Fiss, Kansas Rowing Set to Begin 2013-14 Fall Season

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas Athletics has enjoyed a long, rich history of success in a multitude of sports dating back to 1892 when the football team won the Western Interstate University Football Association Championship with a 7-1 overall record. Kansas rowing will travel to the Head of the Oklahoma to kick off the 2013-14 season and begin writing their own chapter in Kansas history.

A 13-member senior class will look to lead their team, which features 21 returning rowers and 32 newcomers. Senior Kelsie Fiss knows about KU’s tradition-rich sports history and is confident her team can leave its own mark in the record books.

Fiss, a senior from Kansas City, Kan., is following in her family’s footsteps as both her grandfather and father played football for the Jayhawks. In fact, her grandfather, Galen Fiss, was recently inducted into the Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame and was named the 40th-best player in franchise history. The induction festivities took place in Cleveland Sept. 28-29, and the entire Fiss family was present for the ceremony.

“It was truly amazing to be there and hear the different stories about my grandfather, not just from the way he played, but also how he carried himself off the field with his teammates,” Fiss said. “It makes me proud to know that he did things the right way. He had success as a player, but always remained humble and helpful to his teammates.”

In fact, Fiss did not know much about her grandfather’s playing career. In July of 2006, Galen Fiss passed away from complications with Alzheimer’s Disease and she remembers not knowing many of the people that attended the funeral.

“At the time, I didn’t know who a lot of those people were, but they were his former teammates,” Fiss said. “I always knew him as ‘Grandpa Galen,’ not Galen Fiss the football star.” 

Galen Fiss is best remembered for the 1964 National Football League Championship game that featured many Hall of Fame players including Jim Brown, Frank Ryan, Lenny Moore and Johnny Unitas. Unitas, arguably the greatest quarterback in football history, led a Baltimore attack that averaged 30 points per game throughout the regular season. On one particular drive in the second quarter, Unitas threw a screen-pass to Lenny Moore with multiple blockers ahead of him. The play would have led to an easy touchdown had the lone defender, Galen Fiss, not sliced through the blockers and tackled Moore behind the line of scrimmage for a loss. That play would prove to be a game changer as the Browns defeated the Colts, 27-0, to win the 1964 NFL Championship.

This story is just one of many that Kelsie Fiss and her family heard during their recent trip to FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. Every story she was told by her grandfather’s former friends and teammates made her even more proud of the man he was. When things get tough at KU, she thinks of her grandfather and her father and how they have been through the life of a student-athlete as a Jayhawk.

“When we are running the stairs of Memorial Stadium, I think about my dad and my grandpa and how they did this before me,” said the senior rower. It definitely motivates me to know they have been here and been through the things that I have to go through as a student-athlete.”

She believes the 2013-14 Jayhawks are prepared to reap the rewards of climbing those stairs and the rest of the intense offseason training they have endured.  According to Fiss, this team is “hungry” to improve and ready to take the Kansas rowing program to new heights.

Fiss, who will participate in the Second Varsity Eight, Collegiate Four, Open Four and Pair races, and the rest of the Jayhawks, will have their first opportunity to showcase their talents Oct. 5-6 in Oklahoma City at the Head of the Oklahoma.

The two-day event will feature a full schedule of races on Saturday beginning at 8:45 a.m., and will conclude with a half day on Sunday. Other teams racing include: Central Oklahoma, Clemson, Eastern Michigan, Kansas State, Oklahoma, SMU, Texas, Tulsa, Wichita State and the Winnipeg Rowing Club. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.