A 1940 account in the Portsmouth (NH) Herald reports that Gilroy was arrested on charges of attempting to steal stitching machines from a local shoe factory. There is no further online account of the incident nor the outcome, which lists the 44 year old Gilroy as married with four children, "employed as a Material Inspector for the [Works Progress Administation] in Essex and Middlesex counties in Massachusetts."
For devotees of high scoring football, the antics of Johnny Gilroy are truly remembered. Revered as "The Great Gilroy", he was the ultimate triple threat. As a rusher, passer, and kicker, the lithe halfback is virtually unequaled in Hoya gridiron annals.
Despite the efforts of Harry Costello, a superb kicker and all-purpose performed who would later tab Gilroy as the greatest Georgetown player of all time, the Blue and Gray's football fortunes suffered in the early 1910's. Fortunes changed rapidly with the arrival of Albert Exendine as coach in 1915. Exendine, a stellar lineman with the Carlisle Indians, had learned his football skills from the legendary "Pop" Warner himself. The wide open Warner offense perfectly suited the multi-skilled Gilroy. The Hilltop rarely as seen so fortuitous a match.
Things started slowly for the Hoya eleven in 1915. They weathered a 13-0 loss to Princeton in the opener and barely got by Navy, 9-0, in their second game. Gilroy's first flash came in the fourth game against North Carolina, where he returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a six-pointer. Georgetown went on to a 38-0 win. After a bitter loss to Army, the Blue and Gray transformed themselves into a runaway steamroller. In their final four games, they crushed Fordham, North Carolina State, South Carolina, and St. Louis by a combined count of 212-7, This torrent of points included a 90-0 tally versus St. Louis, the most points scored in a single by a Georgetown team against a collegiate opponent.
Gilroy, whose comparably modest achievements earned him All-South honors in 1915, would have been All-World in 1916. He led the entire nation in scoring with 160 points (20 TD's, 40 PAT's), threw 12 touchdown passes (10 to Tommy Whelan, the nation's leading receiver), and was the prime mover of a 9-1 Hoya team that topped the nation with 474 total points, averaging nearly seven touchdowns per outing. Scores like these characterize the 1916 season:
- Georgetown 61, North Carolina State 6
- Georgetown 78, Bucknell 0
- Georgetown 62, Tulane 0
- Georgetown 80, Albright 0
In the Albright slaughter, Gilroy set a record that still stands today by tallying 47 points (6 TD's, 11 PAT's) in just that game. Other highlights were Gilroy's 37 points against Bucknell and the topping of mighty Dartmouth, 10-0, at the neutral site of Haverhill, Mass. Coincidentally, Haverhill was the home town of one Johnny Gilroy.
The Blue and Gray compiled a 7-1 record in 1917. Their point totals were not as spectacular as the year before, but the number of records Gilroy set increased. He finished his three year career as the Hilltop's all-time leader in the following categories: scoring (307 points), total TD's (63), rushing TD's (37), PAT's ( 49) and passing TD's (26). He also established marks in Georgetown's Early Era (1887-1951) in both rushing offense and total offense. It is no surprise that Johnny Gilroy was inducted into the Georgetown Athletic Hall of Fame at the time of his graduation from dental school in 1919.
Gilroy quickly faded from the scene after his departure from the Hilltop. He spent two years playing for a professional squad headed up by Jim Thorpe, and then turned up as the coach of Wofford College in North Carolina. In 1924, the HOYA noted his marriage to Julia Bresnahan of Haverhill, Mass. The only other note in the entire University Archives mentioning Gilroy after his graduation is the 1957 Alumni Catalogue, which simply lists one word: "deceased".
Johnny Gilroy's adulthood appears to have been as dreary as his career was meteoric. Whatever his end, the football feats of "The Great Gilroy" defy descent into anonymity.
Excerpted from The HOYA and its 1981-1982 series "Great Moments In Georgetown Sports", by Bill Ferraro. Mr. Ferraro graduated from Georgetown with an A.B. in American Studies in 1982 and received his Ph.D. from Brown University. He is presently a researcher at the University of Virginia.