Who are the greatest in the history of Illinois high school football?

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Who are the greatest in the history of Illinois high school football?

How about a backfield with quarterback Otto Graham, halfbacks Red Grange and Buddy Young and fullback Mike Alstott?

Running behind an offensive line that includes Dennis Lick, Mike Kenn, Alex Agase, Jim Juriga and Tim Grunhard?

With Graham throwing passes to Kellen Winslow, Jordan Westerkamp and Bob Trumpy?

And a defense featuring linemen Simeon Rice, Dave Butz, George Connor and Bryant Young, linebackers Clay Matthews, Dick Butkus and John Foley and defensive backs Al Brosky, Abe Woodson, Johnny Lattner and George Donnelly?

You might win a few games with that bunch, right?

Are they the best football players in Illinois high school history? If not, who would you name to the all-time team? Were the players in the 1940s and 1950s comparable to the players of the 1980s and 1990s?

Longtime Illinois high school sports historian Robert Pruter reminds that many college and NFL Hall of Famers were not high achievers in high school.

Some, such as Tony Canadeo of Steinmetz, Vic Markov of Lindblom, Leo Nomellini of Crane, Pete Pihos of Austin and Hugh Gallarneau of Morgan Park, never made the Chicago Public League all-star list.

Another, Ray Nitschke of Proviso, was an All-State selection as a quarterback in 1953. He became a linebacker at Illinois and went on to become a Hall of Fame linebacker with the Green Bay Packers.

Kellen Winslow wasn't an All-Stater on East St. Louis' state runner-up in 1974. But he starred at Missouri and in the NFL and has been inducted into the college and NFL Halls of Fame.

Chris Hinton of Phillips wasn't named to the All-State team in 1979. But he was an All-American at Northwestern and played in seven Pro Bowls as a member of the Indianapolis Colts.

And what about Clint Frank of Evanston? Born in St. Louis, he graduated from Evanston in 1933 and went on to star at Yale and become the third recipient of the Heisman Trophy in 1937.

One former Chicago-area product who is making a name for himself is tight end Owen Daniels of the Houston Texans of the NFL. But Daniels was a highly regarded quarterback at Naperville Central before being converted to tight end at Wisconsin.

So who are the best players at each position?

QUARTERBACKS

Otto Graham, Waukegan, 1938; Sean Price, Maine South, 2003; Donovan McNabb, Mount Carmel, 1993; Dusty Burk, Tuscola, 1997; Chuck Hartlieb, Marian Central, 1983; Mike Tomczak, Thornton Fractional North, 1980; Jon Beutjer, Wheaton Warrenville South, 1998; Kent Graham, Wheaton North, 1986; Kurt Kittner, Schaumburg, 1997; Zeke Bratkowski, Danville Schlarman, 1948; Tommy O'Connell, South Shore, 1947; Hiles Stout, Peoria Central, 1952; Ken Anderson, Batavia, 1966; Mark Carlson, Deerfield, 1975; Jim Finks, Salem, 1944; Juice Williams, Vocational, 2006; Antwaan Randle El, Thornton, 1996; Tim Brasic, Riverside-Brookfield, 2001; Jeff Hecklinski, Palatine, 1992.

Best of all: Pre-1960: Otto Graham. Post-1960: Jon Beutjer.

RUNNING BACKS

Red Grange, Wheaton, 1919; Buddy Young, Phillips, 1943; Mike Alstott, Joliet Catholic, 1991; Bill DeCorrevont, Austin, 1937; Walter Eckersall, Hyde Park, 1903; Jim Grabowski, Taft, 1961; Rashard Mendenhall, Niles West, 2004; Jimmy Smith, Kankakee Westview, 1978; Otis Armstrong, Farragut, 1968; Billy Marek, St. Rita, 1971; Lamarr Thomas, Thornton, 1965; Jim DiLullo, Fenwick, 1962; Bob McKeiver, Evanston, 1951; Leroy Jackson, Bloom, 1957; Ron Bess, Bloomington, 1963; Charley Hoag, Oak Park, 1948; Ryan Clifford, Naperville Central, 1999; Pierre Thomas, Thornton Fractional South, 2001; Johnny Karras, Argo, 1945; Scott Dierking, West Chicago, 1972; Fritz Pollard, Lane Tech, 1912; Hickey Thompson, Belleville Althoff, 1990; John Dergo, Morris, 2005; Ira Matthews, Rockford East, 1974; Wayne Strader, Geneseo, 1976; J.R. Zwierzynski, Joliet Catholic, 1999; Dan Dierking, Wheaton Warrenville South, 2006; Chris Moore, East St. Louis, 1991; Alvin Ross, West Aurora, 1980; Darryl Stingley, Marshall, 1968; Corey Rogers, Leo, 1990, Al MacFarlane, Taft, 1960.

Best of all: Pre-1960: Red Grange, Buddy Young, Bill DeCorrevont.
Post-1960: Mike Alstott, John Dergo, Billy Marek.

