MIKE NIETO: The spirit of '76'

2013-09-26T19:00:00Z 2013-09-27T01:05:12Z MIKE NIETO: The spirit of '76'Mike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
September 26, 2013 7:00 pm  • 

You may have noticed the number "76" on the back of the T.F. North football helmets.

They are there in honor of former T.F. North football player Mirko Jurkovic, who died in January. The 1988 grad was a prep All-American and also became made All-American at Notre Dame.

North athletic director Dale Pietranczyk was a boyhood friend of Mirko and his brother John. The number was his idea, and he has talked about doing something special tonight at the homecoming game against Argo.

Meteors coach Artie Rogers said it is a great idea for his players to remember someone who became famous but started out in the same place they did.

"I thought it was a great idea what Dale did," Rogers said. "Mirko went to school here just like they did. I think it is important we remember him."

So does Pietranczyk and he wants to play up all T.F. North athletes who went on to the pros.

"Mirko was a friend of mine and a great guy," Pietranczyk told me earlier this season. "He was Cal City guy. He was a star at Notre Dame, but he never forgot where he came from and he was proud to say he went to T.F. North. His brother John is the same way."

What Pietranczyk wants to do is an idea he got from District 215 rivals T.F. South.

"Bob Padjen did a nice job with the banners in the hallway outside of the gym," Pietranczyk said. "Guys like Pierre Thomas, Curtis Granderson, Ken Kremer, Tom Baldwin. They played professionally and that looks so nice up there."

Pietranczyk would like to do the same at North, and he is looking for help tracking down some of the older athletes who may have played professionally.

He has Mirko and John Jurkovic, Mike Tomczak and Connie Zelencik, who played for Purdue and the Buffalo Bills. He also has Steve Wojciechowski, who pitched for the Oakland A's.

"I really want to honor our athletes, T.F. North grads, from the past," Pietranczyk said. "We have had a lot of them."

This could grow into a T.F. North Hall of Fame. An athlete does not have to have played professionally, but that is a start. It is a shame neither District 215 high school has its own formal Hall of Fame. I would guess a lot of people would come forward with not only potential candidates, but would help to get one started.

Each school could host its respective hall, and I guess it would start small in the halls outside the school's main gyms.

A lot of great athletes have played in these two schools and there certainly is a lot of tradition.

This column is solely the writer'sĀ opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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