Goshen guard Colin Flowers will not stay silent — not after what happened to George Floyd. The 2016 Andrean alum speaks his mind on racial injustice in America, why black women can't be overlooked and how athletes can use their platforms for change as told to James Boyd:
Honestly, I was probably about 10 years old when I started to realize and learn that I may be treated differently because I'm black. And initially, it wasn't really because my parents warned me about it. It was from just observing everything. I remember being dropped off at the mall on Saturdays with my friends and then being followed around the store or food court — as if I was expected to commit a crime.
I was about 13 or 14 at the time. That's when I really started having those talks about race with my parents. After that, I always made sure I was aware of where I was and who I was with and how I may be perceived.
But even then, I never really felt the need to speak up until George Floyd was killed. That changed everything, and honestly, there's a simply reason why.
It didn't faze me.
I saw it and thought, "Well, this is an everyday thing." But when I began to notice how numb I was to the tragedy I had just witnessed, I got mad. I mean, how could I — as a black man — be numb to the death of another black man? That moment of self-reflection really showed me that I have to do something. I'm still trying to figure out what that exactly is, but either way, I'm more than willing to use whatever platform I have to push for change.
When I watched the video for the first time, it's like I already knew what was about to happen because we've seen it so many times before. That still didn't make it any easier, though. It was one of those things where I just watched it one time and never watched it again. It was really hard to take in because at the end of the day, I realized that could have been me or that could have been my dad or my cousins or my uncle. And the same thing could have happened to a black woman, as well, because they're also dealing with police brutality and racial injustice.
So although I'm blessed to not personally be in that situation, I still have to remember that George Floyd was a real person, and what happened to him shouldn't happen to anyone.
That's still somebody's son. That's still somebody's dad.
No matter what they're saying, I'm 100% certain that if that white police officer didn't kneel on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, George Floyd would still be alive. There is no doubt in my mind.
Anybody who is trying to justify what happened, they're basically saying that whatever mistake he made outweighed his right to live, and that's just not right. Obviously, if he was out here harming people or killing people then that significantly changes the situation. But he was arrested for allegedly using a fake $20 bill.
You mean to tell me his life is only worth $20?
I can't accept that.
At the end of the day, we know police officers have to enforce the law, but that doesn't mean those same laws don't apply to them.
I think that's one of the most infuriating parts about this entire movement. All we want is justice. That's why we keep saying, "Black lives matter." We have to. Otherwise some people will try to dismiss us, and honestly, they're already doing that.
What confuses me the most is that some of the white people I've been around that have treated me with respect and kindness can't even bring themselves to say it — to say "Black lives matter." I know for a fact they're not racist, so I think more than anything it's just complete ignorance when they try to correct me and say, "All lives matter."
Sure, that sounds good. But in reality, how can all lives matter if one race is being left out? Black people are getting killed every day at an alarming rate by those who are supposed to protect us, and some people won't even acknowledge it. That's where the gap is right now. It's with those people who just choose to ignore it.
There's nothing wrong with being a patriot and being proud of the United States. But you also have to be willing to speak up when the place you love so much isn't living up to its ideals.
So again, we have to keep saying "Black lives matter," until this country actually proves it. Of course America is a lot better than many other places, but that doesn't make it perfect. That doesn't excuse the over 400 years of oppression black people have dealt with here.
That's why I'm so invested in this. It's been long overdue.
In addition to George Floyd and other unarmed black men that have been killed by the police, I want to make sure black women like Breonna Taylor aren't forgotten either because they deserve justice, too. This fight for equality is for her just as much as it is for any other black person. It's still crazy to me that she was killed in her own apartment while she was asleep, and the three white police officers that did it are still roaming free.
How is that even possible?
I think cases like that are a big reason why this movement hasn't slowed down and why so many people feel compelled to take action. You have a lot of young white people out here right now protesting and going against what their parents and grandparents have been teaching them, and they're standing up for what's right. They want to see justice because they're tired of their peers being targeted.
And then for young black people, we're just tired of being mistreated and having to go through the same things our parents and grandparents have went through. I know for my specific age group, we're even starting to think about having families, and of course we want our kids to grow up in a world that's way different than the one that exists now.
Sometimes I wish I could just escape it all, and I'm thankful that basketball has served as an outlet for me. But during those times when I just really need to talk, as a black athlete, I'm very fortunate to play for a program that encourages me to speak my mind.
At Goshen College, coach Jon Tropf is as real as they come. Throughout this whole pandemic and amidst the ongoing protests, we've been talking back and forth constantly with other players on the team about how we can make things better. I never have to worry about keeping quiet in order to protect my basketball career, and I know that's not a luxury that a lot of black athletes have.
But like I said, even as a white man, coach Tropf is all for it. He's actually been trying to learn more. He's always asking me questions and asking me how I feel. Sometimes he'll hear something and be like, "What do you think about this, Colin?" And that mean's a lot. It shows that he truly cares, and that he's a real Christian. His faith matches his actions.
I think coach Tropf understands that athletes are much more than just the sports they play. They still have real lives with real problems. And as much as some people try to dismiss it, let's be honest. If a famous athlete speaks up about a particular issue, what they say will go a lot further than a regular Joe, especially if they have a lot of fans or kids that look up to them. It creates a lot more dialogue and potential change.
In this country, sports are often looked at as a common ground. All different types of people are able to come together for one common goal, and we see it all of the time when a team wins a championship.
So, if it works so well during competition, why can't it also work in life outside of it?
Sometimes I get frustrated because the solution seems so simple, yet nothing seems to be changing. But whenever I start to get overwhelmed, I just pray that God helps my faith take over my emotions, rather than having my emotions take over my faith.
No matter what happens, I know I can't give up. It's just not in my blood. My maternal grandmother, she was a part of the sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina. She got arrested and went to jail for what she knew was right. And then with my parents, they grew up in Gary when it was still pretty much a segregated city, so I just know that I have to keep it going.
We deserve more, and it's time for more.
Some white people will never see where black people are coming from, but we're not asking for anything special. All we want is justice.
Justice for George Floyd. Justice for Breonna Taylor.
Justice for all black people — even before they take their last breath.
Gallery: 50 famous Region athletes
Alex Karras became the best known member of a football-playing family, with a career as a dominant defensive lineman in the National Football League, followed by an acting career that included notable roles in "Blazing Saddles" and "Webster."
Karras was born in Gary on July 15, 1935. His father was a Greek immigrant and doctor; his mother a nurse. Karras' brothers Lou, Ted and Paul all played football, Lou and Ted in the NFL.
Karras graduated from Emerson High School and attended the University of Iowa, where he earned the Outland Trophy as the best interior lineman in college football. He was drafted with the 10th overall pick in the 1958 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions.
Karras played for the Lions from 1958-62 and 64-70. He was suspended for the 1963 season after admitting to gambling on NFL games. He was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and was named to the 1960s All-Decade NFL team.
His wider fame had its start in the major role he played in George Plimpton's book "Paper Lion," chronicling the writer's experience as an amateur quarterback for the Lions. When the book was adapted as a movie, Karras played himself opposite Alan Alda's Plimpton.
Karras appeared in a variety of movies and TV shows, including "Blazing Saddles" as the outlaw Mongo, who memorably knocked out a horse with a single punch; "Porky's"; the TV miniseries "Centennial," and his starring role in the sitcom "Webster," which he produced with his co-star and wife, Susan Clark.
Karras also worked as a commentator on Monday Night Football broadcasts from 1974-76, alongside Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford.
Karras had six children with his two wives. He died at age 77 on Oct. 10, 2012 in Los Angeles, suffering from kidney failure, cancer and dementia.
Before the likes of West Side star Dana Evans came around, it was Angela Hamblin who starred in the Steel City.
One of the greatest female players in Region history, Hamblin was a mega-star at now-defunct Lew Wallace. She finished her career with 2,053 career points. In her senior year, she averaged 26.2 points, 18 rebounds, 5.3 steals and two blocks a game. She finished third in the voting for Miss Basketball and was an Indiana All-Star.
She continued her basketball career at the University of Iowa, where she was an All Big-Ten player and earned Big Ten Tournament MVP honors her junior year.
Hamblin was drafted in the third round (23rd overall) by the Washington Mystics in the 1998 WNBA Draft. She was waived by the Mystics on June 10, 1998, and signed by the Detroit Shock on July 18 of that same year. Hamblin played six games for the Shock that season and was waived on May 6, 1999. She also played semipro ball until an Achilles heel injury several years ago ended her playing days.
She returned to coach at Lew Wallace in 2005 before winding up at Lake Central High School, after leaving Glen Park in 2009. She was part of the L.C. coaching staff that won the 2011 sectional championship.
As of 2014, Hamblin lived in Gary. She has two daughters, who are also talented players.
Whether it was basketball or volleyball, Becca Bruszewski found a way to stand out.
The 6-foot-1 Wheeler graduate was The Times Player of the Year and an Indiana All-Star in 2007, finishing second runner-up for Miss Basketball. In volleyball, she was a three-time all-state selection.
After averaging 19.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 2.8 steals per game during her four-year career at Wheeler, Bruszewski earned a scholarship to Notre Dame, where she graduated from in 2011.
She played in 136 games for the Fighting Irish and was a co-captain in her senior year, when N.D. fell to Texas A&M in the national championship game. She finished her Notre Dame career with 1,148 points and 549 rebounds.
Bruszewski has played professionally in Finland and Puerto Rico since college. She was an assistant coach for the Wheeler boys basketball team for three seasons. She’s currently the co-director of the Midwest Basketball Academy Select girls basketball program. She's currently the head girls basketball coach at South Bend St. Joseph's.
Bob Kuechenberg played in the Brickie Bowl and the Super Bowl. He was a Hobart High School legend playing for the Brickies in the early years of the Don Howell era, and a member of the Miami Dolphins for two championships, including one capping the team's 1972 undefeated season.
In between, Kuechenberg played on a national champion University of Notre Dame team.
Born in Gary on Oct. 14, 1947, Kuechenberg grew up in Hobart. His brother, Rudy, was also a star on the gridiron and played for the Chicago Bears as a linebacker.
