Reader recognizes Grant, Sutherland; puts Nevers at No. 1The list in today’s column is very impressive, to say the least. We give you a top 10 list from former Superior resident Bob Picard. His list covers more than 90 years of football history and is a who’s who of area football greats.
The following is another “Have Fun or Get Out of the Way” column by award-winning Don Leighton and Mike Granlund and their alter egos, Lance Boyle and Billy Pirkola, which runs occasionally in The Superior Telegram.
The list continues to grow. Since the last article a week ago, many readers have sent incredible lists of the greatest football players from Superior and Northwestern high schools.
The list in today’s column is very impressive, to say the least. We give you a top 10 list from former Superior resident Bob Picard. His list covers more than 90 years of football history and is a who’s who of area football greats.
Thanks, Bob Picard, for this historical list beginning with No. 10.
10. Packy Paquette — SSHS. No way of knowing how much higher on this list Paquette could have gone if his career hadn’t been cut so tragically short. He was an unbelievably gifted athlete.
9. Larry Banks — SSHS. Is the most dominant high school player ever I saw. I felt his future career could have been better served by playing for Bo Schembechler, who recruited him for Michigan.
8. Tom Burke — NHS. Burke had a great high school career followed by an even greater college career. During his senior year at Wisconsin, he was as good as any defensive end in the country. His All-American status proves it. (He was the 83rd pick in the 1999 NFL draft and played four seasons for the Arizona Cardinals.)
7. Bob Olson, Superior Central and SSHS — He couldn’t have had a better high school career with all-state and all-American honors. He was a three-year starter at Notre Dame and probably would have started as a freshman, but freshmen weren’t allowed to play varsity at the time. He was named captain as a junior, the first in more than 75 years at Notre Dame. He was defensive MVP of the Cotton Bowl his senior year. (He was the 107th pick in the 1970 NFL draft by the Boston Patriots, now the New England Patriots. Injuries prevented him from playing pro ball.)
6. Bruce Mathison, SSHS — Hands down, the best high school quarterback I ever saw. He broke his leg in the third game of his senior year and was still selected to play in the Wisconsin Shrine Game. He had a great arm, but went to Nebraska where he played behind Turner Gill in Tom Osborn’s wishbone offense. He was drafted by the San Diego Chargers and played behind 1993 NFL Hall of Fame inductee Dan Fouts. He was traded to Buffalo and played behind 2002 NFL Hall of Fame inductee Jim Kelly. He played eight seasons in the NFL. How good could he have been if he had played elsewhere?
5. Tom McCauley, Superior East — Great career at East High School culminating in an undefeated season his senior year. Went to Wisconsin as a wide receiver but was switched to defense his senior year. He led the Badgers in interceptions and broken passes. He went on to the NFL where he was second in punt returns during the 1970 and 1971 seasons. (Drafted 253rd in the 1969 NFL draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He was traded to the Atlanta Falcons where he played defensive back and returned punts, 1969-1971.)
4. Doug Sutherland, Superior Central and SSHS — Sutherland anchored what was probably the best high school defensive line this area has ever seen. He was a four-year starter at UW-Superior and was drafted by the New Orleans Saints and later traded to the Minnesota Vikings in 1971. He took Gary Larson’s place on one of the greatest defensive lines in NFL history — “The Purple People Eaters” with Alan Page, Carl Eller and Jim Marshall. He played in three Super Bowls under legendary coach, Bud Grant. (Drafted by the Saints in 1970 as the 348th player taken. Played for the Vikings from 1971-80. Finished his career with Seattle in 1981. Selected as one of the 50 greatest Vikings.)
3. Bud Grant, Superior Central — After starring in all sports at Central, he went to Minnesota where he was all Big Ten in football for two years and earned nine letters in three sports — football, basketball and baseball. He was selected as the University of Minnesota’s greatest athlete of the first 50 years of the 20th century. In 1950, he was drafted in the first round (14th) by the NFL Philadelphia Eagles. He was also drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers of the NBA (42nd). He played for two seasons in the NBA, played with George Mikan, and won the NBA championship in 1950. After two seasons with the Eagles, Grant left for the Winnipeg Blue bombers of the CFL because of a contract dispute. He was the first NFL player to play out his option and go to another team. At Winnipeg, he played both ways, was a six-time all-star receiver and once had five interceptions in a playoff game. After his career ended, he coached the Blue Bombers to eight playoff appearances in ten seasons and to four Gray Cup titles. While coaching the Vikings, Grant led them to four Super Bowl appearances. (He coached Winnipeg from 1957-66, 102 victories; and the Vikings from 1967-85, 158 wins). Grant was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1994 and is a member of the Canadian Football League’s CFL Hall of Fame.
2. Tuffy Leemans, Superior East — After a stellar career at George Washington College, Leemans was the second pick of the first NFL draft in 1936 by the New York Giants. He was named the MVP of the College All Star game in 1936. During his eight year career with the Giants, he was named to the first or second all-league team from 1936-1942. He played fullback and running back during his career as well as excelling on defense. He also threw for 25 touchdowns on the option play. He played on the NFL champion Giants in 1938, was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1978, and his No. 4 has been retired by the Giants.
1. Ernie Nevers, Superior Central — After a high school career that started with Nevers as a tackling dummy at Superior Central, he matured into a great three-sport athlete at Central and Santa Rosa High School in Calif., for part of his senior year. Nevers missed his friends in Superior and returned to graduate from Central in 1921. Nevers enrolled at Stanford University where he played for Pop Warner. In 1925, Stanford faced Notre Dame with the “Four Horsemen” backfield. Nevers played all 60 minutes of the game and single-handedly outgained Notre Dame with 114 yards rushing. He was named Rose Bowl Player of the Game. Nevers was a standout in baseball and played two seasons for the St. Louis Browns, 1926-27 and was victimized twice by Babe Ruth for two of his 60 homers in the 1927 season. Nevers played for the Duluth Eskimos for childhood friend, Ole Haugsrud, for two seasons 1926-27, and played both ways. In 1926 he played a 29 game schedule, all games on the road, and played in 1,714 of 1,740 minutes. In 1929, he played fullback and coached the Chicago Cardinals and scored a remarkable 40 points against the Bears. Bronko Nagurski claimed, “Nevers was better than Red Grange.”
Nevers was among the inaugural class of the NFL Hall of Fame in 1963.
Without Nevers, the NFL may not exist today. He has been credited as having saved the league in 1926 when he played for Duluth and Haugsrud instead of the rival AFL headed by Grange.
You tell me. Does Superior have an incredible football tradition, perhaps the greatest in the country? And shouldn’t Haugsrud be in the hall of fame?
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