RECEIVERS

Kellen Winslow, East St. Louis, 1974; Jordan Westerkamp, Montini, 2011; Bob Trumpy, Springfield, 1962; Dempsey Norman, Tilden, 1983; Jon Schweighardt, Wheaton Warrenville South, 1998; Jason Avant, Carver, 2001; Nate Turner, Mount Carmel, 1986; Arthur Sargent, East St. Louis, 1985; Tai Streets, Thornton, 1994; Jimmy Smith, Blue Island Eisenhower, 1972; Cas Banaszak, Gordon Tech, 1962; Don Stonesifer, Schurz, 1945; Emery Moorehead, Evanston, 1972; John Wright, Wheaton Central, 1963; Chris Calloway, Mount Carmel, 1985; Ken Carrington, Richards, 1994; Dave Kocourek, Morton, 1954; Rich Kreitling, Fenger, 1954; Johnnie Mitchell, Simeon, 1988; Don Beebe, Kaneland, 1982.

Best of all: Pre-1960: Don Stonesifer, Dave Kocourek. Post-1960: Jordan Westerkamp, Jon Schweighardt.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

Alex Agase, Evanston, 1939; Jim Juriga, Wheaton North, 1981; Mike Kenn, Evanston, 1973; Tim Grunhard, St. Laurence, 1985; Dennis Lick, St. Rita, 1971; Flozell Adams, Proviso West, 1992; Bill Fischer, Lane Tech, 1944; Eric Steinbach, Providence, 1997; Larry McCarren, Rich East, 1969; Chris Hinton, Phillips, 1979; Dick Barwegan, Fenger, 1938; Alf Bauman, Austin, 1937; Dave Diehl, Brother Rice, 1998; Ryan Diem, Glenbard North, 1996; Doug Dieken, Streator, 1966; George Musso, Collinsville, 1929; Mike Rabold, Fenwick, 1954; Lou Rymkus, Tilden, 1940; Tom Thayer, Joliet Catholic, 1978; George Trafton, Oak Park, 1916; Jeff Riney, Sterling Newman, 1990; Brian Bulaga, Marian Central, 2006; Chris Watt, Glenbard West, 2008; John Horn, Joliet Catholic, 1990; Tony Pape, Hinsdale South, 1998; Jeff Alm, Sandburg, 1985; Paul Glonek, St. Laurence, 1985; Art Riley, Thornridge, 1970; Ziggy Czarobski, Mount Carmel, 1941; Brad James, Lockport, 1985; David Molk, Lemont, 2007; Mike Jones, Richards, 2001; Tony Pashos, Lockport, 1998; Will Matte, Wheaton Warrenville South, 2007; John Sawin, Vocational, 1955.

Best of all: Pre-1960: Alex Agase, Bill Fischer, Dick Barwegan, Mike Rabold, Ziggy Czarobski. Post-1960: Dennis Lick, Tim Grunhard, Mike Kenn, Jim Juriga, Eric Steinbach.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

George Connor, De La Salle, 1941; Simeon Rice, Mount Carmel, 1992; Dave Butz, Maine South, 1968; Bryant Young, Bloom, 1989; Russell Maryland, Whitney Young, 1986; Keena Turner, Vocational, 1975; Matt Roth, Willowbrook, 2000; Alex Magee, Oswego, 2004; Chris Boskey, St. Francis de Sales, 1977; Kurt Bankson, East Leyden, 1977; Scott Zettek, St. Viator, 1975; Cleveland Crosby, East St. Louis, 1974; Tim Marshall, Weber, 1979; Chris Zorich, Vocational, 1986; Nolan Harrison, Homewood-Flossmoor, 1987; Don Thorp, Buffalo Grove, 1979; Rob Ninkovich, Lincoln-Way Central, 2001; Joe Krupa, Weber, 1951; Oliver Gibson, Romeoville, 1989; Frank Kmet, Buffalo Grove, 1987; Al Wistert, Foreman, 1938; Ed Beinor, Thornton, 1934; Earl Banks, Phillips, 19041; Leo Nomellini, Crane, 1941; Bill Pasko, Weber, 1959; Larry Kristoff, Carbondale, 1959; Jerry Rosengren, Leyden, 1957; Mike Wolfe, Mendel, 1957; Charles Ulrich, Fenger, 1947; Wayne Bock, Argo, 1952; Ralph Jecha, Argo, 1951; Pat Lennon, Joliet Catholic, 1952; Bob Lenzini, Waukegan, 1949.

Best of all: Pre-1960: George Connor, Joe Krupa, Al Wistert, Leo Nomellini. Post-1960: Dave Butz, Tim Marshall, Bryant Young, Chris Boskey.

LINEBACKERS

Dick Butkus, Vocational, 1960; Clay Matthews, New Trier, 1973; John Foley, St. Rita, 1975; Tony Furjanic, Mount Carmel, 1981; Ed Brady, Morris, 1979; Tyjuan Hagler, Bishop McNamara, 1999; Eric Kumerow, Oak Park, 1982; Dana Howard, East St. Louis, 1989; Bill Burrell, Clifton Central, 1955; Carl Brettschneider, Dundee, 1949; Erick Anderson, Glenbrook South, 1986; John Holecek, Marian Catholic, 1989; Pete Bercich, Providence, 1989; Mark Zavagnin, St. Rita, 1978; Napoleon Harris, Thornton, 1996; Brock Spak, Rockford East, 1979; Don Dufek, St. George, 1946.