Bob Kuechenberg played offensive and defensive line at the University of Notre Dame, and was a member of the 1966 championship team.
He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1969 but is best known as a member of the Miami Dolphins, for whom he played from 1970 through 1983, ending his career on the injured reserve list in 1984. During those years, he played in six Pro Bowls.
Kuechenberg's stellar career was acknowledged by his being a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame eight times, though he was never elected to the Hall.
After retiring from football, he became a businessman in Florida.
The Steel City’s Brandon Moore became an iron man of the NFL during a 10-year span for the New York Jets, during which he started 142 of 144 games.
Moore was born in Gary on June 3, 1980. He attended West Side High School and the University of Illinois, where he played defensive tackle for Coach Ron Turner and earned a degree in English.
Moore was not selected in the 2002 NFL draft, but the Jets signed him as a free agent.
He spent 2002 on the practice squad, then played his first game in 2003. He was shifted to offensive guard, and played on a line widely considered to be the league’s best in 2009.
In that year and 2010, the Jets advanced to the AFC championship game, losing to the Indianapolis Colts the first time and to the Pittsburgh Steelers the second.
Moore was chosen to play in the Pro Bowl in Honolulu after the 2012 season. Also that year, he was elected to the NFL Players Association’s Executive Committee.
After the 2012 season, the Jets chose not to re-sign Moore. He signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys, but decided to retire shortly after.
“I gave it my all,” Moore told The Times upon his retirement. “I didn’t shortchange myself or the guys around me.”
During his career, Moore returned to Gary to host football camps, and he has returned since then to speak with young people.
Moore lives in New Jersey with his wife and three children.
Bridget Pettis, an East Chicago native and 1989 E.C. Central High School graduate, has been a part of the WNBA since its inception in 1997.
The seventh overall pick of the Phoenix Mercury in the inaugural WNBA Draft, she played eight seasons in the association with the Mercury and Indiana Fever, appearing in a franchise-record 154 consecutive games with Phoenix. Over an eight-season career, Pettis scored 1,408 points in 228 games.
Pettis served as assistant coach with Phoenix from 2006-2009, winning two WNBA championships. She was director of basketball operations from 2010-11 with Phoenix and then an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2013. She joined the Tulsa Shock staff in 2014 and remains in that capacity with the franchise, which relocated to Dallas in 2015.
An Indiana All-Star at East Chicago, Pettis averaged 17.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game as a senior under Hall-of-Fame coach Bobbie DeKemper. She led the Cardinals to an 18-2 record and the first two sectional championships in program history.
After two years at Central Arizona Junior College, she went to the University of Florida, where she graduated from in 1993 with all of the school’s 3-point field goal records, including most in a game (eight). Her 15.2 career scoring average ranks sixth in Florida history. Pettis was an all-Southeastern Conference selection, helping the Gators to their first-ever NCAA tournament berth.
She was be inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame April 29, 2017.
The end point of the most iconic play in Valparaiso men's basketball history, Bryce Drew became a national name the moment he took down Ole Miss with a last-second shot in the 1998 NCAA Tournament.
Of course, that was just the beginning for the Valpo High grad and son of longtime Crusaders coach Homer Drew.
Bryce was chosen in the first round of the NBA Draft a few months later by the Houston Rockets and spent six season in the Association, finishing with 1,081 career points and 524 assists.
After his playing career ended, Bryce joined his father on the Crusaders bench and took over the head job when Homer retired in May 2011. He was named Horizon League Coach of the Year three times, winning the regular season title four times and the conference crown twice, before leaving to take over the Vanderbilt University program in 2016.
Bryce guided the Commodores to the NCAA Tournament in his first season, and had a career record of 164-108 following the end of the 2018-19 campaign.
As a basketball player, Cassie Kerns reached the mountaintop of collegiate athletics: She was able to call herself a national champion.
The 6-foot-3 Valparaiso High School graduate began playing hoops in seventh grade. By her senior year, she averaged 16.2 points and 7.5 rebounds for Valparaiso. She was a part of four sectional titles and three 20-plus win seasons for coach Greg Kirby’s Vikings. Kerns also lettered in volleyball and track in her prep career.
A two-time All-State choice in hoops, she was named Indiana Gatorade High School Player of the Year. Her standout career drew the attention of legendary head coach Geno Auriemma and the Connecticut Huskies. From 2005-2009, Kerns was a part of two Final Four teams and won a national championship during her senior season when the Huskies went 39-0.
While at UConn, Kerns wasn't a starter or a standout. She appeared in 91 games for the Huskies, playing 423 minutes and scoring 68 points.
"We've always had players like that, that were great seniors, great contributors, but not necessarily on the stat sheet,” Auriemma said to a local Connecticut newspaper before Kerns final regular-season game as a senior. "There are so many things. Cassie stands on the sidelines, and she explains things to guys who don't get it. She gives our team a little bit of an eclectic look. She is completely different than anybody else, just her attitude, and it is refreshing."
Recently, Kerns was a member of the Indianapolis-based "Pur The Company,” which is a cast of models, dancers and artists who perform at various functions at parties and clubs across the Midwest.
Kerns graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in photography from UConn. She currently lives and works as an artist and published model in Indianapolis. She has a website of her art work, mostly done in the medium of painting, at cassinovastudios.com.
Charlie O. Finley
He was as colorful and loud as the green and gold uniforms his Kansas City and Oakland Athletics teams wore.
Charles Oscar Finley, along with former Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns and White Sox owner Bill Veeck, saw baseball's reserve clause could create free agency, which it did. He and then-players association President Marvin Miller also realized the free agency could work to the owners' advantage. If the owners allowed all players to become free agents every year, it would match the supply with the demand.
Also part of his lore were Charley O the mule, orange baseballs, a pennant porch in Kansas City, the 1972 mustachioed players, the designated hitter and designated runners.
Finley was born outside of Birmingham, Alabama, on Feb. 22, 1918. When he was 15, the family moved to Gary. He graduated from Horace Mann High School on the Steel City's north side. Like many of his generation, he went to work at U.S. Steel's Gary Works and played semipro ball.
He became an insurance salesman but contracted tuberculosis and was in the sanitarium in Crown Point for 2 1/2 years. He then came up with a plan to sell disability insurance to doctors, which made him a millionaire.
He bought the Kansas City Athletics from the estate of Arnold Johnson in 1960. After bickering with Kansas City for a new stadium, he moved the A's to Oakland before the start of the 1968 season. In 1967, he "fired" Hawk Harrelson, and the Red Sox signed him, thus helping them win the 1967 American League pennant.
His teams won American League West titles from 1971 to 1975 and three straight World Series from 1972 to 1975. He lived on a farm outside of LaPorte. The barn had a big "Swingin' A's" logo painted on it that could be seen from the Indiana Toll Road. He paid the 1972 players to grow mustaches.
He lost Jim "Catfish" Hunter to free agency for not fulfilling part of his contract.
In 1975, Finley failed in trying to get rid of Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. The next year, Finely began a fire-sale of championship team before his stars declared free agency.
Finley tried to sell Vida Blue to the Yankees and Rollie Fingers and Joe Rudi to the Red Sox. Kuhn voided the deals, declaring they were "in the best interests of baseball."
Finley, who also owned for a short period the California Golden Seals of the NHL, also threatened Oakland officials to move the team to Toronto and Denver. He sold the A's in 1980.
He died on Feb. 19, 1996.
His playing career in the NBA may have only lasted 60 games, but basketball remains at the center of Chris Hunter's life. The West Side High School and University of Michigan graduate became the director of player personnel for coach John Beilein at his college alma mater in Sept. 2014.
A 6-foot-11 forward, Hunter played with the Wolverines for coach Tommy Amaker from 2002 to 2006. He averaged 7 points and 3.5 rebounds over 105 career games. The 2005-06 captain, he was part of the 2004 NIT championship and 2006 NIT runner-up teams.
From there, Hunter spent the next few years overseas, signing with teams in Switzerland, Poland and Belgium before coming back to the U.S. to play for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. In April 2009, Hunter was picked up by the New York Knicks, but was waived six months later before appearing in a regular-season game.
A 2009 Developmental League All-Star with the Mad Ants, he was acquired by the Golden State Warriors and remained there through the season. Hunter never made it back to the NBA, playing in the Summer League for the Knicks in 2010, signing with the Knicks in Dec. 2011, only to be let go shortly thereafter, and seeing time with the Los Angeles Clippers Summer League team in 2012. His career ended in Dec. 2013, when he was waived by the Mad Ants following his fifth stint with the team.
Darrel Chaney, a 1966 graduate of Morton High School, was part of the Cincinnati Reds' famed Big Red Machine teams of the 1970s, playing in three World Series (1970, 1972, 1975) and winning a title in '75.
A three-sport athlete while with the Governors, Chaney was named the Times Athlete of the Year in 1966.
He had several Big Ten football scholarship offers coming out of high school but signed with Ball State so he could play football and baseball. He passed on college after being selected by the Reds in the second round of the 1966 draft, signing for a $6,000 bonus.
Chaney made the Reds roster in 1969, splitting time at shortstop before settling in as a backup to slick-fielding Davey Concepcion. Chaney was traded to Atlanta after the 1975 season and in 1976 batted .252 with 50 RBIs as the Braves' regular shortstop. He was unable to hold the job over the next three seasons and was released at the end of the 1979 season.
In 915 career games, Chaney hit .217 with 14 home runs, 190 RBIs, 237 runs, 458 hits, 75 doubles, 17 triples and 10 stolen bases. He worked as a Braves radio and TV announcer in the early 80s.
Chaney is a past Chairman of the Board of the Major League Alumni Marketing and a Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at a retail services organization. A resident of Sautee Macooche, Georgia, the 69-year-old Chaney is a Christian and motivational speaker. Dan Hettinger wrote a biography on him called "Welcome to the Big Leagues . . . Every Man's Journey to Significance." His wife, Cindy, was also a Morton graduate.
