If you played Beaverton in the late 60's and lined up opposite Mike Loar from pretty much any position, it's a pretty safe bet you went home with bruises. He punished players across the landscape from both sides of the ball - offenses as a standout defensive end and defenses as a burly, relentless fullback. HOF Q & A managed to tackle him long enough to answer a few questions.
You spent many dedicated hours in high school working to improve as a football player. Why? What was it about the sport that made you love it so much?
I had no weight lifting program except for noon. I enjoyed practices and the game. There’s an old saying: You play as you practice. And if you don’t practice well, you won’t play well. And I’ll never forget it; any good coach will say so.
I loved the contact of the sport and the relationships with other players, and how all teammates need to work together to make it happen. We always played on the same two fields - as a frosh, we played behind the elementary building and as a sophomore on the existing field. I reworked that same field later with Larry Gerow, who led the project, and Denny Ware, among others. We put in new goal posts made at Brown Machine. My dad tilled the whole field, and we picked rocks and leveled it and a contractor put in new lights, which Lang’s helped set.
We did get to town to watch a few games when I was a kid - my brother Dick played with Larry Grove, Don Randle, Jim Muma and those guys...maybe Jim Newman. That kind of lit the fire for me to play. We were only allowed to play one sport due to farming and chores. I loved baseball too, and played a couple games freshman year, and then planting season came. I grew up with four brothers and four sisters, and all the brothers played football, and I followed them. At home, we didn’t have games, and some of my brothers were quite a bit older, so we just tossed the ball around at home. My brother Larry was as good as me in football, an I’ve been told he was one of if not the fastest ever, and was nicknamed 'Radar.' Even when we played softball years later, he was just tough to get out - he was so fast.
At the varsity level, my coach was Dick VanWieren, and Sam Bagnieski was the back coach. He was maybe 15 years older than us, but was a good coach with Van. They taught us that there’s nothing wrong with getting beat; you have to be prepared, but if you give it your all and lose, then you lost. But not being prepared and making mistakes leads to losses, and that’s not acceptable.
I don’t know what’s happened to the teams since and I’m not sure what it will take to fix it; I have some thoughts. Van was a fixture - when I was in the eighth grade, I remember thinking, “I’m going to play for Van someday." I think it’s important to have a stable coaching system like Van's, and like Roy has in place.
You enjoyed a lot of team and individual success on the field. Which teammates helped bring out the best in your game? How did they do that?
Three players come to mind: Mike Shreeves, Bill Mishler and Dan Grant. They were good players, every one of them, and the team had a good core and pushed each other and made each other better. Shreeves was big and strong and tore his knee up in his senior year, so we didn’t have him for three or four games and he still ended up playing at Northern Michigan. There were many on offense and defense that were good and didn’t get any recognition - Killian, McCulloch, smaller guys who were just good, and they didn’t get all the credit they deserved. If they had a playoff system like today, we would have been close to a championship - I believe that. Beaverton never had a better backfield - Dan Grant at halfback, Bill Mishler at QB, I was fullback, Steve Brubaker or Craig Johnson as the back. These were all great players.
Did you ever see another team that may compare?
My son Chet’s team won their conference during his senior year, and they were close to a team like we had. They won most every conference title that year; they were good. They didn’t have the same kind with standouts; they didn’t have any weak spots though.
Who were the players from other schools who gave your team the most headaches? What was your approach in trying to beat them?
I remember the Fillmore boys in Meridian, they were good players. Bruce, he was the quarterback and they passed a lot. After a game, he told me he had to throw quick because he knew I was coming. I was close so many times to him, but only got him once that game. Once at CMU, in our first frosh versus varsity scrimmage, the trainers would bet on who would be taken off the field. I played defensive end and got to the halfback for what would be about a three yard loss, but he ran right over me, and boy, I saw stars and was kind of knocked out. And when I looked up, he was crossing the goal line at the end of the field scoring. The coach was over me, yelling at me. I thought I did a good job by slowing him down. That guy went on to play for the Packers and he was good - had real big legs! I once ended up getting the starting QB though, and separated his shoulder. That didn’t go over big with the linemen, but our trainers were happy - they won the bet!
College football is so different - you only worry about your position, versus high school where you cover a lot of other jobs. I was only at CMU for one year.
Do you think you could have reached higher levels?'
