Who were the 10 best high school football players produced in the Chicago area you ever saw who never made it to the NFL?
Let's not consider the 1930s and 1940s because the NFL was in its infancy and the salaries were so minimal that many college players opted to pump gas or flip hamburgers rather than get their brains beat out for what amounted to meal money in professional football.
My choices (in alphabetical order)?
Jack Bastable, Jon Beutjer, Quinn Buckner, Jim DiLullo, Howard Jones, Billy Marek, Tim Marshall, Jon Schweighardt, LaMarr Thomas, Homer Thurman.
Jack Bastable, Wheeling, DB, 1968: One of the most versatile athletes ever produced in Illinois. He played three sports in high school and two at Missouri, then played professional baseball. At 58, he plays tennis at the Masters level against players 10 to 15 years younger than he is.
Tim Beutjer, Wheaton Warrenville South, QB, 1998: He set a then national record with 60 touchdown passes while leading WWS to a 14-0 record and a state championship in 1998. But he never found his niche in college.
Quinn Buckner, Thornridge, 1972: As a junior and senior, he was an All-Stater in football and basketball. He also was Player of the Year in football and basketball. He played football at Indiana, then was forced to drop the sport to concentrate on basketball. He captained Indiana's 1976 NCAA championship team and played for nine years in the NBA.
Jim DiLullo, Fenwick, RB, 1962: In the 1962 Prep Bowl, before a crowd of 91,328 in Soldier Field, he rushed 12 times for 224 yards and scored five touchdowns as Fenwick trounced Schurz 40-0. He scored on runs of 4, 14, 6, 97 and 70 yards to cap the greatest single performance in the history of the all-city event. He went to Notre Dame but never played because of injuries.
Howard Jones, Evanston, RB, 1972: Evanston coach Murney Lazier said Jones was the greatest football player he ever coached. He was an All-Stater as a sophomore and senior but missed the 1971 season because of an injury. Ironically, the 1971 team was the best Lazier ever produced. Jones also was a three-time state champion in the 100 and 220-yard dash events. He never played in college because of poor grades.
Billy Marek, St. Rita, RB, 1971: Marek and tackle Dennis Lick, who later played for the Chicago Bears, were the leaders of coach Pat Cronin's 1970 and 1971 powerhouses. The 1971 team is rated among the top five in state history. Marek and Lick went to Wisconsin. Marek finished as one of the school's all-time leading rushers but he was labeled too small and too slow for the NFL.
Tim Marshall, Weber, DL, 1979: He was Player of the Year in the Chicago area in 1979 and regarded as one of the leading defensive linemen in the nation. Legend has it that O.J. Simpson called him during halftime of the Rose Bowl game to personally recruit him. Marshall chose Notre Dame but injuries slowed his career.
Jon Schweighardt, Wheaton Warrenville South, WR, 1998: Schweighardt and quarterback Tim Beutjer teammed up to form the most devastating passing combination in state history. Schweighardt also was a state champion in the 330 intermediate hurdles. He had a successful career at Northwestern but was said to be too small and not fast enough for the NFL.
LaMarr Thomas, Thornton, RB, 1965: One of the most outstanding all-around athletes in state history. Quinn Buckner idolized him. Thomas was an All-State running back for a 9-0 team in 1965 and led Thornton to the 1966 state basketball championship. He was recruited to play football for Duffy Daugherty at Michigan State but injuries and personal problems prevented him from reaching his potential.
Homer Thurman, Bloom, E, 1959: Few people outside the south suburbs remember Thurman, who was an All-Stater in football and basketball and a state champion in track and field during Bloom's golden years of the 1950s. He was ineligible to play in college because of poor grades. He went to California and disappeared.