David Neville, a 2002 Merrillville graduate, has impacted the sports of track and field at the high school, college and professional levels.
Neville won two medals at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. He ran on the gold-medal 1,600-meter relay team that posted a record time of 2 minutes, 55.39 seconds. He also garnered a bronze in the open 400, lunging across the finish line to place third in 44.8.
"It's all about sacrifice…the dive was sacrifice," Neville said on his website, davidneville3.com.
Neville's medals were the first by an Indiana University track and field athlete since 1960. While continuing his training in Los Angeles with fellow world-class sprinters, Neville worked as a personal trainer and gave individual lessons to area prep athletes. Neville was a certified fitness trainer and a member of International Sports Sciences Association.
After retiring from the professional circuit in March 2014, he became the head coach for the Taylor University men’s and women’s track and field programs in May 2014, moving back to Indiana with his wife, Arial, and daughter, Acaia. In April 2016, Neville participated in a reality competition series on FOX called "American Grit" with host John Cena and 15 other contestants. In military-themed challenges, along with four military heroes, Neville's team dominated the competition, three of the four making it to the finale.
Neville was a three-time Big Ten indoor and outdoor track champion in the 400 at IU before going pro with Team Nike as a junior. He completed his undergraduate work and earned a degree in Music Education from the Jacobs School of Music in 2007. Though he didn't run the 400 in high school until he was a senior, Neville was an instant success. He won the 2002 state title in 46.99, a mark that still stands 15 years later.
Before his No. 12 New York Knicks jersey was retired and began dangling from the rafters at Madison Square Garden, Dick Barnett was making history in his Hoosier homeland.
The future NBA star was born in Gary on Oct. 2, 1936 and attended Gary Roosevelt High School. In 1955, his graduating year, the Panthers finished second in the state behind future NBA star Oscar Robertson's Indianapolis Attucks.
It was the first time in U.S. history that two African-American high schools played against each other in the state championship game.
Barnett went on to play for Tennessee State University where he was a three time All-American and two time National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics most valuable player. He led Tennessee State to three consecutive NAIA National Championships.
Barnett was picked in the first round of the NBA draft by the Syracuse Nationals in 1959. He went on to play for George Steinbrenner's Cleveland Pipers in the American Basketball League, Steinbrenner's first professional sports team.
Barnett, an All-Star guard, played professional basketball for 15 years, nine with the New York Knicks. He was a member of the 1970 team that won the NBA championship against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Barnett was nicknamed "The Skull" and "Fall Back Baby" for his trademark jump shot in which he kicked both legs back.
After his career ended, he went on to earn a masters of public administration degree in urban public policy and a doctorate in education in superintendent and administration. He taught at the university level for a number of years before retiring and launching a career in motivational speaking.
Barnett is now 83.
Northwest Indiana native Don Larsen pitched a perfect game, in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, to beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956 — the only perfect game in World Series history.
Archibald McKinlay, a former Times columnist, wrote in 1990, “Don Larsen was born in Michigan City Aug. 7, 1929. A big kid, his tennis coach Harold Wegner said Larsen was built more for football than for baseball.”
“In 1943, his last year in Michigan City, Larsen played with the CYO baseball team, which compiled a 21-4 record and won the local Junior League crown.
Larsen mainly played right field, his hitting being better than his pitching.”
Larsen’s family moved to San Diego during World War II. His father signed him to a contract to pay with the then St. Louis Browns in 1947.
He had an undistinguished career in the minor leagues and the Browns, who eventually moved to Baltimore and traded Larsen to the New York Yankees.
By Oct. 8, 1956, Don Larsen was pitching for the Yankees in a World Series, facing the Brooklyn Dodgers, a National League powerhouse loaded with future Hall of Famers, including Jackie Robinson, the man who had broken the color line in major league baseball.
Larsen was playing with Yankee legends Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle. He faced only the minimum number of Dodges, 27, and didn’t allow a single on on base, the definition of baseball’s perfect game. He registered a strikeout for the final out of the game, a Yankee win.
Eddie Wineland is a mixed martial arts fighter who was the first World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight champion.
By 2017, he had compiled a professional record of 23-11-1 in more than 13 years of fighting.
Wineland was born in Houston in 1984, but grew up in Chesterton, where he graduated from Chesterton High School in 1991.
He became a firefighter, and is employed by the LaPorte Fire Department.
Wineland was a wrestler in high school, and began his MMA training at Duneland Vale Tudo. He fought in a variety of events in the Midwest before signing with World Extreme Cagefighting.
Wineland recently returned to UFC after sitting out more than a year recovering from a broken jaw. His jaw was wired shut after having been broken in a 2014 fight. Wineland told The Times his doctors advised him to reconsider a return to the cage, but in July 2015 he returned in a Chicago event.
Born in Merrillville, Eugene Wilson went on to star for the hometown Pirates, eventually leading to a collegiate and professional football career where he won two Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots.
At Merrillville, Wilson was a letterman in football and basketball. He was a two-time All-State selection and, as a senior, was named the Duneland Athletic Conference's defensive player of the year. In basketball, he was a four-year varsity letterman and starter, and was a two-time All-DAC selection.
He attended the University of Illinois, where he majored in speech communications. The safety finished his career with 176 tackles (139 solo, 37 assists), 11 interceptions and 60 pass deflections. He also had 93 punt returns for 896 yards and two touchdowns.
Wilson was selected in the second round (36th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft. He helped the Patriots win Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2003 and Super Bowl XXXIX in 2004. In '04, he recovered a fumble by Philadelphia Eagles tight end L.J. Smith before leaving the game after sustaining an injury on a kickoff. He also intercepted Ben Roethlisberger in a 41-27 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2004 AFC Championship.
In 2007 against the New York Jets, Wilson returned a Kellen Clemens interception for a touchdown, making him the 21st Patriot to score a touchdown that season, tying an NFL record. Wilson bounced around in 2008, signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on March 14 before being released Sept. 1 that same year. Two days after his release, he was signed by the Houston Texans, where he had an interception in a win over the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 20.
On February 18, 2011, the Texans released Wilson. He played 96 games in his eight-year career finishing with 399 tackles, four fumble recoveries, 41 pass deflections and 14 interceptions.
Born in East Chicago, E’Twaun Moore eventually went on to star for his hometown E.C. Central Cardinals before finding success at both the collegiate and professional ranks.
In Moore’s senior year, along with future Carolina Panthers football star Kawann Short, Moore led his team to the 2007 Class 4A state title game, scoring 28 points in a win over North Central, which starred 2007 Indiana Mr. Basketball and current pro Eric Gordon.
An Indiana All-Star, the E.C. product was ranked No. 35 in the nation by Rivals.com. He decided on Purdue University, joining Robbie Hummel (Valpo), Scott Martin (Valpo) and JaJuan Johnson as part of the nation's fifth- and sixth-ranked recruiting class, according to Scout.com and Rivals.com, respectively.
At Purdue, Moore became the third player in Big Ten history to tally 2,000 points (2,136), 500 rebounds (611), and 400 assists (400) in a career. He left Purdue as the third highest scorer in program history, trailing only Rick Mount and Joe Barry Carroll. Moore holds program records with most minutes played (4,517), 3-point field goals made (243), games won (107), games played (140) and starts (137). He led Purdue in scoring in each of his first three seasons (2008, '09 and '10), becoming the first player to do so since Troy Lewis in the 1980s.
A three-time first-team All Big Ten selection, Moore was chosen in the second round (55th overall) of the NBA draft by the Boston Celtics. He played just one season for the Celtics before being traded to the Rockets, where he was waived shortly after. He caught on with the Orlando Magic after that, playing 75 and 79 games in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, respectively, and averaged 7.1 points during that time.
On September 8, 2014, Moore signed a contract to return home to Chicago to play for the Bulls. He spent two season in Chicago, starting in 22 games in 2015-16 while averaging 7.5 points and shooting .452 from 3-point land.
In the summer of 2016, Moore signed with New Orleans as a free agent, where he's spent the past four seasons. He played in all 82 games, starting 80, with career highs of minutes (31.5) and points per game (12.5).
Fred "The Hammer" Williamson
One of the most well-known personalities to emerge from Gary is former NFL player-turned-actor/director/producer Fred “The Hammer” Williamson.
Born March 5, 1938, in Gary and a graduate of Froebel High School, Williamson's early path in life was tied to football. He played at Froebel, then at Northwestern University and then he went pro, taking the field for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs.
He earned his heavy nickname because he was known to hit hard, thus, “putting the hammer” on other players.
A colorful personality, Williamson found a niche in Hollywood, racking up credits in more than 60 roles — including many blaxploitation genre films — in everything from “Black Caesar” to “M*A*S*H” to playing a vampire-killing biker in “From Dusk Till Dawn” to the 2004 film version of “Starsky & Hutch.”
He also starred in “Original Gangstas,” a 1996 movie filmed and set in Gary.
Williamson has played the tough guy, has taken on action roles and has even shown off comedic chops over the years. He was a spokesman for King Cobra malt liquor, made a cameo appearance in a Snoop Dogg video and counted the late Gary mayor Rudy Clay among his best friends.
Williamson formed the production company Po' Boy Productions in the 1970s.
He was inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 1996 and is an active spokesman for the Wounded Warrior Project.
Basketball was the ticket to success and fortune for "The Big Dog," who grew up the son of an unmarried teenage mother in Gary.
He began playing organized basketball as a freshman at Roosevelt High School, leading the Panthers to three regionals, two semistates and one state final. Roosevelt won the state championship in 1991, when Robinson won the prestigious Mr. Basketball award and was named to the McDonald's All-American team.
Robinson went on to play at Purdue for two years, sitting out his freshman season due to academic eligibility and then declaring for the NBA Draft after his junior year. After earning All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore, he topped the nation in scoring at 30.3 points per game to go with an 11.2 rebound average. Purdue won the Big Ten reached the regional final (elite eight), but fell to Duke, an ailing Robinson (back) held to a season-low 13 points.
