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Public League needs football Hall of Fame

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Public League needs football Hall of Fame

With all due respect to the ghosts of Walter Eckersall and George Halas and Knute Rockne and Buddy Young, it is difficult to fathom why the Chicago Public League hasn't found time over the last 100 years to create a Hall of Fame to recognize the great football players, coaches and teams that have been produced in the city.

In fact, a Public League Football Coaches Association hasn't even been organized to establish a Hall of Fame and nominate honorees. You'd have thought that somebody would have taken a hint from the very active Public League Basketball Coaches Association or the tradition-rich Chicago Catholic League Coaches Association's Hall of Fame.

Hubbard football coach Elton Harris said he was trying to organize an association for Public League football coaches that would include a Hall of Fame. Over the years, there just hasn't been enough interest in the project.

It's a shame because the Public League, like the rival Catholic League, is filled with history and tradition dating to the 1880s. The Hyde ParkEnglewood rivalry, the oldest in Illinois and one of the oldest in the country, dates to 1889.

All you need to know is it was a Public League player, the legendary Bill DeCorrevont, who attracted a record crowd of 120,000 to Soldier Field for the 1937 Prep Bowl. That's 120,000 as in more people than have ever witnessed a football game at any level, high school or college or professional, before or since.

For years, the Public League was every bit as competitive as the Catholic League. From 1934 to 1959, the Public League held a 14-10-2 advantage in the Prep Bowl rivalry. Then the Catholic League won 16 in a row until Vocational stunned St. Rita 13-6 in 1976.

"I guess God wanted to make me a (bleep)," said a shocked St. Rita coach, Pat Cronin.

From the 1930s to the early 1970s, before the Illinois High School Association introduced the state football playoff in 1974, the Prep Bowl was the most celebrated high school event in the nation. It annually attracted as many as 70,000, 80,000, even 90,000 people to Soldier Field.

Players such as DeCorrevont, Dale Samuels, Bill Gay, Buddy Young, Abe Woodson, Jack Delveaux, Mike Lind and Dick Butkus became icons.

In the last three decades, Public League football highlights have been few and far between. Robeson finished second in the 1982 state playoff, the only Public League representative ever to qualify for the championship game. Only three others have ever reached the semifinals.

Until basketball became the game of choice for youngsters in the city in the 1960s and 1970s, the Public League produced many players who went on to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and the National Football League Hall of Fame.

The distinguished list is headed by Walter Eckersall, George Halas, Knute Rockne, Fritz Pollard, Dick Butkus and Buddy Young.

It also includes DeCorrevont, Alf Bauman, Abe Woodson, Bill Fisher, Don Stonesifer, Tony Canadeo, Pete Pihos, Lou Rymkus, Hugh Gallarneau, Al Brosky, Bill Gay, Russell Maryland, Otis Armstrong, Darryl Stingley and Vic Schwall.

Don't forget Jim Grabowski, Al MacFarlane, Jack Delveaux, Rick Kreitling, Dale Samuels, Mike Lind, Rocky Harvey, Alex Rodriguez, Dempsey Norman, Ken Ferguson, Jack Sawin, Chris Zorich, Keena Turner, Mike Morgan, Tony Klimek, Chuck Ulrich, Corey Mays, Trezelle Jenkins, Kelvin Hayden, Nate Lyles, Walter Stanley, Fred Evans, Lou Gordon, Mike Schwager, Chuck Logan, Mack Herron, Cyron Brown, Mickey Pruitt, Corbin Bryant and Martez Wilson.

And what about the coaches? Bernie O'Brien, Chuck Palmer, Bill Heiland, Frank O'Keefe, Al Manasin, Chuck Harvey, J.W. Smith, Roy Curry, Glenn Johnson, Al Scott, Sam Bronswick, Carl Bonner, Sherman Howard, Joe Stepanek, Terry Lewis, Lexie Spurlock and Frank Esposito.

The best Public League team ever? Lots of candidates, including Austin 1937, Schurz 1949, Fenger 1954, Lane Tech 1959, Robeson 1982 and Julian 1989.

