Former All-American Lynn Chandnois Passes Away At Age 86
Talented two-way player still ranks as MSU's career leader in interceptions and interception return yards.
April 21, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Former Michigan State All-American Lynn Chandnois, one of college football's most talented two-way players in the late 1940s, died Tuesday, April 19. The Flint, Mich., resident was 86.
An all-state selection in both football and basketball at Flint Central High School, Chandnois spent two years in the Naval Air Corps before enrolling at Michigan State as a 21-year-old freshman in 1946.
Born Feb. 24, 1925, in Garden, Mich., Chandnois earned four letters at Michigan State from 1946-49, playing his freshman year for head coach Charlie Bachman and the next three years for Clarence "Biggie" Munn. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound halfback helped the Spartans to a combined record of 24-12-2 (.658), including back-to-back Associated Press Top 25 finishes in 1948 (No. 14) and 1949 (No. 19). Chandnois still ranks as MSU's career leader in interceptions (20) and interception return yards (410). In addition, he is listed among the Spartans' all-time leaders in rushing yards per carry (second at 6.55 ypc.), rushing touchdowns (tied for sixth at 29), total TDs (sixth at 31), all-purpose yards (12th at 3,535) and rushing yards (14th at 2,103). He posted six career 100-yard rushing games.
Chandnois led the team in scoring as a freshman (six TDs; 36 points), junior (12 TDs; 72 points) and senior (10 TDs; 60 points). He also led the Spartans in interceptions his final three seasons (six in 1947; four in 1948 and seven in 1949).
As a junior in 1948, Chandnois was selected team MVP after accounting for 1,096 all-purpose yards, averaging 10.1 yards every time he touched the football (108 total touches). He finished second on the team in rushing with 91 carries for 681 yards, including two 100-yard games (nine rushes for 102 yards vs. Arizona and 12 attempts for 112 yards vs. Washington State). Chandnois averaged 28.4 yards on five punt returns (142 yards).
As a senior in 1949, Chandnois earned First-Team All-America honors from the International News Service, Central Press, Football News and Collier's. He produced a then school-record 1,382 all-purpose yards. In nine games, Chandnois rushed 129 times for a then school-record 885 yards. Chandnois produced four 100-yard rushing games: Marquette (10 carries for 159 yards), Penn State (16 for 107), Temple (13 for 149) and Arizona (11 for career-best 163). His 90-yard TD run in the 1949 season finale at Arizona still ranks as the longest rushing play in MSU history, and his 83-yard TD reception from Gene Glick against Notre Dame ranks as the 10th longest passing play in school history. His 183 interception return yards (seven picks) led the nation.
"We mourn the loss of a true Spartan legend," Michigan State Athletics Director Mark Hollis said. "Lynn Chandnois is not only one of the all-time greats in Michigan State football history, but he also ranks among the best all-around athletes in this state's history. He was a dominant player on both sides of the football, and his accomplishments have withstood the test of time."
"During his era, Lynn Chandnois was one of college football's most talented two-way players," MSU head coach Mark Dantonio said. "He was so valuable on both sides of the football that he earned the nickname `60-minute Chandnois.' You get an idea of what kind of an impact Lynn had on the field when you look in MSU's record book today and still see his name listed so prominently.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Chandnois family in this time of grief."
He accounted for 160 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in the 1950 East-West Shrine Game in San Francisco, Calif.
A first-round selection (No. 8 pick overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1950, Chandnois spent seven years in the National Football League. He made back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances in 1952-53. Chandnois led the NFL in kickoff returns in 1951 (32.5 avg.) and 1952 (35.2 avg.) and all-purpose yards in 1953 (1,593). In 72 games as a pro, he rushed 593 times for 1,934 yards and 16 TDs and caught 162 passes for 2,012 yards (12.4 avg.) and seven TDs. Chandnois also returned 92 kickoffs for 2,720 yards and three scores. His career 29.6-yard average on kickoff returns ranks second in NFL history, trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers (30.6 avg.).
Chandnois was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1987 and the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1992. In 1996, he was named to the Lansing State Journal's MSU Centennial Super Squad (Pre-Big Ten Era).
He is survived by his wife Paulette and two daughters, Lynda and Suzanne.
Remembering Lynn Chandnois . . .
Former MSU football teammate George Guerre (halfback, 1946-48):
"Lynn Chandnois was a rare breed. He was a naturally gifted athlete - comparable to Dean Look who played for Michigan State in the late 1950s. I began competing against Lynn in the seventh grade and became his teammate in high school. Not only was he a remarkable football player, he was simply lights out on the basketball court.
"Lynn really came to Michigan State by chance after the War (World War II). Pete Fusi and I were out on a field practicing our punting when Lynn ran into us. Pete and I were preparing to begin our college playing careers at Michigan State, and we suggested Lynn talk to (MSU backfield coach) John Pingel about joining us.
"I'll never forget how Lynn saved my butt in the 1946 season finale at home against Washington State. I threw a pass that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Late in the fourth quarter, Lynn intercepted a pass and returned it for a TD to give us a 26-20 win.
"This is a difficult loss for me because Lynn and I were friends for 70 years or so. He was simply a good guy and a great teammate."