Robinson received the John R. Wooden and Naismith awards, becoming Purdue's first national player of year since Wooden won it as a Boilermaker in 1932. He left Purdue as its only player to amass more than 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 100 steals, 100 assists and 50 blocked shots in a career despite playing just two seasons.
Chosen with the first overall pick of the 1994 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, Robinson played through 2005, spending the bulk of his career with the Bucks before short stints with Atlanta, Philadelphia and San Antonio. He finished with 14,234 career points, averaging 20.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. His son Glenn III now plays in the NBA. Robinson, 46, has an estimated net worth of $20 million.
Glenn Robinson III
The son of former basketball star Glenn Robinson has made a name for himself in the same sport as his father.
He even did something pops never could: Win the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
A late bloomer who was a junior varsity player as a freshman at Lake Central, "Trey" emerged the following season, when he led the Indians in scoring. By his senior year, which saw Lake Central capture a sectional title, he had developed into a top recruit. He led Lake Central to a sectional title and chose to continue the region pipeline by committing to Michigan.
In his two seasons in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines enjoyed unprecedented success, winning 59 games in the span. One of three Northwest Indiana players on the UM roster, Robinson shined on the national stage, playing a key role in a run to the 2013 national championship game, where Michigan fell to Louisville. His stock rose to the point that he was projected to be a first-round draft pick, but he chose to return for his sophomore season.
The Wolverines reached the 2014 regional final, falling to Kentucky, and the 6-foot-7 Robinson declared for the draft. He was taken 40th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, but played sparingly and was waived late in his rookie year.
Philadelphia claimed Robinson two days after and he finished the season there, making his first professional start in the season finale. The 76ers didn't make him a qualifying offer and Robinson became a free agent. He played in the summer league with Atlanta, eventually singing a three-year contract to play back in his home state with the Indiana Pacers for just over $1 million per season.
Robinson entered the starting lineup in 2016, then became a national star in February when he claimed the NBA Slam Dunk championship.
He briefly played for the Detroit Pistons during the 2018-19 season before becoming a free agent and signing with the Golden State Warriors. He has started all 25 games he's played in and is averaging a career-high 11.5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.
It’s a long way from Gary to San Antonio.
The man famously known as “Pop” started his hoops career with the 1960 Gary Biddy Basketball All-Star Team, which finished third in the World Tournament, held at Gary’s Memorial Auditorium.
He attended Merrillville High School (1966) and graduated in 1970 from the U.S. Air Force Academy. He played basketball for four seasons at the academy, where he was team captain and leading scorer his senior year.
Upon completion of his required active duty, Popovich returned to Colorado Springs, where he became an assistant coach in 1973. In 1979, he became head coach at Pomona-Pitzer, staying there until 1988, when Larry Brown brought him on as an assistant with the Spurs.
The entire staff was let go in 1992, but after a year with Golden State, Popovich was brought back as general manager and vice president of operations by new ownership in 1994. After a 3-15 start to the 1996-97 season, he fired coach Bob Hill and took over the job himself, the start of what would turn out to be one of the most successful careers in league history.
Popovich is the longest active coach in both the NBA and all U.S. major sports leagues. He holds the record for most consecutive winning seasons (playoffs included) in NBA history at 22. Popovich has won five NBA championships — 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014 — one of only five coaches to do so. One of nine coaches to have won 1,000 games, he was selected NBA Coach of the Year in 2003, 2012 and 2014.
In 2015, Popovich was named the next head coach of the U.S. national team. He takes over duties from Mike Krzyzewski, who led the U.S. to its third straight gold meal in the 2016 Olympic Games.
At one point during his time at the Air Force Academy, Popovich reportedly considered a career with the Central Intelligence Agency. The decision to stay in basketball turned out to be a profitable one. On top of the all the titles and accolades, the 70-year old and renowned media foil has a net worth estimated at $30 million.
Hal Morris, a 1983 Munster product, may have been best known for his unusual hitting technique, where his feet continuously moved until the pitcher threw the ball, but it certainly served the spray-hitting lefty well.
Morris hit .304 over his career with the Yankees, Reds, Royals and Tigers, and also made it onto a Wheaties cereal box.
Morris was selected by the Yankees in the eighth round of the 1986 amateur draft and debuted with the Yankees on July 29, 1988, against the Blue Jays, singling to left field against reliever Duane Ward in his first at-bat.
On Dec. 12, 1989, Morris was traded to the Reds and helped them win the World Series in 1990. He hit .340 on the year, which, at the time, was the third-highest batting average by a rookie in 50 years. In 1991, Morris finished one point behind Atlanta's Terry Pendleton for the National League hitting crown at .318. In 1994, Morris was hitting .358 with 120 hits at the All-Star break, but was not selected to the team. Thus, until Casey McGehee in 2014, Morris was the last player to be leading his league in hits at the All-Star break and not make the team.
Morris compiled a 32-game hitting streak from Aug. 26, 1996 to April 3, 1997, the longest by a first baseman in the modern era of Major League baseball. His .319 average at Riverfront Stadium was the highest by any Reds player in the history of the stadium, quite a feat considering the likes of Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench played there.
He spent time with the Royals, Reds and Tigers before retiring Nov. 1, 2000. Since 1961, the start of MLB's expansion era, Hal Morris and Derek Jeter are the only players with a minimum of 10 seasons in the majors who collected a game-ending RBI in their final home game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Morris did it with the Tigers with a pinch-hit single Oct. 1, 2000, giving his team a 12-11 win over the Twins. For Morris, it was also the final at-bat of his career.
After retiring, Morris continued his education by graduating with an MBA from Stanford. He has been involved in a variety of real estate and technology ventures, and has been an advisor to Montara Capital Partners, a boutique private equity firm focused on 1031 exchange and tax advantaged real estate transactions. Before joining the Angels in November 2011, he was a professional scout for the Pirates for two seasons and the Red Sox for one. He served as the pro scouting director for the Angels from 2011-2016.
"Hal is often the smartest guy in the room, and you'd never know it," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said in an MLB.com article in 2014.
Morris attended Michigan, where the Wolverines won the Big 10 championship in 1984 and 1986, advancing to the College World Series in 1984. He set records for slugging percentage and batting average while playing alongside the likes of Barry Larkin, Chris Sabo and Jim Abbott.
At Munster, Morris captained the tennis, basketball and baseball teams in his senior season. He was an Indiana All Star in baseball in 1983 and was named the MVP of the annual North-South All-Star Game in Jasper, finishing 8-for-9 in the series.
Maybe it was fitting that a man nicknamed "The Hurricane" was the football coach of a high school nicknamed the Golden Tornado.
Harry Szulborski got his nickname for the way he went through college defenses from 1946-1949 while starring at Purdue.
The Detroit native spent his teaching and coaching career at Emerson High School on Gary's East Side. He spent one year at Wirt after Emerson closed following the 1981 school year.
He said he enjoyed being involved in the Gary athletic scene. Szulborski not only coached football, but started the school's wrestling program, coached golf for six years and baseball for 10, and was an assistant track coach for 10 years. He also learned under hall of fame coach Art Rolfe.
"Art was a great football man, a great coach," Szulborski said. "He hired me as an assistant and he taught me a lot about coaching."
During Szulborski's tenure, Gary's football coaches were a "who's who" of coaching legends in Rolfe at Emerson, Don Elser (Horace Mann), Leonard Douglas and Claude Taliaferro (Roosevelt), Eddie Herbert (Lew Wallace), Walt Nabhan and Jack Owen (Wirt), Gene Johnson (West Side), George Maddock (Froebel), Ralph Brasaemie (Edison), Ricahrd Dornbos, Ray Lincolnhol, Nick Crnkovich and Pete Billick (Andrean), and Bob Stearns (Tolleston).
"We had a good group of coaches all over the city," Szulborski said. "We loved to compete against each other and Gary football was good. You had to be ready to play every week. Gary had a great school system, great athletics and I am glad I had a chance to be a part of it."
Szulborski took over at Emerson as its enrollment started to decline. With the opening of Andrean, Emerson lost many athletes from St. Luke's, less than a football field away from Emerson, which was the city's first high school. Even St. Luke's closed its doors after the 1968-69 school year.
"I coached great kids and I loved coaching," "Szulborski said. "I had great assistants and we always tried to be competitive."
His 1972 team tied Andrean and West Side for the Northwestern Conference title, his only championship as head coach of the Golden Tornado or Norsemen as they were also called.
Szulborski's name was already known as he was a two-time honorable mention All-American at Purdue and led the nation in rushing in 1947 with 851 yards. he led the Big Nine (now the Big Ten) in rushing in 1947 and again in 1948 with 989 yards. He left Purdue as its all-time leading rusher with 2,476 yards, a record that stood until Otis Armstrong broke it in 1972.
"We had a lot of fun at Purdue," Szulborski said. "I know I had a great line and you don't get those yards without good blocking. I don't care how fast you are."
Szulborski had 11 100-plus yard rushing games in an era when teams played nine games.
How did a Detroit kid from Pershing High School get away from Fritz Crisler?
"There were some Purdue alums in Detroit and I took a visit and liked Purdue," he said.
He played two years in the NFL, one for the Green Bay Packers (1950) and the next year with the Detroit Lions.
"I wish it would have turned out differently, but I had some injuries," Szulborski said. "I thought things might be different at Detroit, but they weren't."
Irv Cross was an outstanding football and basketball player and track athlete at Hammond High School and was The Times' 1957 Male Athlete of the Year.
He went on to star at Northwestern University under Ara Parseghian and played 10 years in the NFL.
The 1987 Hammond Sports Hall of Fame inductee starred on a bigger stage (and TV screen) upon retirement from the NFL. In 1975, he teamed with Brent Musburger and 1971 Miss America Phyllis George on CBS-TV's "NFL Today," which was the first network pregame show to go completely live.
"That was the key — live. You were looking live at everything," Cross said in a 2009 Times interview. "NBC, they had taped segments, but we went live, and it was tough with several games' halftimes coming within 30 seconds of each other. You had all these monitors.
"I definitely can say we set the standard for pregame shows."
