Palmer “Pete” Retzlaff became the 13th member of the Jackrabbit Sports Hall of Fame on Hobo Day, October 22, 1977. Retzlaff performed on the SDSU football and track teams for two years, setting 16 SDSU records during the 1951-52 and 1952-53 seasons. He was on the All-North Central Conference football team both seasons, setting an SDSU single-season rushing record in 1951 with 1,016 yards. And he set school, NCC and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) records in both the shot put and discus, leading SDSU to a national team title in track in 1953.
Following his graduation from SDSU in 1953, Retzlaff had a tryout with the Detroit Lions as a 22nd-round draft pick. But he returned to SDSU to work on the athletic staff before entering the military on March 24, 1954. Following his release from the service in 1956, Retzlaff was rehired at SDSU, but that fall returned to Detroit and his contract was sold to the Philadelphia Eagles.
From there, it was a great success story. “Pistol Pete” or “The Baron” went on to set Eagle receiving records for most passes caught in a season, 66; most passes caught in a career, 452; and most yards receiving in a career, 7,412. He played for the Eagles for 11 seasons and when he retired, his jersey number 44 was also retired. After his retirement as a player, he was hired as vice president and general manager of the Eagles.
Retzlaff, whose hometown was Ellendale, N.D., enrolled at South Dakota State College in 1950. During his college career, he was not only an outstanding athlete but was active in many clubs and organizations as well. He was named in “Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities”, was a member of Blue Key (senior men’s honorary society) and was vice president of his senior class.
The 6-2, 210 pound Retzlaff excelled as a fullback for the Jackrabbits. Ironically, for a guy who did almost everything on the football field at SDSU — rushing, scoring, total offense, punting, kickoff returns, punt returns — he never caught a pass in his Jackrabbit career. And it was his receiving ability which earned him appearances in five Pro Bowl games.
But as good as he was on the football field at State, his accomplishments in track were even more impressive. He was NAIA national champion in both the shot put and discus twice, setting national marks at 50 feet, 8 inches in the shot and 164 feet, 11 inches in the discus in 1953. At the 1953 North Central Conference Championships, Retzlaff scored 34 points including first in the shot put (50-0), first in the discus (162-6 1/2), first in the high jump (6-1), and fourth in the javelin.