rockne inside the then-new tourist center at the Matfield Green rest area. The 175-square-foot memorial drew national attention at its opening and generated ongoing interest from turnpike travelers before its removal in 2017 when the space was repurposed and a new Rockne exhibit opened at the nearby Chase County Historical Museum.
We designed this display with the desire to “Win for the Gipper” and think he’d have been proud.SONIA GRETEMAN
and creative director
The use of Notre Dame’s gold-and-black color scheme throughout the display, complete with team flags, lent an historical feel to the graphics. Five, eight-foot-tall panels leveraged archival photos and memorabilia, which we extensively researched and secured. Everything worked together to tell the story of the coach’s life, from his early days as a player at Notre Dame to his years of worldwide fame to the final, ill-fated plane trip. The exhibit included the original propeller from the downed plane. A glass wall etched with diagrams of Rockne’s famous plays complemented a life-size, freestanding image. Guests could listen to his “Win for the Gipper” speech, made even more famous by the 1940 movie, “Knute Rockne, All American.”