(While I am on hiatus for the next month, I am leaving behind six articles--(July 1) Jamie Brandon, former King basketball star, (July 2) Q&A with Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, who grew up in the Chicago area, (July 3) thoughts about the 2010-11 basketball season, (July 4) the impact of head injuries to high school football players, (July 5) the rise and fall of Quincy basketball and (July 6) the release of my fourth book, "Dusty, Deek, and Mr. Do-Right: High School Football In Illinois." Please archive past articles. And enjoy the summer)
My fourth book, "Dusty, Deek, and Mr. Do-Right: High School Football In Illinois," published by University of Illinois Press, will be released on Aug. 1. To my knowledge, it is the first book ever written on the subject.
Oh, there have been several books written on high school basketball in Illinois. I know, I've written two of them. But football always has taken a backseat to basketball in this state.
In fact, in 2001, when I proposed writing a book on basketball or football to the editor of University of Illinois Press, he recommended that I should author a basketball book because "there is more interest in basketball south of I-80." So I wrote "Sweet Charlie, Dike, Cazzie, and Bobby Joe: High School Basketball in Illinois."
Two years ago, the editor agreed that it was time to do a football book. In the process, I interviewed more than 350 coaches and players and wrote about the best players, best coaches and best teams in the last 80 years. My first interview? Dick Butkus on Dec. 22, 2007.
Why "Dusty, Deek, and Mr. Do-Right?" As with the basketball book, I tried to come up with some catchy and one-of-a-kind names that people can relate to. I felt old-time basketball fans would easily recall Sweet Charlie Brown of Du Sable's 1954 team, legendary Dike Eddleman of Centralia, Carver's Cazzie Russell and Centralia's Bobby Joe Mason.
In football, it wasn't as easy. But how about Dusty Burk, Deek Pollard and Murney Lazier?
Dusty Burk was the Tuscola quarterback who brought the spread offense to Illinois, setting several season and career passing and total offense records along the way. Donald "Deek" Pollard coached Pittsfield to eight consecutive unbeaten seasons in the 1960s, including one season in which his team didn't allow a point. And Murney Lazier, who produced an incomparable 125-17-4 record in 18 years at Evanston, was known as Mr. Do-Right by his black athletes during the turbulent 1960s because of his fairness and uncompromising coaching philosophy.
Obviously, high school football in Illinois, like basketball, is too big to cover in one volume. I covered basketball by decades, singling out the great teams or coaches or players or games that highlighted each decade from the 1940s to the 2000s.
In football, I followed the same pattern to some extent. I wrote about the great players (including Dick Butkus, Johnny Lattner, Dave Butz, Mike Alstott, Dusty Burk), the great coaches (including Murney Lazier, Deek Pollard, Gordie Gillespie, Bob Reade, Frank Lenti, Gary Korhonen, Harvey Dickinson, Bob Shannon), the great teams (St. Rita 1971, Evanston 1971, Wheaton Warrenville South 1998, Joliet Catholic 1975, East St. Louis 1985, Geneseo 1976, Fenwick 1962, Mount Carmel 1950), the great games (including Glenbrook North/East St. Louis 1974, St. Laurence/Glenbard West 1976, Maine South/Mount Carmel 1995, Wheaton Warrenville South/Joliet Catholic 1992, small schools (including Arcola, Carthage, Galena, Stockton, Marian Central), mid-sized schools (including Geneseo, Morris, Metamora, Providence, Belleville Althoff), large schools (including Maine South, Prospect, St. Rita, Mount Carmel, East St. Louis), the Chicago Public League, Chicago Catholic League, Prep Bowl and state playoff.
How did we choose the picture for the cover of the book? The editor asked me to submit some candidates. I submitted six or seven, most of them action photos. But I lobbied for one picture that I thought said the most about what high school football in Illinois is all about--Jim Tomaska, the captain of Loyola's 1993 team hoisting the state championship trophy after the Class 6A final under the lights at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
The editor agreed. I think you will, too. I hope you enjoy the book.