5’0 1/2 “and 119 lbs.? Isn’t that usually the size of a horse jockey? Either way the little guy had a big heart and for one game, only one he became the NFL’s shortest player in NFL history. There is still debate over the actual size in which you can find others claiming Soapy was 5’2” and 126lbs., however big or small he was its a story (a short one) that should be told to those that have height deficiencies and are told they can’t do something (like play sports) because of it.
Long before there was Doug Flutie (listed as 5’9″) and Fran Tarkenton (6’0″) there was Jack “Soapy” Shapiro looking like a ten year old kid running around with a bunch of grown-ups in a backyard game called the NFL. If you’ve ever seen the movie Field Of Dreams with Kevin Costner and remember the young ball player Moonlight Graham who played one game and was on deck to bat before the final out occurred, Soapy Shapiro is the NFL’s version. Finding relevant information on him is like opening up a cereal box looking for the free toy. You know its in there, but you have to dig to find it.
Stepping back a couple years however “Soapy” (gotta love the name) played for New York University in college as a running back in 1927. The team’s only loss of the season came against powerhouse Nebraska in the final game as the NYU Violets went 7-1-2 over the course of the year. By 1929 he was playing pro football for the Staten Island Stapletons and in November got his first taste of the limelight. The Stapletons themselves in their first year in the NFL seemingly used Shapiro as a ploy to sell tickets the following game against the Giants on Thanksgiving Day. When he did finally play it was in a blocking back role for the most part during a game against Minneapolis in which they won 34-0.
After that it was almost as if Jack “Soapy” Shapiro evaporated into dust and disappeared forever. Until 1973 when a man named Shel Wallman started a magazine called the Jewish Sports Review. The idea of the magazine was to show others that Jewish people are good at sports as well and the magazine publicized those around the country in all areas collegiate and professional. Wallman was quoted as saying in a 1998 interview ”There’s a knock on Jews that we aren’t good athletes. I hope The Review shows that isn’t necessarily true.” One of the first quizzes he placed in the magazine was, “Who was the shortest player in NFL player history? (Hint: He’s Jewish)”.
Players such as old-time baseball great Hank Greenberg, Boston Red Sox player Kevin Youkoulis and many others wind up in Wallman’s magazine. Even Jack “Soapy” Shapiro marked his spot, though just a trivia question to most, he meant something to someone. For that he has become one of the Old School Heroes of the NFL.