When Ronald Reagan was 9, his family settled for good in Dixon, Ill, and the future president started his association with sports that lasted a lifetime.
At Dixon High School, Reagan, who died Saturday at 93, participated in football, basketball and track besides acting in school plays and winning his first election, as president of the student body. He worked for seven summers as an $18-a-week lifeguard.
In the fall of 1928, Reagan enrolled in Eureka College, near Peoria, where he took part in football, track and swimming, while majoring in economics and sociology, taking part in dramatics and again being elected student body president.
After graduation, he continued his association with sports, going to Chicago to seek a job in the young medium of radio and was advised by a station receptionist to try "what we call the sticks."
He got a job as a $10-a-game sports announcer for WOC in
Davenport, Iowa, and went on to a $75-a-week salaried position at
WHO in Des Moines. He covered track meets, title fights and Big Ten
football live, and simulated broadcasts of Chicago Cubs baseball
from a play-by-play telegraph wire.
He lined up a screen test while in California for Cubs spring
training, was signed to a $200-a-week contract and made his debut
as a radio announcer in the 1937 film, "Love is on the Air."
In his first four years, Reagan made 28 movies. He got his first big break as the halfback George Gipp in "Knute Rockne, All-American" in 1940. He later played pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander in 1952's "The Winning Team."
But, it was his role as Gipp that cemented Reagan's connection with sports. It was Gipp, in the movie, who implored the coach from his deathbed to have the boys "win one for the Gipper," a phrase associated with Reagan for the rest of his life.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.