‘Bonanza’: Hoss Actor Dan Blocker Was a Star Football Player, Quit Due to College’s Theater Department

by Keeli Parkey
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We all know that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. And, this was definitely true when you looked at “Bonanza” actor Dan Blocker. The man was over six feet tall and was built like someone who would be a pretty great football player.

And, according to his college alma mater’s website, Blocker was a really great football player. However, he chose to give up the sport because he fell in love with acting.

Blocker was awarded a football scholarship to Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. He started his collegiate career at the school in 1947. In the 1948 season, Blocker’s team was undefeated and made it to the Tangerine Bowl.

During his college football playing days, the future “Bonanza” star was 6’4 and weighed 290 pounds. According to his alma mater, his football teammates referred to him as the “one-man-gang” because of his physical stature.

Even though he was playing football for Sul Ross, the drama department reached out to Dan Blocker and encouraged him to take part in a play. That play was “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Blocker fell in love with acting and chose to change his major to speech and drama. His original major was physical education. He also gave up playing football at the university.

‘Bonanza’ Actor Began Acting During College Years

His work in “Arsenic and Old Lace” led to more work in his college drama department’s stage productions. Blocker also had roles on stage in “Green Pastures,” “My Sister Eileen,” and “Othello.” It was his work in “Green Pastures” that reportedly made his college community really take notice of him. He also took park in “Mask and Slipper.” This was the theater club of the Sul Ross campus.

Dan Blocker graduated with his bachelor’s degree in 1950. However, his role on “Bonanza” was still almost a decade away. After graduation, Blocker entered the United States Army and served during the Korean War. In 1952, he went back to Sul Ross and began working toward his master’s degree, which he later completed.

He decided to move to California so he could earn his Ph.D. But, television stardom came calling before he could begin his studies, according to the Sul Ross website.

It was during 1959 that Dan Blocker began playing Hoss Cartwright on “Bonanza.” He remained on the hit show until his untimely death in 1972. He was only 43 years old.

Before his death, Blocker continued to support Sul Ross State University and its theater department. According to the alma mater’s website, he visited the school two times during his time on “Bonanza” for homecoming. He went back to the Texas school during 1960 and 1963.

For its part, the university never forgot Dan Blocker. Its theater department awards a scholarship every year that is named for the actor.

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