Cross set the standard as he was the first African-American to co-anchor a network sports show, and George was one the first females to do the same.
"We were named 'The Mod Squad' after the TV show," George told The Times in 2009. "We were. We were the first to not only do a live pregame, but we were the first to have a black and a woman co-anchoring a network football show."
George said she has kept in contact with Cross through the years. She remembers him not only as a professional, but as a friend.
"Irv is the greatest," George said. "He is just a class person. Not only was he a great football player, he was a great on-air person.
"He was also just a great guy. Irv made me feel real comfortable."
Cross was honored in 2009 as that year's recipient of the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award at a dinner in Canton, Ohio. He is the first African-American to receive the award.
Cross was the seventh-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1961 NFL Draft and played for both the Eagles and Los Angeles Rams.
Cross said it was a shock when he got the call from Joe Horrigan of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He said he got his start in sportscasting while still in the NFL. WIBG sports director Bill Emerson asked him to do drive-time sports on the rock 'n' roll station.
"I had the hottest jocks on both sides of my sports shows, and that opened the door for me to go to KYW (Channel 3) and do TV," Cross said. "They were an NBC station and sports was the last thing on, so I was a lead-in to Johnny Carson and that was a big plus for me."
His brother Ray, also an outstanding athlete and later a successful educator and coach n the Hammond school system, said his brother would talk into a microphone in their boyhood home.
Cross and his wife, Liz, reside in the Twin Cities. He is retired as the executive director of the Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Central Minnesota.
Lake Central High School football standout Jared Tomich followed his success on the local gridiron with two national championships at the University of Nebraska, before an NFL career that included playing for the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers.
Tomich was born on April 24, 1974, and was raised in St. John.
He joined the University of Nebraska football team as a walk-on for legendary coach Tom Osborne. Tomich sat out the 1992 season and was red-shirted for the 1993 season.
Tomich made the most of the next three years. A defensive end, he was a member of the 1994 and 1995 national championship Husker teams, and was an All-American in 1995 and 1996.
Tomich earned a degree in communications from Nebraska. He was inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
Tomich was drafted in the second round of the 1997 NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints.
He played in 16 games each of his first two seasons, then eight and 15 games in his final two years with the Saints.
Tomich was a member of the Green Bay Packers in 2002, though he played only two games.
Tomich returned to Northwest Indiana to make his home with his family. He has engaged in charitable work, joined several local boards, and operated a small chain of health clubs. The latter encountered legal and financial difficulties and are no longer in operation.
Jason Repko, born in East Chicago in 1980, has enjoyed a 17-year career in professional baseball.
His father Ed and mother Anita were East Chicago Roosevelt graduates. Ed graduated in 1972 and played baseball under former Rough Riders coach Joe Rivich. Anita graduated in 1975.
The Repko family lived in Lake County and the West Coast during his childhood. Jason attended school in Lowell at age 8 before returning West.
Jason Repko was drafted by the Dodgers in the first round of the 1999 draft. Repko began his professional life as a shortstop and battled injuries the next two seasons before converting to the outfield in 2002, when he began a steady climb through the L.A. farm system.
He made his major league debut on April 6, 2005 for the Dodgers at San Francisco. His first home run came four days later, a game-tying two-run shot in the seventh against Arizona.
The Dodgers released Repko in 2010. He also spend big league seasons with the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox. He spent the 2016 season playing for the York Revolution in the independent Atlantic League.
Region residents have watched Jeff Samardzija's rise to athletic stardom since his days at Valparaiso High School.
The righty nicknamed "The Shark" was born Jan. 23, 1985 to Sam and Debbie Samardzija. Debbie taught at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Valparaiso.
He attended Valparaiso High School, where he played both football and baseball. Samardzija's mother died in 2001 from a rare lung disease when Jeff was still a teen.
Samardzija was named the 2002 Times Offensive Player of the Year while playing for Valparaiso High School as a junior. He graduated in 2003 and went on to play football and baseball for the University of Notre Dame, where he was named an all-America wide receiver.
Samardzija was selected in the 5th round amateur baseball draft by the Cubs in 2006. He made his Major League debut in July 2008 at the age of 23.
He was named to the All-Star team in 2014, but was ineligible to play because he was traded from National to American League (Cubs to Athletics) prior to the game. He wore a cap and uniform without a team designation for the festivities.
Later that year, he was traded to the White Sox.
"I was brought up in Northwest Indiana. We came to a lot of games, and my family bought tickets to sit in that second deck," Samardzija said when he joined the White Sox in 2014.
Samardzija returned home to Valpo in May 2015 to hand out 7,500 White Sox ticket vouchers to every elementary school student in Valparaiso Community Schools.
During the visit, he reminisced about time spent with his mother while she worked at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, where a memorial garden grows in her memory.
"It seems like yesterday I was running around here and now I look and realize I just turned 30," he said.
His brother, Sam Jr., serves as his agent.
After an 11-win season for the Sox, Samardzija became a free agent and was picked up by the San Francisco Giants in December in a five-year, $90 million contract. He pitched against the Cubs during their postseason run to a World Series title, losing Game 2 of the NLDS.
Jerome Harmon is a slam dunk legend who even impressed Michael Jordan.
The Gary native was a shooting guard for Lew Wallace High School. He graduated in 1986 and went on to play for the University of Louisville.
Harmon was the first person ever to win the McDonald's All-American Game slam dunk contest in 1987 and saw Michael Jordan in the locker room afterward.
"All he said was WOW!" Harmon told The Times in a 2013 interview. "That meant a lot to me."
Harmon went on to play basketball for the University of Louisville, but was sidelined by back surgery. He came back but left as an early NBA entry in 1991, but was not drafted.
He played 10 games as a free agent for the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1994-95 season before beginning a 12-year run playing professional basketball in Europe.
Jim Bradley was touted throughout his lifetime as one of the greatest athletes to emerge from East Chicago, but his untimely death raised questions in the eyes of some about continuing the accolades posthumously.
Bradley was born March 16, 1952 and attended East Chicago Roosevelt High School. The power forward was a member of tyhe Roosevelt "Rough Riders" state champs in 1970 which won the title game 28-0. Bradley went on to be named the MVP of the Midwestern Conference in 1972.
Bradley was scouted by hundreds of universities and chose Northern Illinois University before being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1974.
Bradley was quickly touted as the next Magic Johnson and made the cover of Sports Illustrated. He went on to play for the Kentucky Colonels and Denver Nuggets in the American Basketball League.
After his career ended, Bradley was gunned down on a Portland, Ore. street on Feb. 20, 1982 at the age of 29. The area was notorious for drug activity, but friends and family member insisted Bradley was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.
The questions surrounding his death led some officials to question whether he should be inducted into the Indiana Sports Hall of Fame
After an outpouring of public pleas, the hall inducted Bradley in 2010. That same year, East Chicago dedicated a portion of Melville Avenue in his honor by naming it Honorary James Arthur Bradley Avenue.
John 'Jack' Chevigny
John “Jack” Chevigny is a Notre Dame legend who now is on the South Shore Wall of Legends at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond.
He scored the touchdown for Notre Dame that inspired the Ronald Reagan line, “Win one for the Gipper,” in honor of Notre Dame football legend George Gipp. “That’s one for the Gipper,” Chevigny is said to have yelled as he crossed the goal line.
Chevigny was born in Dyer and graduated from Hammond High School. At Notre Dame, he was one of coach Knute Rockne’s best blocking backs in the 1920s.
Chevigny served as an assistant football coach under Rockne from 1929 to 1931. Notre Dame was undefeated those two seasons and won the national championship both years. After Rockne was killed in a plane crash, the year Chevigny received his law degree, he left Notre Dame to coach the Chicago Cardinals one season. The Cardinals record was 2-6-2 that year.
The next season, he was head coach at St. Edwards University, then the University of Texas in 1934. His Texas Longhorns team defeated Notre Dame, 7-6.
Chevigny left his coaching job to become deputy attorney general in Texas, then worked in the oil industry.
He tried to enlist in the U.S. Army during World War II but was rejected because of a football injury. He was then drafted at age 36. He was in the Army only a matter of months before receiving an honorable discharge so he could serve in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves.
Chevigny coached the Camp Lejeune Leathernecks — he had renamed the team — to a winning record before requesting overseas duty.
He was killed in action while serving as a Marine during the early days of the invasion of Iwo Jima. Chevigny is buried in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Fast food entrepreneur Junior Bridgeman couldn't believe what he heard while working next to an employee one day, a young man who seemed quiet and distant.
"How's it going?" asked Bridgeman, trying to break the ice.
The kid shrugged as if to say "What is it to you?"
Bridgeman wondered how life had been treating his employee and was told, bluntly: "Today is no different than tomorrow's going to be or the day after that."
Most employers might shake their head regretfully and walk away. But the 1971 E.C. Washington grad and former NBA star is not your ordinary boss.
Bridgeman helped lead unbeaten Washington to the 1971 state basketball championship, then starred at Louisville before enjoying a productive 12-year NBA career, much of it with the Milwaukee Bucks.
As CEO of Bridgeman Hospitality Group, he owns 244 Wendy's franchises and 120 Chili's franchises — more than 400 stores counting the Perkins Restaurants and Fazoli's he also runs.
That's 18,000 employees and all are an integral part of Bridgeman's food empire. So much, in fact, his businesses offer health care and educational assistance to help workers improve their lifestyles.
Years ago, he established a charter school in Milwaukee and then a boys school in Louisville, where he claims there are 1,000 homeless children.
Some, like that quiet kid, can be impossible to reach.
"He told me what he was doing ... he was in the illegal drug business," Bridgeman recalled. "He's just a teenager, so your heart breaks because you know where that life can lead. He was not ashamed to tell me 'This is the only reason I'm here.'"
The boy wanted to have a W-2 form to hide his income.
"As I stood there and listened to him, I wondered just how did it get to this point? How did it become so acceptable that he had no qualms about telling me and that it had become sort of a badge of honor for him out in the community," Bridgeman said.