I don’t know, if I had stuck with it, where I would have gone. Coach Van and Mr. B. thought I could go on further, but who knows.
Who was the coach that you learned the most from, and what did he or she teach you?
Coach Van. He was someone you looked up to, sort of a father figure. If you had troubles at school he’d answer you, and if you were wrong at school, believe me, he’d fix it. With Coach Van, I learned football techniques and how to play, how there’s a right and wrong way, and if you ran it 10 yards and then took a holding penalty, you didn’t gain anything. You had to know the rules as a player. He taught the game. When I hear his name, I visualize a good person, someone you looked up to and respected very much. In my era, he was the only coach we had who was stable in a sport. We had lots of coaches going through other sports and not one that took it under their wing and stayed with it. And that’s what we need.
What are your favorite three athletic memories from your high school playing days?
Most exciting was my first and last games as a Beavers player. I remember playing center as a freshman for Larry Shroufe. We got beat 6-0, I think, by Coleman, and played them again and won 18-0. My helmet was white, and when we were done it was Coleman blue.
From my last game I recall tying it up on a fourth and 4 with a goal line run against Gladwin, getting in over Lang to tie it. Then we fumbled the two-point conversion to go ahead, which would have been the win.
Another good memory was blocking a punt in our first game on the new field, and it was recovered in the end zone, which were the first two points scored there.
In football, who are your all-time BHS top five players?
That’s a hard question, I’m sure there are some that I’ve just never seen play, but of those I witnessed, Dan Grant, Shreeves, Bill Mishler, Rick Brubaker, and so many others that I hate to choose a fifth. These are guys I knew so I know how they played.
How has the game of football changed from when you played until now? What's different?
It’s more of a passing game now. Defenses have changed to defend the pass versus my playing days and having an all running game. If we passed five times a game, that was big. No one could stop us, though. Today, teams don’t seem as mentally and physically tough; there have been some, but overall that’s the difference.
What is your proudest BHS moment as a player, coach or fan?
As a fan, going to Crisler Arena and watching the 1984 Beavers basketball team with pride as an alumni. I took off from work without tickets but wanted to be there and I was proud!
As a player, when I made All-State, Coach Van got me out of class, took me to his office and told me...he said he wanted to be the one to tell me and I think he was pretty proud of me. This was lots better than being sent to his office, which happened a couple of times. Yes, he did make me run laps after practice in the past. Could Coach Van put you down with the grip? Oh, yes.
I only coached Little League, but I enjoyed working with the kids.
Are there any thoughts and/or memories you can share on each of the other members of your Hall of Fame class:
Roy Johnston – Probably the best basketball coach in the area. He’s a real competitor on the court and the field, having played softball against him. When you’re done afterward, he’s one of the guys, but on the court he’s a competitor and that’s what makes an athlete and great coach.
Jeff Christian – I’ve heard about him running track and don’t know much other than some of his accomplishments, but have heard some great things about him.
Doyle Durkee – One of the best we’ve had in Beaverton without a doubt. He could do it all on the court.
How does it feel to be enshrined alongside those athletes - as well as names like Larry Gerow, Dan Grant, Dick Van Wieren, Becky Phillips, Ken Govitz and Clarence Metzger - in the BHS Hall of Fame?
It blows my mind that I'm in the same group with Metzger, Van, Roy, it’s just something else. It’s kind of unbelievable. When Larry Gerow went in, he told me the same thing - I just can’t hardly believe it.
Larry Gerow – it’s something, his being the only All-American ever. It’s just unreal to look at the names and believe it.
Dan Grant - We played together for two years and the huddle was the best! I blocked for him and he was quick, just a great player.
Coach Van - He was just a plain good person that I really, really liked as a person, coach and teacher.
Becky Phillips - I really didn’t know much about Becky, but have heard so much good about her and Ken Govitz, but didn’t get to see them because they were older than I was.
Mr. Metzger - Probably the best person around the schools, and when you think about Beaverton schools, he’s at the top, a great guy. He’s the one you think of.
It’s just unbelievable that my name is up there with all these people. When I played football, you’re just a teenager having fun. Now 40 years later, they say, boy, you were good. Wow!
My dad would have been proud. He wouldn’t have said much - my parents were very quiet. But he would have been happy. Mom wouldn't have said too much either, but she would just grin and be very happy.