Former Andrean football coach Pete Billick was remembered by former players and colleagues as much for his love of competition, life and his players as much as for the Xs and Os.
Billick died Saturday at age 80.
"When you talk about the Andrean family, Pete was what it was about," Andrean athletic director Bill Mueller, a 1981 grad who played for Billick from 1978-80. "When I came back (to Andrean), he came up to me and made me feel at home.
"If we needed something, we would call him and he was very resourceful. He could get it done for us. He loved Andrean."
Tom Peller was a quarterback and a 1979 graduate. He said Billick influenced some of the things the Chesterton boys basketball coach does on the court.
"I remember the trust, confidence he had in me to let me call my own plays," Peller said. "We would meet and go over plays. I try to do the same with my players. We go over things in practice so they are able to make decisions in games."
Billick, a Gary native, was head football coach at Andrean from 1972-81 and was 58-42. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach under Nick Crnkovich.
Most remember Billick for overcoming throat cancer in 1972 and despite not having a voice, he was still able to coach.
"He never used that as an excuse," Crown Point athletic director Bill Dorulla, 1976 grad, said. "He was a good man who taught you more than football. A lot of people don't know that he was a Notre Dame grad and an architect.
"He was a tough guy and he taught you toughness."
Peller said he too had a lot of respect for his high school coach.
"I respected the fact that despite his handicap, he never let it stop him from coaching," Peller said. "He did not have a voice, but he was able to coach football."
Billick grew up on Gary's East Side in the Emerson neighborhood. He graduated from Chicago's Mount Carmel High School in 1951.
"He had a degree in architecture, but he chose to coach and teach at Andrean," Mueller said. "That says a lot right there about his love for working with kids."
He is survived by his wife, Mary Ann, and four children — Larry (Denise), Debbi (Greg) Ashcraft, Carol (David) Hamm, and Sandra (Jamie) Caylor. He is also survived by six grandchildren.