Born: June 14, 1898 – Bridgeport, OK
Died: January 22, 1946 – Denver, CO
Graduated: Chilocco (OK) Indian School, 1917; Haskell (KS) Institute, 1924
Called by Jim Thorpe, “the greatest athlete I have ever seen,” John “Skee” Levi won more letters at Haskell Institute than any student who attended the school.
Levi at Haskell
Born in Arapaho Indian country (Bridgeport Territory) in Oklahoma, Levi attended Indian boarding schools and Phillips (OK) University before coming to Haskell in 1921. He was honored as a member of the Athletic World All-American football team in 1923 and was named Walter Camp All-American fullback in 1924. He averaged 55 yards a punt and could throw a football 75 yards in the air. But one of Levi’s greatest contributions to Haskell was his adherence to all rules and regulations. He was the idol of the younger students and a definite influence on their characters.
Professional & Coaching Career
Recognized as one of the best all-around athletes in the country, Levi had Olympic potential in the decathlon in 1924, but following a football game in Yankee Stadium, the New York Yankees signed Levi to a baseball contract even though they had never seen him play the sport. Levi was one of the leading hitters for the Yankees’ Harrisburg (PA) farm team, batting over .300, leading the league in doubles and was second in homeruns, but he became homesick for his people and returned to Kansas. He coached football at Haskell for 10 years (1926-36) and was a player/coach for the highly-successful Hominy Indian professional team.
Levi was inducted in to the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame 1972 and the Oklahoma Athletic Hall of Fame, 1973.