Before the Great Depression, there was little talk in the Calumet Region about high school graduates going on to college. That changed when outstanding athletes began breaking through and were followed by others from the high same school.
The piping of players to college probably peaked in the late 1930s when Jimmy Angelich, Steve Stan and George Zivich almost simultaneously became legends at the University of Alabama. Not only did they provide the superstructure for solid teams, but made names for themselves and their school in the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl and others.
Angelich twice made All-State in high school, All-American mention in college, and played on three major bowl teams. Steve Stan was twice All-Conference as well as playing on three major bowl teams and attaining All-American honorable mention status. Zivich was twice All-Conference and All-American and appeared in three major bowl games. He also was an Indiana state wrestling champion at East Chicago Washington High School.
All three men are appropriately honored in the East Chicago Athletic Hall of Fame.
The pattern of a brilliant player’s breaking the barrier changed somewhat as coaches became the pipeline feeders. A good example occurred with Nick Cutlich, who starred for E.C. Washington in football and other sports, becoming a state wrestling champion.
Cutlich became one of the first regional athletes to attend Northwestern University, and became an All-American in many listings.
Following the path Nick carved out, other players came by the dozens, including John Zitko, who not only became a college All-Star in his own right, but sent many players from both E.C. Washington and Roosevelt to Northwestern.
Zitko was a stationary end and usually caught short passes, as well as blocking well to make holes for runners to zip through. Following Zitko at Northwestern were outstanding players like Cleo Diehl, an end and team captain.
Probably the peak year for the East Chicago-Northwestern connection was 1949, when Northwestern went to the Rose Bowl. On that NU team were such stalwarts as a guard by the last name of Nemeth, who also kicked extra points; Paul Barkal, a tackle; and other linemen. Buddy Balog also put in some time as a sturdy end.
The real star for Northwestern, however, was Art Murakowski. In high school, Art had been almost unstoppable. His most successful plays were off the spinner series.
That is, he would receive the ball from center Alex Arzumanian and would either hand it off to Edgar “Special Delivery” Jones, who more often than not would run off tackle with the ball, or spin and give it to the right halfback, who then would slash off left tackle. That wing person was either Bill Chamberlain or Frank Lucas.
A third option was that he would keep the ball after doing a full spin and then go into one of the holes in the line. Still another option was that he would keep the ball and throw a flat pass to one of two halfbacks. Alas, the day of the spinning fullback has passed into memories.