WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Whiting's Tom Kujawa a true region guy

2013-07-22T19:00:00Z 2013-07-23T00:47:03Z Whiting's Tom Kujawa a true region guyMike Nieto mike.nieto@nwi.com, (219) 933-3232 nwitimes.com
July 22, 2013 7:00 pm  • 

For the first time in 51 years, Tom Kujawa will have weekends off.

The veteran coach and 1958 Whiting grad who has coached at several local high schools and colleges, said he knows what he will do with his well-deserved retirement.

His final coaching job was last year as an assistant football coach at Morton.

"I will go to a game on Friday nights and probably go see Morton and (head coach) Roy (Richards) play," Kujawa said. "I won't stay away."

As for Saturdays?

"I have only gone to like two Indiana State games since I graduated from there (in 1962), so I want to try to go to three or four home games," Kujawa said. "My wife (Joan) and I will make the trip, and we will enjoy it."

Kujawa will have no trouble finding where a school is because he has been to everyone of them either as a coach or opponent.

His first big trip outside Whiting was a special one. Kujawa was a member of the 1952 Whiting team which went to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. Whiting lost 10-7 to New Haven, Conn.

"First time I think I was on a train if you don't count the South Shore," Kujawa said. "I had the top berth. It was just fascinating for a kid from Whiting to go halfway across the country on a train."

Kujawa had success as an athlete and a coach.

He played football and baseball at Whiting. In football, he played under Ray P. Gallivan Jr. and his assistant Pete Kovachic, and was an all-state quarterback in 1957.

"Both great men who I learned a lot from," Kujawa said. "Coach Gallivan went against the bigger schools like Hammond High, East Chicago Roosevelt and East Chicago Washington.

"Coach Gallivan might have been the smartest football coach I've known," Kujawa said. "Pete Rucinski (East Chicago Roosevelt) had to be the hardest working one."

Kujawa spent one year at Chattanooga (now Tennessee-Chattanooga), the same school where former Whiting star of the 1920s and Chicago Bears player Dr. Joe Kopcha attended. Freshmen were not eligible then. Kujawa transferred to and played two years as a center/linebacker at Indiana State.

"I didn't mind moving to the line because I could block," he said. "Gallivan and Kovachic taught everyone how to block and tackle. We had to. Remember, we were a small school."

From Indiana State, he was the head coach of another small school -- Mansfield High School near Champaign, Ill. His team snapped a 29-game losing streak in its last game.

It was a summer trip to Whiting that Gallivan told him he wanted him back and called Mansfield's superintendent to ask to let Kujawa out of his contract for the next school year.

Kujawa coached at Whiting, then moved to Gavit in 1969 where he teamed with John Quinn. The 1973 Gladiators football team made the first IHSAA playoffs, losing to South Bend Washington.

Kujawa was also a successful baseball coach at Gavit, winning sectional titles in 1977 and 1978. His 1978 team won a regional.

"John was a great football coach and outstanding motivator of young men," Kujawa said. "He taught me many lessons about life and helped me become a good coach. I am indebted to him for that."

Kujawa said he felt like never worked a day in his life.

"It's just been a great life," Kujawa said. "I can't complain. My wife Joan, she has been great and supportive through the years."

Kujawa also coached football with Quinn at Thornton Community College (now South Suburban College), and under Mike Feminis at St. Xavier. He was an assistant at Andrean from 1983-93, then under Gordie Gillespie at the University of St. Francis in football and baseball.

The 1993 St. Francis baseball team won the NAIA World Series.

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