Dave Mona's Vignettes: Northern Illinois

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northern illinois Dave Mona's Vignettes: Northern Illinois

PEOPLE WHO KNOW ME WILL TELL YOU I’M ONE OF THE MOST OPTIMISTIC GUYS THEY KNOW. VERY LITTLE UPSETS ME, AND I’M QUICK TO GET OVER THINGS.

BUT TODAY I’M UPSET. IN FACT I’M VERY UPSET AND IT’S OVER SOMETHING THAT HASN’T EVEN HAPPENED YET.

THE BIG TEN NETWORK IS IN THE MIDST OF NAMING THE 50 TOP ICONS IN THE HISTORY OF BIG TEN SPORTS. ONE OF THE REASONS THEY ARE DOING IT IS TO CREATE A BUZZ. THEY’RE LOOKING FOR PEOPLE TO TAKE ISSUE WITH THEM, AND I’D LIKE A PASS TO THE FRONT OF THAT LINE.

NOT BECAUSE OF SOMETHING THEY’VE DONE, BUT BECAUSE OF SOMETHING I’M CONVINCED THEY ARE GOING TO DO.

OK, TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND GIVE A LITTLE BACKGROUND HERE.

THEY’VE NAMED MORE THAN 30 ICONS SO FAR IN THEIR COUNTDOWN FROM 50. THREE GOPHERS, BOBBY BELL AT 40, NEAL BROTEN AT 31 AND BRONKO NAGURSKI AT 21, HAVE MADE THE LIST SO FAR.

JACK NICKLAUS WAS NAMED NUMBER 18 THIS WEEK.

ANYBODY WITH HALF A SENSE OF HISTORY KNOWS THAT FUTURE NAMES WILL INCLUDE MAGIC JOHNSON, JESSE OWENS, RED GRANGE, NILE KINNICK, STEVE ALFORD, DICK BUTKUS, ARCHIE GRIFFIN, ISIAH THOMAS AND MARK SPITZ.

I HAVE A STRONG FEELING THAT WE ARE GOING TO BE HEARING DAVE WINFIELD’S NAME SOON, AND THAT HE’LL BE THE FINAL GOPHER NAMED.

I’M NOT THE LEAST BIT UPSET ABOUT THE INCLUSION OF BELL, BROTEN, NAGURSKI AND WINFIELD. ALL EXCELLENT CHOICES.

BUT WHERE IN THE NAME OF GRANTLAND RICE IS PAUL GIEL?

I HAVE NO EXPLANATION FOR IT, BUT I’VE LONG FELT GIEL’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS HAVE BEEN OVERLOOKED. THERE’S NO QUESTION THAT HIS DECISION TO PURSUE A CAREER IN PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL RATHER THAN FOOTBALL DEALT A BLOW TO HIS FAME.

BUT DON’T TELL THIS TO ANYONE WHO EVER PLAYED WITH OR AGAINST HIM OR EVEN SAW HIM PLAY COLLEGE FOOTBALL AND BASEBALL. HE WAS AS GOOD AS IT GETS.

HE RUSHED FOR 2,188 YARDS AND PASSED FOR 1,922 MORE. HE WAS NAMED THE OUTSTANDING PLAYER IN THE BIG TEN IN BOTH 1952 AND 1953 AND WAS A TWO-TIME FIRST-TEAM ALL AMERICAN. HE WAS THE UPI COLLEGE PLAYER OF THE YEAR AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS BACK OF THE YEAR. AND HE FINISHED SECOND TO NOTRE DAME’S JOHNNY LATTNER IN WHAT WAS THEN THE CLOSEST HEISMAN TROPHY VOTING EVER. HE WAS TRULY SOMETHING SPECIAL.

WHEN THE FAMOUS SPORTS WRITER GRANTLAND RICE WAS ASKED TO NAME HIS ALL-TIME COLLEGE FOOTBALL TEAM, GIEL WAS ON THE FIRST TEAM.

HE WAS EQUALLY GOOD AS A PITCHER ON THE GOPHER BASEBALL TEAM, AGAIN EARNING ALL-AMERICA HONORS.

BRONKO NAGURSKI IS BEING HONORED HERE TODAY…AS WELL HE SHOULD BE.

NEXT WEEK THEY ARE RETIRING THE UNIFORM OF BOBBY BELL, AN HONOR THAT’S WELL DESERVED.

BUT WHAT I’M SAYING…PERHAPS IMPLORING…IS THAT WE NOT FORGET PAUL GIEL, ANOTHER ONE OF THE TRUE LEGENDS OF GOPHER SPORTS.

IN CLOSING, I’D LIKE TO QUOTE FROM THE 1953 ISSUE OF LOOK MAGAZINE IN ITS COVER STORY ON GIEL. THIS IS WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY:

“THERE ARE DREADFUL SIGHTS

THROUGH THE AUTUMN NIGHTS

THAT A BIG TEN COACH MUST DREAM.

BUT THE WORST OF ALL

IS A KID NAMED PAUL

WHO’S A ONE-MAN FOOTBALL TEAM.”

LET’S HEAR IT FOR PAUL GIEL.

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