The 1937 Prep Bowl is perhaps the most celebrated high school football game of all time. DeCorrevont, one of the most publicized high school athletes in history, ran for three touchdowns, including a 47-yarder, and passed for another as Austin defeated Leo and Johnny Galvin 26-0 before a crowd estimated at more than 120,000. He also returned three punts for 67 yards and quick-kicked a 53-yarder. Other Austin standouts were tackle Alf Bauman and quarterback Sonny Skor.

In 1949, Schurz lost its opening game to New Trier but won 11 in a row, closing with a 20-7 victory over previously unbeaten Fenwick and Johnny Lattner. Ken Swienton scored two touchdowns and Bob Fudala ran 60 yards for another.

Fenger's 1954 powerhouse went 11-0-1 and featured three players who went on to play at Illinois--fullback Jack Delveaux, end Rich Kreitling and tackle Ron Nietupski. Delveaux rushed for 82 yards and scored two touchdowns in a 20-13 victory over Mount Carmel. Linemen Dick Calder and Ray Karczewski also stood out.

Lane Tech overpowered Fenwick 19-0 in 1959. It was the Indians' seventh shutout in a 9-0-1 season. The line was spearheaded by 250-pound Mike Schwager and end Chuck Logan. Quarterback George Bunda scored twice and fullback Pete Stamison rushed for 87 yards.

Robeson coach Roy Curry always called his team's loss to Rockford Guilford in the championship game of the 1982 state playoff "the most disappointing loss of my career." Robeson, led by Mickey Pruitt, Tim Spencer, Jimmie Spraggins, Tiffany Hamilton and Vincent Tolbert, led 12-9 and was attempting to run out the clock when Guilford recovered a fumble on its 38 with 2:35 left and scored the winning touchdown with 45 seconds to play. Robeson finished 11-2.

In 1989, Julian scored the most points in Prep Bowl history, crushing Fenwick 48-14 and marking the Public League's first victory in the series since 1979. Quarterback Torrance Garfield completed 13 of 26 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns, three to Mike Griffin, as Julian finished 14-1.

Could star-crossed Derrick Rose be ready to call it quits?

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AP

Could star-crossed Derrick Rose be ready to call it quits?

I'll never forget watching the reaction of Derrick Rose after he found out his hometown Bulls had won the rights to draft first overall in the 2008 lottery. Rose was smiling from ear to ear as he imagined the possibilities of leading the team he rooted for growing up back to greatness. And, the fact the Bulls faced such long odds to win the top pick made the news even sweeter for the soft-spoken teenager from Simeon high school.

Rose took the NBA by storm, turning in the kind of highlight reel plays Bulls fans hadn't seen since the Jordan era. He was named Rookie of the Year and matched a record set by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar by scoring 36 points in his very first playoff game against the Celtics. The future couldn't look brighter for Chicago's hometown hero.

Rose really took off in his first season playing for Tom Thibodeau, averaging 25 points a game while leading the Bulls to a league-best 62-20 record, in the process becoming the youngest MVP in NBA history. The Bulls lost to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals, but it appeared only a matter of time before Rose brought NBA championship to the city of Chicago.

But then came that fateful Saturday afternoon in April of 2012 when Rose ruptured his left ACL playing the meaningless final minutes of the Bulls' playoff opening win over Philadelphia. The Bulls would go on to lose that series while Rose headed off to a long and frightening rehab. The wunderkind suddenly robbed of his amazing gifts with one fateful misstep.

Rose sat out the entire 2012-13 season, drawing criticism from many fans and some media members who expected Rose to return after the mid-season All-Star break. Eleven games into the 2013-14 season, Rose was hurt again, this time with a season-ending right meniscus tear. Forget the flashy Adidas marketing campaign about Rose coming back better than ever, we would never see the explosive league MVP again.

Only Rose, his family and his trusted friends know the extent of the frustration that Derrick went through as he tried to prove to all the doubters he could still be one of the league's best players. Rose grew more combative with the media when questioned about trying to reshape his game given the new physical limitations. He would have one more knee surgery while a member of the Bulls, missing about six weeks in the 2014-15 season following another right meniscus tear.

Rose had one more heroic moment in a Bulls' uniform, banking in a three-point heave to give the Bulls a 2-1 series lead over LeBron James and the Cavs in the 2015 playoffs, but Cleveland would go on to sweep the next three games of the series, ending Rose's last chance to lead his hometown team to a championship.

