HOBART | The menu for Sunday evening’s Indiana Football Hall of Fame inductee dinner did not include bean soup.
If it had, Mike Deal would have passed. He grew tired of it as a kid when the meal was a Friday night pregame tradition.
“My dad was psychotic in his belief that if we didn’t eat bean soup then bad things would happen on Friday nights,” Mike Deal said.
The late Russ Deal taught his boys, Mike and Mark, to be great men on his way to induction into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 1976.
Eleven years and 11 months to the day of Russ’ death, Hobart grads Mike and Mark Deal joined their father in the Hall of Fame on Sunday night at a ceremony at Avalon Manor. Their induction is a historic first for the hall — the only father-son-son set of hall-of-famers.
The Deals led a seven-member induction class.
“This is the biggest (honor) I’ve received as a professional, as a player or coach,” Mark Deal said. “To be in a hall of fame that includes my father and now my brother is very, very special.
“I was very blessed to grow up in a house where my two dominant male role models were Mike Deal and Russ Deal.”
Mike Deal played for his dad at Hobart, but Russ moved into the administration before Mark, eight years younger than Mike, entered high school.
Mark is an assistant athletic director at Indiana University, and Mike is a talent scout who travels the nation for camps and consults with Under Armour and ESPN, among others.
Their post-graduate careers both led to playing careers at IU and then various coaching stops.
For eight years they were on the same sidelines — at Wabash College, Marshall and Kansas State — and in all their years and stops they recruited or coached 30 NFL players.
“We were just following in our father’s footsteps,” Mike Deal said. “Look at all the legends who’ve come in here before us.”
Russ Deal was “The Father of Hobart Football,” and Mike and Mark were among the program’s many sons.
Craig Buford, also inducted Sunday night, might as well have been a third Deal brother. He and Mike Deal were best friends when they played Little League baseball for Wilson’s Pharmacy.
A 1966 Hobart grad, Buford coached in the Hobart system for 25 years and was part of all four of the Brickies’ state championships in that span.
“This is such an honor; I’m humbled by it,” Buford said. “My resume isn’t as big as everyone’s, but that’s what Hobart assistants do — we stick around.”
Among those making a heralded return Sunday was Gerald Irons Sr., a Roosevelt grad who played 10 years in the NFL, six with the Raiders and four with the Browns.
A businessman of 31 years with an MBA and a middle school named for him in The Woodlands, Texas, Irons brought more than 100 family and supporters to Sunday’s festivities, including people from Texas, Pennsylvania and New York.
“This is a big night in my life and my family’s life,” Irons said. “I’m just delighted to be inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame. The committee did a wonderful job of making sure all the things tied together.”
The youngest of seven children, Irons weighed 14 pounds when he was born in the bedroom of his parents’ home. Earmon and Sycbrathia Irons raised him to use his gifts.
“I value their leadership and how they taught me,” Irons said.
Irons doesn’t do much with football any more, but his briefcase still has the tag bearing the Raiders logo and “86 Irons” on it from his old equipment bag.
Players and coaches weren’t the only honorees. Lew Wallace grad John Goss was inducted for a career as an official dating back to 1971. The highly decorated referee was introduced by mentor Rich Boer.
“To be an official in this fraternity is such a great honor,” Goss said. “There is a lot of mutual admiration and respect.”
Hammond grad John Boyajian, M.D., also went into the hall Sunday. He won 10 letters at Hammond and played quarterback for Wisconsin in the late 1960s. He went on to Indiana’s medical school and has practiced medicine ever since his 1972 graduation from there.
The last inductee, Wirt grad Randy Beisler, an 11-year pro and the fourth overall pick in the 1966 NFL draft, was unable to attend because he was in Europe on business.
Jamie Marsh, wife of longtime Munster coach Leroy Marsh, earned the Arnette Tiller Service to Football Award.