"He told me the only way that changes is if maybe he moves up in whatever hierarchy they had, but he did not see himself in a situation that would be improving at all."
Bridgeman spoke in November 2014 at a Gary Chamber of Commerce luncheon. He spoke about having dreams, a backup plan, specific goals, and the importance of a solid education.
Most kids will never become professional athletes, the odds are heavily against them, but education or technical training can open countless doors to a fulfilling life.
"Not everybody has the ability to get a four-year degree or an advanced degree but you can become a plumber or electrician and be successful," Bridgeman said. "It's the training that matters."
Today, his net worth is estimated at almost $600 million.
The big, bold and colorful mural on the outside wall of Columbus Drive Gyros hits you like a storm surge while entering the building.
It’s a life-size painting of hometown hero Kawann Short, defensive tackle for the Carolina Panthers, in his No. 99 uniform and holding the Super Bowl 50 trophy triumphantly in his right hand, an event that was not to be.
Throughout Northwest Indiana, there were banners, posters and pep rallies throughout the city in support of the E.C. Central grad. Social media kept him in touch daily with the Region, as if he were standing at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Indianapolis Boulevard, taking it all in.
One particular banner stretched across Columbus Drive at Alder Street, proclaimed: “East Chicago is proud of our hometown Kawann Short. We are East Chicago — Super Bowl 50. Go Panthers!”
That 10-by-10-foot mural at Columbus Drive Gyros was painted Jan. 28 by the artist known as Fhat Cousins, who worked on his labor of love for eight hours.
“I’m 6-foot, and I still have to look up at it,” said restaurant owner John Troupis. “It’s a win-win for the city because it went viral on social media. People are always pulling up, taking pictures of it.
“Kawann loved it and ended up sharing it (on social media). It lit a fire under everybody to join the celebrating.”
E.C. Central and middle school football players watched the 2016 Super Bowl in the high school’s mini-theater, with a pre-game video message delivered by Kawann Short.
“I’ve seen so much of the love coming from home. It’s sincere and coming from the heart,” he said by phone prior to the game. “East Chicago isn’t very big. It has only about 30,000 but they respect people who get out and do things with their lives.
“And when you do, they gladly jump on board and support you 100 percent.”
The 44th overall pick in the 2013 draft, Short went from five sacks combined over his first two seasons to an eye-popping 11 in 2105-16 — a team record for defensive tackles — before the NFL championship game.
But what really jumps out to students of the game is 11 sacks, 55 tackles and three forced fumbles by a 4-3 interior lineman who also is a fierce pass rusher on the edge.
Short has transformed from a player who flashed across the screen once a game to a surefire Pro Bowler.
“I’m just out here doing what I’m doing and trying to help this team win. It’s the only thing I can ask or work for,” said the 6-foot-3, 315-pound Short.
Short has partnered with Athletes for Charity, HealthLinc and the East Chicago Fire and Police Departments to create academic incentives to benefit youth. He’s launched a Youth Literacy Project to deliver books and academic incentives to children in need of encouragement when it comes to reading and academic achievement.
“They always come back. They’ve never forgotten about their city and that’s what’s so great,” said Steve Segura, multimedia director of East Chicago.
Getting involved, sending a positive message, can work wonders in any environment.
“Some guys play this game 16-17 years and haven’t been to the Super Bowl. I’ve played three years and I’m here,” said Short, who had a video message for the city’s football players watching Super Bowl 50 game at the high school:
“I’ve been in your position and in the same seats many years ago. I had a vision and a dream to be where I am today,” Short said. “East Chicago ... you guys have been behind my back 100 percent. I appreciate you guys for being there, showing love and support. You’ve been amazing. Have a blessed day.”
As kids, E’Twaun Moore and Short often stopped at Columbus Drive Gyros for a quick bite after school. It was a popular hangout with their basketball teammates.
E’Twaun was the star point guard and Kawann a power forward on the Cardinals’ 2006-07 team. Owner John Troupis recalled how the players, prior to sectionals, had assured him they were going to win the 4A championship.
He made a deal. Win state and it’s all you can eat.
The Cardinals advanced through the tourney — knocking off Lowell, Munster, South Bend Adams, Valparaiso and Marion — for a shot at Indianapolis North Central, featuring high school phenom Eric Gordon.
E.C. Central prevailed, 87-83.
It wasn’t long after when Moore and Short, holding the trophy, led the Cardinals into Columbus Drive Gyros and said: “We’re really hungry!’”
East Chicago native Kenny Lofton enjoyed a 17-year career in Major League Baseball as a skilled center fielder and a premier lead off man and base stealer.
Lofton graduated in 1985 from East Chicago Washington High. He attended the University of Arizona where he was torn between playing baseball or basketball, Lofton told Times sportswriter Glenn Minnis in 1993.
“I didn’t really have a preference,” he said. “I loved them both and if it was left up to me, I’d be playing both professionally right now.”
The Houston Astros drafted the 25-year-old speedster in the 17th round of the 1988 draft. He recorded the most triples (17) of any professional baseball player on any level while playing for Houston’s AAA team in Tucson, and then being brought up to the majors in 1991.
The Astros traded him to the Cleveland Indians where Lofton hit .285 in his first full year, setting an American League rookie record by stealing 66 bases. He had 15 doubles, eight triples, five homers and 42 RBI, and was second in voting for AL Rookie of the Year.
By 1993 he was chosen the AL’s “Most Exciting Player,” “Best Bunter” and “Fastest Baserunner” in a poll of major league managers.
Lofton had three tours of duty with the Indians and played single seasons with the Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angels Dodgers; the White Sox, the San Francisco Giants, the Cubs, The Pittsburgh Pirates and Texas Rangers.
Northwest Indiana baseball great Dan Plesac told The Times’ Al Hamnik, “Kenny had a real good idea of the strike zone. He wasn’t afraid to take pitches, he could bunt, he could hit in the alleys and he had a little bit of pop, too.”
Lofton last worked in the majors in 2007. He now owns his own television production company, FilmPool Inc.
Larry Bigbie, a 6-foot-4 Hobart native, played football and baseball for Hobart High School.
He received the school's award for Most Valuable Offensive Back in 1995. Football Coach Don Howell said at the announcement that while he didn't like to answer questions about who his best player at a certain position is, that Bigbie, who made both all-area and all-state teams, was "one of the best quarterbacks we ever had."
Bigbie was recruited by and signed with the Ball State University Cardinals where he excelled as an outfielder.
The Baltimore Orioles picked him in the first-round and 21st overall in the college 1999 draft. His professional career began in minors at Bluefield, W.Va, of the Appalachian League.
Bigbie played six seasons from 2001 to 2006 in the majors with the Baltimore Orioles, Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals.
Though injured, he played with the Cardinals' 2006 World Series championship team. After hitting .240 with St. Louis that year, Bigbie returned to the minor leagues under contract with the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers before going to Japan where he played the 2008 season with the Yokohama Bay Stars in the Japanese Central League.
He also played the 2010 season for the Edmonton Capitals of the Golden Baseball League in Canada.
LaTroy Hawkins has enjoyed more than two decades in professional baseball, a career that began when the Minnesota Twins chose him in the seventh round of the amateur draft after he graduated from Gary West Side High School in 1991.
LeRoy Kirk, who coached LaTroy at West Side, once said, "I saw the same determination in whatever LaTroy got involved in, whether it be basketball or baseball. He gave it 110 percent."
With a fastball clocked at 96 mph, Hawkins struck out enough of the opposing batters to become the first player in Minnesota Twins history to be named the organization's minor-league pitcher of the year twice.
The right handed pitcher spent several seasons with Twins farm clubs, including Fort Myers, Fla. and Elizabethton, Tenn. When he arrived in Minnesota, he worked out of the bullpen, becoming the team leader in in the smallest number of earned runs allowed in 2002.
He had the reputation of being one of the game's best set-up men. He was pursued by at least eight teams when he left Minnesota and joined the Chicago Cubs in 2004. Cub fans soured on him following some blown saves and the Cubs traded him to San Francisco the following year.
He also spent time with the Baltimore Orioles, the Colorado Rockies, the New York Yankees, the Houston Astros, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Anaheim Angels, the New York Mets and the Toronto Blue Jays.
Hawkins became the 13th pitcher in August 2015 to record a save against all 30 Major League Baseball teams, completing the achievement against the Twins. At 42, Hawkins was the oldest pitcher in Blue Jays history to record a save. He announced his retirement at the end of the season, finishing his career with a 75-94 record and 127 saves in 1,042 appearances.
Lloyd McClendon was born to be a team player.
McClendon was born in Gary on Jan. 11, 1956 as the youngest of nine boys to a family with 13 children.
The future MLB player and manager learned baseball fundamentals at an early age and was a member of a history-making Gary Little League team. McClendon pitched in the 1971 Little League World Series, marking the first time an all African-American team made it to the finals.
McClendon earned the nickname "Legendary Lloyd" in the series after homering at five consecutive at bats. The Gary team lost to the Tainin City, Taiwan team in extra innings.
"Mac" as he is known, played for baseball for Gary Roosevelt High School and graduated in 1979. He then moved on to Valparaiso University, playing ball for the Crusaders and twice earning all conference honors.
The right-handed outfielder and first baseman was drafted by the New York Mets in the 8th round of the amateur draft in 1980. He made his Major League debut in April 1987 with the Cincinnati Reds.
He played two seasons for Cincinnati, two for the Chicago Cubs and five for the Pittsburgh Pirates, playing his last game in 1994.
McClendon went on to become a hitting coach for the Pirates, a bullpen coach and hitting coach for the Detroit Tigers before being named manager of the Pirates in 2001. The move made McClendon the first and still the only Region native to manage in the Majors.
He became the manager of the Seattle Mariners in 2013, a position he held until this fall when he was let go after the season ended.
He was hired in December 2015 as head coach of the Toledo Mud Hens, a minor league franchise of the Detroit Tigers, and is now the big league club's hitting coach.
Mac has a reputation as a hot head on the field (a label he dismisses) but back home in the region, he is a dedicated philanthropist who in the off season conducts local youth baseball camps with police officers assisting as instructors in an effort to improve relationships between police and young people and donates turkeys to the needy at the holidays.