Rose was traded to the Knicks in June of 2016 after the Bulls failed to make the playoffs, but after having a productive 2016-17 campaign in New York, Rose would suffer yet another knee injury, leading to another summer of rehab and doubt.

After talking openly with reporters about getting a shot at signing another max contract in September of 2015, two years before he would hit free agency, Rose could only land a veteran's minimum deal to hop on board with LeBron and the Cavs this season. He played fairly well in seven games, averaging 14.3 points on 47 percent shooting from the field, but then an injury sidelined him again, this time an ankle sprain.

Which brings us to Friday's bombshell that Rose was leaving the team to "re-evaluate his future in the NBA." Would the self-described "hooper" actually pull the plug on his NBA career at the age of 29? It seems like all the years of injuries, rehab and reduced effectiveness have taken a substantial physical and emotional toll.

In Rose's mind, he's still one of the league's elite players and should be held in the same regard as LeBron, KD, Steph, Russ and James Harden. Problem is, his body has already betrayed him, and the stat sheets that continually show more turnovers than assists are becoming too difficult to ignore.

Maybe some time away from the daily grind will convince Derrick he still loves the game and wants to get back with the Cavs to play whatever role is needed for a team with an excellent chance to get back to the Finals next June. Or maybe being with his son and family members during the holiday season will convince him that the cycle of injury and rehab is something he just doesn't want to endure anymore, even at the price of giving up the $80 million remaining on his shoe contract with Adidas.

Cavs coach Ty Lue says he's confident Rose will return to the team after some time away, and LeBron has been vocal in his support of Rose trying to re-establish his identity with a championship contender. My best guess is Rose will play again for the Cavs this season, but whether he wants to continue down the road of many injured stars, moving from city to city on minimum contracts, just might not be worth it anymore.

Can Cairo Santos be the kicker the Bears need?

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USA Today

Can Cairo Santos be the kicker the Bears need?

Since the Bears inserted Mitchell Trubisky as their starting quarterback, they've had 12 drives end with a field goal — an average of two per game. Connor Barth hit nine of those dozen kicks, which had an average distance of 38.4 yards, but all three of Barth’s misses came from 45 yards or longer. 

Barth’s missed game-tying 46-yarder in the final seconds Sunday against the Detroit Lions was the last straw for someone who hadn’t been consistent in his one and a half years in Chicago. So enter Cairo Santos, who made 89 of 105 field goals (85 percent) from 2014-2017 with the Kansas City Chiefs. More importantly: Santos has made 73 percent of his career field goals from 40 or more yards; Barth made 52 percent of his kicks from the same distance with the Bears. 

(73 percent from long range isn’t bad, but it’s not great, either: Philadelphia Eagles kicker and Lyons Township High School alum Jake Elliott has made 88 percent of his 40-plus-yard kicks; Harrison Butker, who replaced Santos in Kansas City, has made 90 percent of his kicks from that distance. Both players are rookies who were drafted and cut prior to the season.)

Santos was released by the Chiefs in late September after a groin injury landed him on injured reserve (he played in three games prior to being released). The injury wasn’t expected to be season-ending, and Santos said he’s felt 100 percent for about two weeks before joining the Bears on Monday. 

“It was a long and difficult battle, but I was confident that it wasn’t going to be a serious injury, I just needed time,” Santos said. “I dealt with it in training camp, I was kicking really well, I was the only kicker in KC, and I didn’t have the appropriate time to heal. I tried to play the first three games and it got worse, so my main goal was to get 100 percent. I’ve been kicking for about a month now and finally the last week been able to come here and visit with the Bears. The muscle is in good shape to come and take a full load of a week’s practice and games, so thankful the opportunity worked out.”

For Santos, these next six weeks can be an audition for him to stick in Chicago next year. If the Bears can look optimistically at the improvements made by the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams with second-year top-drafted quarterbacks, they’ll need to figure out their kicking situation sooner rather than later. Bringing in Santos provides a good opportunity for that down the stretch. 

“He’s kicked in Kansas City, which is a similar climate,” special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers said. “Their field is similar to Soldier Field. He’s played in some big games, played in some important situations and he’s, by and large, been successful in those situations.”