HAMMOND | John George came to Hammond about 1960 without knowing too much about the city's athletic legacy.
"When I got to Hammond, I didn't know a lot about the athletic tradition the city had," George said, "but it didn't take long for me to see how many great athletes Hammond had. It was a real eye opener."
George has spent the intervening years helping to build upon that proud legacy. As an assistant coach in football and basketball at Hammond High, he helped teach and guide countless young athletes to reach their potential. When he wasn't coaching, George could be found officiating on area diamonds and gridirons.
"I really enjoyed teaching kids how to do the fundamentals of whatever sport we were in," George said. "When you realize that you helped a kid learn something it was really a great feeling. And when the kids went on to become fine men and women and you think you might have had small part in helping them achieve their goals then that was a bonus."
George, a Munster resident who retired from coaching in 2004, recently learned of another bonus. He, and seven other people from Hammond''s proud athletic past, will be inducted as the latest class of the Hammond Sports Hall of Fame. The annual induction dinner will be held beginning at 5 p.m. on March 13 at the Hammond Civic Center.
"It's a great honor to be named to the Hall of Fame," George said. "I was fortunate to work along side many great coaches and players. To be inducted with such a great class makes it even better."
Other inductees include A. Jamar Banks, a standout Bishop Noll basketball player who graduated in 1989; Gavit graduate Dan Higgason, who excelled in track and cross country before graduating in 1983; and Nick Luketic, a fine football and track athlete at Tech in the early 1940s before moving on to Morton as a football and track coach of renown. Also being inducted are Annette (Peters) Huseman, a 1988 Gavit graduate who earned 13 letters in four sports before heading to Purdue Calumet and becoming a volleyball standout; the late David Neely, who won all-state honors as a football lineman at Hammond High (1956) before heading to Northwestern to continue his football career; Leslie Tyburski, a long-range sharpshooter at Gavit who graduated as the top scorer in the history of the girls program before earning four letters at Georgetown; and Rick Volbrecht an all-state running back at Morton who was a key contributor the Governors mythical state title team in 1965.
Tickets for the ceremony are $20 each and can be bought at the Civic Center, Purdue Calumet, Calumet College and the athletic departments of the city's high schools.
George, who also coached at Irving and Edison Middle Schools in Hammond, also served on Hammond Hall of Fame committee and said the talent pool is far from exhausted.
"We'll be inducting great people for years to come," George said. "It's been an honor to serve on the Hammond Hall of Fame committee."