Staley’s Bears 1920-1921
High School: Bement, IL
Colleges: Millikin, Bethany [Wheeling, WV]
Roy Adkins was a substitute at left guard in four games for Staley in 1920. Since none of those games were against recognized American Professional Football Association teams his playing professional football is not found in any NFL football archives. In addition to his pay for working at Staley’s that year, he received a player bonus of $370.00 at the end of the season. He was also present at the Staley player reunion in Chicago in 1956.
Roy was the son of Charles Adkins, a highly successful Piatt County, IL farmer and local government official who was an Illinois State Representative while Roy was in high school and Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture when Roy was going to James Millikin University and playing football for the Staleys. Roy started at right guard for Millikin as a freshman in 1917. Like many of his university teammates he served briefly in the U.S. Army in 1918 [October 21 to December 31]. He again was a starter on a very good 1919 Millikin football team while working Sundays and Mondays at the Staley starch plant to help pay for college. On Sunday, November 9, 1919, as his college coach and half of Decatur watched, he and J.M.U. quarterback Sid Gepford took money to play in the Staley semi-pro game against Taylorville. As a result, Adkins and Gepford were banned for life from athletics at Millikin. Both played with the Decatur Staleys football team in 1920. [It is ironic that in December 1922, their former Millikin coach, Norman G. Wann, created a list of the best football players during his seven-year stint at that university. Roy Adkins was named as the best right guard and Gepford as the third best quarterback.]
In 1922 Adkins and Gepford were recruited to play sports for Bethany College in West Virginia. [The Bethany College coach had been the high school coach of one of Adkins’ fellow Millikin linemen.] According to Hank Gill, J.M.U. football teammate, fellow Bethany grad and later long-time Millikin coach, Bethany did not care about athletic eligibility at that time and players received room, board, tuition and books. “It was a lot more than the big schools were doing and no one much cared what was going on,” Gill remembered in a 1975 interview. Adkins played football at Bethany and graduated in 1924.
After graduation, Adkins returned to Central Illinois and coached for a few years at Monticello and Farmer City high schools before going into business. His father Charles at this time was a U.S. Congressman from Illinois. Roy married Harriett Elizabeth Morris in Shelby, Ohio and they had one son, Roy Thomas Adkins. Roy Sr. eventually became the top official for the North American Cement Corporation in NYC and for many years served on the Board of Trustees for Bethany College. He died of a heart attack at his home in Montclair, New Jersey and was buried in the Shelby-Oakland Cemetery in Shelby, Ohio.
Copyright © 2016 Mark W. Sorensen