McClendon continues to make his home in Chesterton and currently serves as capital campaign honorary chair of the Boys and Girls Club of Porter County, supporting the group's efforts for a new Duneland club.
Luke Harangody excelled at sports from his elementary school days at Schererville's St. Michael's in soccer to his high school, collegiate and professional basketball career.
He led Andrean High to three sectional titles and helped the 59ers get to a Regional final, finishing 10th in the state in scoring at 23.6 points per game and was second in rebounding at 12.8 per game.
Harangody went on to Notre Dame, where he was the only men's player in the history of the Big East Conference to average 20 points and 10 rebounds per game for his career.
He also was the first Notre Dame men's player to be a three-time first-team All-Big East selection and the first to lead the conference in scoring and rebounding in consecutive seasons.
The Boston Celtics drafted him 52nd overall in 2010, but the 6-foot-8 power forward was slowed by a knee problem. The Celtics traded him to Cleveland where he underwent knee surgery.
He played for Denver in the 2013 NBA Summer League and played in the Euroleague overseas for UNICS Kazan in during the 2013-2014 season. He played for Phoenix in the 2015 NBA Summer League and continued his professional career in Turkey in 2016.
The greatest Chesterton Trojans basketball player that never was?
The 6-foot-10 Mitch McGary attended high school there as a freshman and a sophomore, but left for Brewster Academy, a prep school basketball factory in New Hampshire, where he developed his raw, but vast, talents and became one of the top recruits in the nation for his class.
After helping Brewster to the National Prep Championship and earning Parade All-American honors in 2012, McGary chose to go the University of Michigan. As a freshman, he quickly emerged as a spark off the bench for the Wolverines, leading the team in both blocked shots and rebounds.
By the NCAA tournament, he had cracked the starting lineup consistently, joining close friends and Lake Central product Glenn Robinson III. He earned all-South Regional honors in helping Michigan win the title and a berth in the final four. The Wolverines lost in the national championship to Louisville. McGary played sparingly as a sophomore due to back problems, which ultimately led to him having surgery.
Upon learning that he had tested positive for marijuana following the Sweet Sixteen victory over Tennessee and was facing a one-year suspension, McGary declared for the 2014 NBA draft and was chosen with the 21st pick by the Oklahoma City Thunder and signed a $2.8 million/two-year deal with the team.
Injuries and off-the-court issues have continued to hamper McGary. He made his debut Dec. 14, 2014, returning from the Thunder's Development League team, and had a strong finish to his rookie season. The 255-pound left-hander averaged 6.3 points and 5.2 rebounds over 32 games.
McGary failed another drug test in 2016, then faced more disciplinary action from the NBA following a non-compliance issue, before ultimately getting waived by the Thunder in October of that year.
Success on the basketball court has been synonymous with the East Chicago Washington product, dating back to his days as a Senator over 40 years ago.
Trgovich was the leading scorer on the 1971 Senators team that went undefeated (29-0) and won the state title. The 6-foot-5 star scored a combined 68 points in the final two games to lead E.C.W. to the championship. His 40 points in the semifinals tied the standing record for scoring in the state finals.
All five Senators starters from the team went on to play Division I basketball with Trgovich heading to the west coast to play for the legendary John Wooden at UCLA.
His impact was immediate as Trgovich averaged 23.4 points per game as a freshman, including a high of 47. The following season, the Bruins captured the national championship, finishing 30-0 in 1973. They captured the title again in 1975, knocking off Louisville, which featured Trgovich's high school teammate, Junior Bridgeman.
Trgovich was drafted by the San Diego Sails of the ABA and the Detroit Pistons of the NBA in 1975, He signed with the Sails, but the ABA soon folded. It was too late to sign with Detroit, so Trgovich had to wait until the next season, since the Pistons still owned his draft rights. He was then cut in veterans camp.
He entered high school coaching in 2001 at Andrean, where he led the 59ers for two seasons. He returned home to take over E.C. Central in 2005, guiding the Cardinals to the Class 4A state championship in 2007, when a team featuring E'Twaun Moore and Kawaan Short outlasted Indianapolis North Central 87-83 in the finals.
In the process, Trgovich became the first Hoosier to win a state title as a player and a coach as well as a college national championship.
Trgovich promptly stepped down to become coach at Indiana University Northwest, where his son Pete III played, and held that position for three seasons. Inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011, he returned to the bench in 2015 at the age of 62, taking over as Cardinals coach for a second time.
Robbie Hummel was always a standout.
The 6-foot-8 Valparaiso High School graduate made a name for himself on the basketball court in high school.
The small forward went on to play for Purdue University and broke the university’s freshman record for three-point shots and had the highest free throw percentage for a freshman in school history.
Hummel’s college career was sidelined by injuries, but he came
He was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2012 and played for their summer league for two seasons and spent one year playing in Spain.
Hummel has had a few stints broadcasting basketball games.
Now 30, he is a studio analyst and color commentator for Big Ten Network and ESPN.
Former White Sox slugger Ron Kittle was never afraid of hard work.
Kittle was born in Gary on Jan. 5, 1958. He was one of six children born to Jim, an ironworker in the steel mills, and Dorothy Kittle.
Kittle took to baseball at a young age, and his father began coaching him at age 6 in the Aetna Little League.
Kittle told The Times when his father died in 1994 that his dad was his "biggest fan and hardest critic."
The future power-hitter spent his freshman year at Andrean High School before transferring to Wirt High School where he played baseball for legendary coach Jerry Troxel.
Kittle was drafted by the Dodgers in 1976 after a tryout camp in LaPorte. In his first official game in the Midwest League, Kittle broke his neck when a catcher stepped on it while he was sliding into home.
He thought his baseball days were over and went to work in the steel mills as an ironworkers' apprentice. He said the hard manual labor helped him regain his strength.
He tried out for the Sox in 1978 after being scouted by the late Billy Pierce and they signed him to a contract. He made his Major League debut in 1982 and earned the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1983 with 35 home runs and 100 RBIs.
He stayed with the Sox through 1986 and hit seven career rooftop shots at old Comiskey Park, a Major League record.
Kittle wore jersey No. 42 for most of his career, the number worn by Jackie Robinson. Major League Baseball retired the number for all teams in 1997 in Robinson's memory.
The designated hitter, left fielder and occasional first baseman played for the Yankees, Indians and Orioles but returned to the Sox in 1989 and 1990 and briefly again in 1991, the year he played his last game.
In 1989, Kittle founded Indiana Sports Charities to support cancer research and education. The organization hosted annual celebrity golf tournaments in the Region and later, motorcycle runs.
After he retired from baseball, Kittle went on to manage the Schaumburg Fliers nonaffiliated minor league team from 1998 to 2001.
In 2005, he wrote "Ron Kittle's Tales from the Chicago White Sox Dugout," sharing his life's story and anecdotes from his years in baseball.
Kittle is co-owner of the Northwest Indiana Oilmen, a Midwest Collegiate League team in Whiting.
He also makes hand-crafted benches and chairs from bats, bases and baseballs, often for current and retired players and for charities. He currently serves as a White Sox ambassador.
The father of two made his home for years in Chesterton before moving to the far southern suburb of Mokena.
Ron Reed, a native of LaPorte, graduated from Notre Dame in the mid 1960s as a basketball star, ranking 30th in the school’s history in scoring with 1,153 points and third all-time in rebounding average with 14.3 rebounds per game as well as Notre Dame’s single-season record for rebounding average with 17.7 rebounds per game.
He was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in the fourth round of the 1965 NBA draft.
He told a 2010 audience at a Notre Dame sports dinner, “I only played one year of (college) baseball; that was my senior year. When I got out after my senior year, it was the first year of the college draft for baseball. And I wasn’t drafted by anybody.”
But he signed that contract in June, and fall camp didn’t begin until October, so when asked what he would do all summer, Reed said he would like to play baseball.
So his new boss in Detroit arranged for him to play minor league baseball in Florida and was so impressive as a pitcher he was invited to the Atlanta Braves’ spring camp in 1966 fresh off his first NBA season. After a second year with Detroit as a forward, Reed decided a career in baseball would give him a longer sports career.
Reed played 19 major league seasons, winning 146 games and registering a 3.46 career earned run average and pitched in the 1980 World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies and again in 1983.
He pitched for the White Sox in 1984, his final year.
The "Baby Giraffe" may just be a major league regular for years to come.
After an up-and-down start to his career with the Oakland Athletics, Wanatah native Sean Manaea has become a regular in his second season with the big league club.
Manaea debuted April 29, 2016, and picked up his first win three weeks later, allowing one run to Texas over 6 2/3 innings. He finished his rookie campaign with a 7-9 record, 3.86 earned run average and 124 strikeouts in 144 2/3 innings pitched. In season two, the left-hander is taking the ball every five days as a steady rotation pitcher for the AL West club.
Former South Central baseball coach Kevin Hannon recalled a game in Manaea’s sophomore year of high school when he started to tap his vast potential. In a regular-season game with state-ranked Lake Central, Manaea took the Satellites into the ninth inning in a 5-4 loss.
“That was his coming-out party,” Hannon said. “The lights came on. I knew the kid had it. His arm was electric. I knew in time he would figure it out.”
It was one of Manaea’s last games with South Central. Hannon left for Knox and Manaea transferred to Andrean.
“He went to a good place,” Hannon said. “Coach (Dave) Pishkur was able to work with him to refine his stuff. It was the best career move Sean ever made. His arm developed. He matured. I was just lucky to have my hand on him. He’s a good kid from a good family. I called his dad, and they had like four phones going. His mom’s never been to California.”
At Andrean, Pishkur got Manaea onto Team Indiana, where a couple scouts tabbed him as a potential college reliever. The recruiting trail wasn’t hot, Pishkur said, with Indiana State showing the only active interest.
“When he got to Andrean, he hadn’t spent a day in the weight room,” Pishkur said. “We introduced him to it. He was probably (throwing) 87. He always had the frame, he was left-handed. You can’t predict how much (faster) a kid’s going to get, but I didn’t see it, not if he stayed at 87.”
Pishkur credits Indiana State for taking the 6-foot-5 Manaea to the next level. Once a 190-pound string bean, he now weighs 245 and throws 97.
“He jumped in velocity real quick,” Pishkur said.
Several summers ago, Pishkur spent vacation time watching Manaea throw in the prestigious Cape Cod League. It was behind the plate at a game there where he asked scouts for a comparison. All three said Chris Sale.
“That was pretty high praise,” Pishkur said. “He’s topping out at 93 and blowing it by the best college hitters in the country. He has that funky three-quarters delivery where the ball comes out of nowhere.”
Kansas City took Manaea in the supplemental draft. He was traded to Oakland last year to pry Ben Zobrist away from the A’s.
“He’s put up numbers everywhere he’s gone,” Hannon said. “He could’ve very well been in that Kansas City rotation, as good as it was.”
Steve Weatherford had an 11-year career as an NFL punter. He was part of the New York Giants' Super Bowl championship team in 2011.
His path to the pros began in Crown Point, where he was born on Dec. 17, 1982. His family soon moved, and he was raised in Louisiana and Terre Haute, where he attended North Vigo High School. There, he played four sports, including football as punter, kicker and safety.
Weatherford focused his boundless energy on the weight room and the playing field. In the summer before his senior year, at a kicking camp at the University of Illinois, he impressed coaches enough to earn a scholarship.
He was redshirted in 2001, then played the next four years, finishing his college career in 2005 as Illinois' all-time leader in punting average.
Weatherford went undrafted after completing his college career, but his college special teams coach, then on the New Orleans Saints' staff, talked the team into signing him. Weatherford also played for the Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets, before finding a home with the Giants.
Weatherford set a Super Bowl record by having three punts downed inside the 20-yard line in the Giants' Super Bowl XLVI victory.
Weatherford is the founder of the Steve Weatherford World Champion Foundation, which supports a variety of charities and programs. He has been the Giants' nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, and was recipient of the 2014 Thurman Munson Award, which recognizes a professional athlete for success on the field and for philanthropic activities off the field.
Weatherford and his wife Laura have three children, and the family splits its time between New Jersey and California.
Tellis Frank Jr. is a Lew Wallace legend.
The future NBA power forward was born in Gary on April 26, 1965. He went on to play basketball at Lew Wallace High School where he was a standout on the 1983 team that made it to the semistate championships. He graduated the same year and went on to play basketball for Western Kentucky University.
"Big T," as he is known, was a first-round draft pick for the Golden State Warriors in 1987 and went on to play for the Miami Heat and the Minnesota Timberwolves in his five-year NBA career.
He spent the 1990s playing basketball in Europe, primarily in Italy and Spain.
Upon his return from Europe, Frank began his coaching career, which included stints as an assistant coach for the Harlem Globetrotters, at Hampton University in Virginia and at the high school level in California.
Frank was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.
He was an assistant coach for the WNBA's Atlanta Dream.
East Chicago Washington graduate Tim Stoddard is the answer to some serious sports trivia questions.
First, he is the only athlete to garner a championship ring in the NCAA basketball tournament and baseball's World Series. Likewise, he and fellow ECW alum Kenny Lofton are the only athletes to play in an NCAA Final Four and a World Series.
The 6-foot-7 Stoddard was a member of the 1971 Senators basketball team that went undefeated (29-0) and won the state high school basketball championship. Among his teammates were Pete Trgovich and Junior Bridgeman, who went on to play for UCLA and Louisville, respectively.
Stoddard attended college at North Carolina State, where he was a starting forward on the 1973-74 Wolfpack team that finished 30-1 and captured the national title, ending UCLA's run of seven championships in the semifinals.
Stoddard also lettered in baseball at N.C. State, going on to pitch for six professional teams between 1975 and 1989, including the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres, New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians.
A relief pitcher, Stoddard posted a career record of 41-35 with a 3.95 earned run average, 76 saves and 582 strikeouts over 485 appearances. He pitched in the 1979 World Series with Baltimore, winning game four and becoming the first player to drive in a run in his first World Series at-bat.
His 26 saves in 1980 stood as the Orioles' team record until 1986. Baltimore won the World Series in 1983. While Stoddard did not pitch, he earned a ring. He pitched for the Cubs in 1984, helping them to their first post-season appearance since 1945.
Following his retirement, Stoddard, 66, served as the baseball advisor and played the role of a Dodgers pitcher in the 1993 film, "Rookie of the Year." He worked as the pitching coach at Northwestern University through 2014, a span of more than 20 years. He was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, individually and as part of the Washington team, in 2011.
Tom Harmon was a natural athlete who some say was the best all-around athlete the Region has ever produced.
He was a four-sport star growing up in Gary, won the Heisman Trophy as college football's best player while at the University of Michigan, and transitioned from the playing field to broadcast booth, where he covered thousands of sporting events for all three major broadcast networks.
Harmon was born in Rensselaer on Sept. 28, 1919, and moved with his family in 1924 to Gary, where his father served as a police officer.
At Horace Mann High School, Harmon was a track, baseball and football star. He won state track titles in the 100-yard dash and low hurdles, pitched three no-hitters in AAU summer baseball, and starred in basketball.
As quarterback of the Horace Mann football team, Harmon won 14 varsity letters before graduating in 1937. He chose to continue playing at the University of Michigan, which he picked from among more than 50 college offers. He played there from 1938 through 1940, winning the Heisman Trophy in 1940.
Harmon was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954.
After college, Harmon joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and served as a pilot in World War II, surviving a crash in South America and being shot down over China. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star.
After the war, Harmon played two seasons for the Los Angeles Rams, then began a broadcasting career in 1948 that included coverage of more than 10,000 sporting events for ABC, CBS and NBC. He retired in the early 1980s.
Harmon married actress Elyse Knox in 1944, and they had three children: Kristin Nelson, Kelly Harmon and Mark Harmon. His son played college football at UCLA and is a longtime actor and star of TV show, "NCIS."
Tom Harmon died on March 15, 1990, at age 70 after suffering a heart attack.
Tony Raines is a NASCAR veteran who was named 1999 Busch Series Rookie of the Year.
Raines was born April 14, 1964, in Glasgow, Montana. He is a 1982 graduate of LaPorte High School.
In July 2010, Raines told The Times he had visited his mother in Wanatah and the LaPorte County Fair.
"We don't get to visit Indiana much because we're traveling all the time," Raines said. "You look forward to it because you're only going to be here once. Next week, we're in Iowa, off and running again."
Before entering the NASCAR circuit, Raines competed in the now defunct American Speed Association. He won the championship in 1996.
Between 2002 and 2013, Raines was in 180 races. His average finish was 30.26, including three top 10 finishes and 32 in the top 20.
Tony Zale was known as "The Man of Steel."
It was the nickname given to the Gary born and reared boxer. He also had the reputation of being able to take punishment and still win, which reinforced the nickname. He was as tough as the steel that rolled out of the old open hearths of U.S. Steel's Gary Works.
Zale was known as a strong puncher, who punished and wore his opponents down.
He was born Anthony Florian Zaleski on May 29, 1913, when Gary was in its infancy as a city. It was founded in 1906 by the U.S. Steel Corp. Zale grew up with the city.
He stood 5-foot-7 but was as tough as the pig iron molded into a finished steel product. Zale was a two-time world middleweight champion and made the Ring Magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time. Zale is best remembered for his three bouts over a 21-month period with Rocky Graziano for the middleweight crown. Zale won two of the three. He was 67-18-2 in his career with 18 knockouts.
His nephew Ted Zale co-wrote his biography: "Tony Zale: The Man of Steel."
Ted told The Times in an April interview how the fight game was.
"Boxing was much different back then," Ted Zale said of the era when his uncle fought. "When Tony started out, he fought 20 times in six months."
Even as an undisputed middleweight champion, Zale fought non-title and "overweight" bouts in between title defenses to stay sharp and keep food on the table.
"Many guys today fight only once or twice every two years," Ted Zale said.
Like his uncle, Ted Zale lost his father at a young age. Tony stepped up to serve as a father figure, and even taught Ted how to box.
"If you were in our family, you learned how to box," said Ted, an Andrean graduate who now resides in Lansing, Mich. "He helped train me for the Olympic trials."
Tony Zale died March 20, 1997 in Portage. Zale was a 1991 inductee in the Boxing Hall of Fame.
On a lighter note, Zale was originally cast to play himself in the movie "Somebody Up There Likes Me." According to Wikipedia, When Paul Newman (playing Graziano) and he were sparring prior to filming, Newman got rough and Zale knocked him out. Zale was replaced by Courtland Shepard for the final fight scene.
Before there was Coach K at Duke, there was Coach B.
Vic Bubas, a 1944 graduate of Lew Wallace High School, attended the University of Illinois for a year before transferring to North Carolina State. A two-time Southern Conference selection, Bubas graduated in 1951, but remained at the school as freshman basketball coach until 1955 and varsity assistant until 1959.
He was hired as head coach at Duke later that year, ascending the Blue Devils program to national heights. Under Bubas, Duke won three regionals, reaching the Final Four in 1963, 1964 (national runner-up) and 1966. Bubas was Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year each of those seasons. Duke also took the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles each of those years, in addition to a regular-season crown in 1965 and a tourney championship in 1960.
Bubas is commonly acclaimed as a pioneer for recruiting by targeting players early and gathering information on them before other coaches had learned of them. He would also send newspaper clippings of Duke games to prospects. The efforts paid off in grand fashion as Bubas drew future All-Americans from across the country to Durham.
When Bubas retired from coaching in 1969 his record of 213-67 (.761 winning percentage) stood as the third highest win total in the country for the decade. Bubas subsequently served as a Duke administrator, eventually becoming the vice president of the university. In 1976, he became the first commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference, a position he held for 14 years until he retired.
Bubas was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1975, the first of three such honors for the Gary native, now 88. He was named to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002 and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.
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