Froday Night Legend: Bob McQuage

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 16, 2012

Robert Julius McQuage answered to anything but Robert.
Sure, he’s Robert in the N.C. State record book, but his teammates called him Rob, Bob or Hack.
McQuage grew up on Salisbury’s East Cemetery Street with a distinctive Scottish surname and a gift for sports. The 6-foot, 185-pounder was a marvel at N.C. State, captaining coach Chick Doak’s baseball team and Ray Sermon’s basketball team, while notching a few records for Clipper Smith’s football squad.
You’ve never heard of him only because Hack goes way, way back. He was born 100 years ago.
Other than his obituary, this may be the first story written about McQuage since he graduated from N.C. State in 1934. But when he left, he carried with him the Alumni Athletic Trophy awarded to the Wolfpack’s finest athlete.
He never missed a college contest, despite injuries. He competed in every game for the Wolfpack freshmen in three sports his first year on campus, and then played in every varsity game in three sports for three years.
McQuage, as you might imagine, was hard to contain at Salisbury’s Boyden High in the Roaring Twenties.
Between assignments as the school’s sports editor, he garnered 11 letters, somehow failing to letter in hoops his freshman year. He averaged 15 points in that sport as a senior, an impressive total for the time.
In his senior football season in the fall of 1929, McQuage sparked Boyden to a record of 7-2-1. He threw the game-winning pass to Webb Newsome against Lexington, threw two TD passes to Dave Julian to beat Winston-Salem and fired three scoring passes to crush Marion. For good measure, he tossed four TD passes to bury High Point.
The Greensboro News & Record placed McQuage on its 11-man All-State team for 1929, the first time a Boyden player had made that elite squad. Unfortunately, he was listed as “Bob McQuade.”
McQuage was a stellar student and headed to N.C. State, which was in greater need of his athletic skills than Duke or North Carolina.
As the quarterback of the Wolfpack freshman football team in 1930, McQuage was named to the All-State freshman team. He batted .500 in baseball, but there also was bad news. His father— D.H. McQuage — died young.
McQuage’s arm was strong and his legs were explosive, so he was the ideal triple-threat football back.
He was the backup QB in 1931. Well, at least until he engineered a thrilling rally against North Carolina.
With the Wolfpack trailing 18-0 in the fourth quarter, McQuage caught a touchdown pass, then threw a pass that set up another TD. The Wolfpack fell 18-15, but McQuage was no longer a sub.
“McQuage shot life into N.C. State’s floundering Wolfpack and may get the first call at the quarterback post from now on,” gushed the Charlotte Observer.
He beat Duke 14-0 in 1931 almost singlehandedly. He rushed 10 times for an unheard-of 183 yards, including a 64-yard jaunt, and passed for State’s other TD. He picked off a pass and returned it 50 yards. He averaged 39 yards on nine punts and kicked both extra points.
McQuage’s game at Florida in 1932 (Boyden’s Carl Bernhardt had joined the Wolfpack lineup at guard) was praised as one of the finest ever against the “Alligators.” He broke long runs, kicked a field goal and two extra points and steered State to a stunning victory.
McQuage was a guard in basketball and first baseman in baseball, but he shifted back and forth between quarterback and halfback on the gridiron. His shining moment came in a hot scrap at Georgia in 1933. N.C. State lost, but McQuage booted a 53-yard field goal that would be the longest recorded in the nation that season.
Even now, that epic kick keeps him in State’s record book, as the third-longest field goal ever made by a member of the Wolfpack.
McQuage held the school mark for 55 years until Damon Hartman’s 54-yarder against UNC in 1988. In 1990, Hartman boomed one 56 yards to beat the Tar Heels as time expired.
Little is known about McQuage after college. He batted .387 for State’s varsity, so pro baseball would have seemed a likely next step.
Speaking in 1934, Doak said, “McQuage has the build, the ability and the fight to make the grade,” but baseball may not have panned out for him.
We do know McQuage served in World War II in the U.S. Navy, was stationed in California after the war and held the rank of lieutenant in 1952 when he left the Navy.
He had two sisters and an unusual older brother. McQuage’s brother, Bill, was recognized by the Post in 1940 as the nation’s youngest veteran of World War I. He was only 13 in 1918 when he passed himself off as 18, enlisted and became a bugler in an artillery corps stationed at Ft. Screven, Ga.
Bob McQuage married and had a son, whom he, not surprisingly, named Robert.
Salisbury’s Wolfpack wonder was just 50 when he died. He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery.