Felix Anthony “Doc” Blanchard (December 11, 1924 – April 19, 2009) is best known as the college football player who became the first ever junior to win the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award and was the first ever football player to win the James E. Sullivan Award, all in 1945.
He played football for the United States Military Academy at West Point. Because his father was a doctor, Felix Blanchard was nicknamed “Little Doc” as a boy.
After football, he served in the United States Air Force from 1947 until 1971 when he retired with the rank of Colonel.
Blanchard was born on December 11, 1924 in McColl, South Carolina His father was a doctor and had played college football at Tulane University and Wake Forest University. The Blanchards moved from McColl, South Carolina to Dexter, Iowa in 1929. The Blanchards then moved to Bishopville, South Carolina two years later. Blanchard, nicknamed “Little Doc” due to his father’s occupation, attended high school at Saint Stanislaus College in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
He led the school’s football team, the Rockachaws, to an undefeated season during his senior year in 1941. Blanchard was recruited to play college football by Army, Fordham University and the University of Notre Dame, among others.
Blanchard said in 1985 that he had been contacted about going to West Point when he was in high school. He said, “At that point in time, I really wasn’t interested. Academically, I never was too hot, so I never had any idea I would pass the entrance examination and go to West Point.”
Instead, Blanchard chose to play for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, in part because its coach, Jim Tatum, was his mother’s cousin. Because NCAA rules at the time did not allow freshmen to play varsity, Blanchard played with the freshman team.
Blanchard decided to enlist in the United States Army in 1943. He was stationed in New Mexico with a chemical-warfare unit until enrolling at West Point in July 1944 in an appointment his father secured.
Blanchard had the opportunity to play professional football after being selected third overall in the 1946 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. After he was turned down in 1947 for a furlough to play with the NFL, Blanchard then chose to embark upon a career in the United States Air Force and became a fighter pilot.
In 1959, while with the 77th Tactical Fighter Squadron and flying back to his base at RAF Wethersfield near London, an oil line in Major Blanchard’s F-100 Super Sabre broke and a fire broke out. He could have parachuted to safety, but the plane might have crashed into a village. He instead stayed with the plane and made a perfect landing. The event garnered him an Air Force commendation for bravery.
In the Vietnam War, Blanchard flew 113 missions from Thailand, 84 of them over North Vietnam. He piloted a fighter-bomber during a one-year tour of duty that ended in January 1969. He retired from the Air Force in 1971 as a colonel. After retiring from the Air Force, he spent several more years as the commandant of cadets at the New Mexico Military Institute, a junior college that prepares students to enter the service academies.
Blanchard died of pneumonia on April 19, 2009 in Bulverde, Texas. He had been living with his daughter Mary and her husband Aaron for the last 20 years of his life. At the time of his death, he was the oldest living Heisman Trophy winner. He is interred at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas.