From a former Dallas Cowboy to a former New York Met, Lincoln Northeast was well represented Sunday at the 22nd annual Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame Induction ceremony at Lincoln East High School.
Jan Wall, a 1958 Northeast grad and my uncle, was known for an outstanding pitching earned run average of 0.88 in high school. He helped lead the Rockets to the 1957 Class A State Baseball title. Wall was also a standout basketball player for Northeast, playing on the 1956 Class AA runner-up team, while leading the team in scoring in 1957 (22.3) and 1958 (19.8). Both sports earned him letters at the University of Nebraska and eventually signed to play in the New York Mets farm system.
A knee injury sidelined his career and returned to finish his degree at Nebraska before embarking on a coaching career that took him to Humboldt, Scottsbluff and eventually at high schools in Denver and Loveland, Colorado.
One thing he noted during his acceptance speech was how practice shouldn't be forced on kids nowadays, it should be fun. I couldn't agree more.
Danny Noonan, a 1983 Northeast grad, may be well known more for his All-American season at Nebraska in 1986 and getting drafted by the Cowboys in 1987. Noonan said his interest and focus on football started while playing Midget Football. He praised his high school coaches Bob Els and Bill Story, Tom Osborne and Charlie McBride at Nebraska and Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson with the Cowboys.
Noonan noted the upbringing in northeast Lincoln as being blue collar and passionate about sports like football.
Northeast, primarily known for rich tradition of success in boys basketball and volleyball, has seen its share of great football players. From Cliff Squires and Maury Damkroger to Erwin Swiney and Trevor Johnson, Rocket football has produced many of the greats the state of Nebraska has ever seen.
The Hall of Fame ceremony had great moments. Huskerland Prep Report publisher and newspaper owner Bob Jensen may have been the most passionate and humorous with his speech. Bob was inducted as a contributor and well deserving, since his crisscrosses the state covering all of the football and basketball teams.
Wall's speech was light-hearted, humorous and heartfelt, too. As was former Omaha North and South Dakota track star Lionel McPhaull and former Omaha Central and Nebraska football star Calvin Jones. Each mentioned how family was important to them as high school athletes and remains a priority today as adults with families of their own.
Dean Thompson of Omaha Westside found himself in the "lion's den" as he accepted his plaque. He made mention that he was being honored in the school he and his Warrior teammates defeated for the 1980 Class A State basketball title, a 63-55 victory over East. "Is Paul Forch (East's former coach) and Alex Stivrins (East's star player) in attendance?", Thompson said jokingly.
Dean "The Dream" and Stivrins were two of the state's talented players in 1980.
In my first experience of attending the Hall of Fame ceremony, I'd say this is something that should be highly recognized each year. You'd be amazed on the number athletes already inducted and how many contributors help in funding the Hall of Fame.
Hat's off to Dick Beechner, Chuck Johnston and the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame committee for their efforts to spotlight these fine young men and women for their accomplishments.
NORTHEAST ENTERS TOP TEN
No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Lincoln Northeast is No. 10 in this week's Union Bank Class A Football Top Ten.
After winning a great 27-20 football game over Millard South last Thursday night, the Rockets convinced me and a few others on the caliber of talent they have this season.
Northeast coach Bump Christensen has turned the corner with his program and now its about keeping it on the straight and narrow path.
It won't be easy.
The Rockets play at eighth-ranked Norfolk Friday night, then turn around the following Thursday to host fourth-rated Grand Island before closing out the season at Omaha Burke.
If Northeast executes their offense like they did against Millard South, they could cause problems for their final three opponents. One more district win would clinch a spot in the playoffs for the Rockets.
The Union Bank Top Ten has changed slightly, but Bellevue West remains No. 1 in Class A and Omaha Skutt keeps the top spot in Class B, after narrowly defeating Lincoln Pius X 31-24 in triple overtime at Aldrich Field on Friday night.