Fum McGraw’s athletic legacy lives on at CSU

Colin Barnard

Earn All-American honors for the first time in school history: check.

Become a champion wrestler and boxer: check.


Get selected in the NFL draft, be named Rookie of the Year and win two world championships with the Detroit Lions: check, check and check.

Thurman "Fum" McGraw outside of the McGraw Athletic Center in 1999
Thurman “Fum” McGraw outside of the McGraw Athletic Center in 1999

The list goes on for heralded CSU alum Thurman “Fum” McGraw. But possibly the most recognizable aspect of McGraw’s legacy to current CSU students and Fort Collins residents is the McGraw Athletic Center. Located on the West side of Moby Arena, fans and students alike are reminded of McGraw’s impact on the University every day with a quick drive north on Shields Street.  

The building, which is home to the athletic department’s staff, ticket office and academic support area, opened in 1999 and is easily recognizable by its unique architectural design.

McGraw’s impact on CSU dates back to 1946, his freshman year at then Colorado A&M. Immediately, he made himself known through sports at the University, first on the wrestling mats and later on the football field. According to the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, he became the Skyline heavyweight wrestling champion in 1948 and placed third in the NCAA Championships.

Widely regarded as one of the best football players in school history, McGraw terrorized offensive lineman with his brute strength, imposing 6-foot-5 stature and competitive nature. A program that struggled before McGraw arrived quickly found success with his leadership. In 1948, the McGraw-led Aggies made their first bowl appearance in school history in the Raisin Bowl. The following year, the Aggies posted a 9-1 record, which still stands as the best win percentage in school history. McGraw concluded his college football career in the 1949-50 season with his second All-American selection, becoming the first player in school history to earn the honor twice.

McGraw was highly active at the school outside of athletics, as well. During his senior year, he served as president of the senior class, president of the Letterman’s Club and president of the Sigma Nu fraternity. Predictably, McGraw was awarded the Nye Trophy, an annual award given to the school’s most outstanding athlete.

In the 1950 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions selected McGraw with the 27th overall pick. Instant success ensued as McGraw won Rookie of the Year honors and earned his first Pro Bowl appearance as a defensive lineman. Although his pro career was short-lived due to a knee injury suffered in 1954, McGraw was able to earn two All-Pro awards and win two world championships during his five-year NFL career.

Three short years is all it took for McGraw to return to CSU as assistant football coach and head wrestling coach for two years. After a coaching stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he became CSU’s Assistant Athletic Director from 1962 to 1971. Again, he left for the NFL, this time as a player scout, before returning to CSU as Athletic Director from 1976 until his retirement in 1986.

McGraw’s retirement in no way signaled the conclusion of his influence on the University. According to CSU Athletics, the Fum McGraw award, established in 2002, is awarded to a CSU student-athlete who exemplifies many of McGraw’s famed traits: academic and athletic excellence, character, leadership, service and school pride. Recent award winners include track stars Kiah Hicks and Ashley Reid, as well as former football player Weston Richburg, now a member of the New York Giants.

More recently, McGraw was honored in the naming of CSU’s track and field event, the Fum McGraw Quadrangular. The inaugural event took place in 2011 and has continued each year since.


And do not forget the famed “Fum’s Song” created by McGraw and still recognized today that pokes fun at CSU’s rivals and promotes Ram pride all in one.

McGraw’s legacy was cemented with his induction into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1971 and reinforced 10 years later after his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

That legacy was made clear in 1999 with the creation of the McGraw Athletic Center, which McGraw experienced before his death in 2000. And what better way to honor one of the all-time greats at CSU than create a unique and impressive building that is just as unique and impressive as the honoree himself?

For years to come, students, faculty and fans of CSU can all rest assured knowing that McGraw’s legacy will live on.

Collegian Sports Reporter Colin Barnard can be reached at sports@collegian.com.