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William Webb Ellis
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Athlete
    (November 24, 1806-January 24, 1872)
    Born in Salford, England, United Kingdom
    During a football (soccer) match at Rugby school, picked up the ball and ran with it (1823)
    Allegedly invented the sport of rugby as a result
    Later became an Anglican clergyman
    Namesake for the William Webb Ellis Cup given to the winner of the Rugby World Cup
    At Rugby, he was described as 'rather inclined to take unfair advantage at cricket.'
    The story about him inventing rugby was first published more than a half century after the incident (1876).
    The Encyclopedia of Rugby concluded, 'The only thing that is for certain is that Rugby School's William Webb Ellis did not spontaneously invent the game when he picked up the ball and ran with it.'
    In the same way that Abner Doubleday's military career is largely ignored in favor of his alleged creation of baseball, Ellis' religious career is overshadowed by his spurious status as a sports inventor.
    When he was five, his father was killed in battle during the Napoleonic Wars.
    His grave in Merton, France, was rediscovered by Ross McWhirter (1958) and restored by the French rugby union.
    Since the first stories about him inventing rugby surfaced four years after his death, it seems unlikely that he was tooting his own horn.

Credit: C. Fishel


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