Best of all: Pre-1960: Dick Butkus, Carl Brettschneider, Don Dufek.
Post-1960: Clay Matthews, John Foley, Tony Furjanic.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Al Brosky, Harrison, 1945; Abe Woodson, Austin, 1952; Johnny Lattner, Fenwick, 1949; George Donnelly, De Kalb, 1959; Dwayne Goodrich, Richards, 1995; Mike Mallory, De Kalb, 1980; Gary Fencik, Barrington, 1972; Ken Gorgal, Peru St. Bede, 1945; Tom Zbikowski, Buffalo Grove, 2002; Preston Pearson, Freeport, 1963; Mike Prior, Marian Catholic, 1980; Jack Bastable, Wheeling, 1968; Greg Turner, Driscoll, 2003; Kelvin Hayden, Hubbard, 2000; Quinn Buckner, Thornridge, 1971.

Best of all: Pre-1960: Al Brosky, Abe Woodson, Johnny Lattner, George Donnelly. Post-1960: Jack Bastable, Mike Prior, Dwayne Goodrich, Kelvin Hayden.

Check out this season's second episode of Chicago Fire All Access

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Check out this season's second episode of Chicago Fire All Access

Check out the second episode of the second season of Chicago Fire All Access.

In this episode, the team helps out in the Chicagoland community, talks about finding comfort foods in Chicago and life on the road in the MLS. 

Bears 'horizontal' leadership plan building on some surprising leaders

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Bears 'horizontal' leadership plan building on some surprising leaders

Sometimes you really do have to just appreciate the attitude. Because Bears coaches do, in ways of significance in what kind of team the 2016 Bears will become.

Ka’Deem Carey has been a backup his first two Bears seasons, yet now finds himself with more games played in a Bears uniform than any other Chicago running back. The 2014 fourth-round draft pick accordingly has set one very lofty 2016 objective for himself:

“Just being a leader, really trying to focus on that,” Carey said during the team’s OTA this week. “We’ve still got a young team, I’m vocal, coaches like the way I run the ball, and sometimes the way I play out there, the coaches like that and want to pass that on to teammates.

“So I’m just trying to be a leader to these young guys.”

Somehow the notion of a 23-year-old talking about setting an example for “these” young guys shouldn’t be dismissed. At all. Because Carey is representative of something developing within the current team.

Leadership is a popular, near-annual topic for Bears teams, no less so early this offseason as the 2016 team takes shape without 40 percent of its elected – and veteran – captains from the 2015 season.

Players elect five captains: two for offense, two defense and one special teams. Coach John Fox names a sixth captain each based on merit from the previous week.

The problem for the Bears is that two of the 2015 five elected captains – running back Matt Forte, safety Antrel Rolle – were not brought back by the organization this offseason. Veterans were added in free agency, but headcount does not translate into instant chemistry, cohesion or leadership.

That falls to a Carey to infuse. Elsewhere, guard Matt Slauson, a popular leader in the offensive-line room and huddle, was released, as was left tackle Jermon Bushrod. After just three NFL seasons, Kyle Long abruptly becomes the offensive lineman with more games in a Bears uniform than anyone else in the O-line room.

Indeed, longevity is no criterion whatsoever for a Bears “leadership” role. Teammates elected Pernell McPhee one of the defensive co-captains last year, his first as a Bear. And linebacker Danny Trevathan, brought in from Super Bowl champion Denver, could emerge as one in his first, using precisely the same calling card that McPhee did.

“I'm just going out there and being an example,” Trevathan said. “It's not hard, you know, I've just got to go out and play the game that I know how to play but also get guys to come along and speak and communicate and be on one page with these guys.”

The key is the “horizontal” leadership concept – leading not from a few at the top, but from multiple strong individuals in a leadership layer.

“Obviously missing Matt Slauson, missing guys like Slauson and Forte, there are large voids to be filled,” Long said. “But this team has been built on horizontal leadership and we’ve done a great job bringing in the right people, defensively, offensively and the special teams unit.

“I love the coaches, I love the guys on this team, I don’t think that will be an issue, so I don’t really have to take on that much bigger of a role because of the guys that we have in our room. Everybody is kind of accountable themselves.”

Melo Trimble will return to Terps for junior season

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Melo Trimble will return to Terps for junior season

Well, at least Mark Turgeon won't lose his entire starting lineup.

With four-fifths of Maryland's starting unit already off to the NBA in one fashion or another, Melo Trimble decided to return to the Terps for his junior season, opting to postpone his pro career for at least one more year.

"I am really excited to return for my junior season at Maryland," Trimble said in the team's announcement. "It’s truly special that I get to continue to play in front of my family, friends and our amazing fans. I’m looking forward to working out with my teammates this summer, and I am excited for what we can accomplish. I learned a great deal through this experience, and I am committed to working hard in getting better each day. I’m appreciative of all the support that I have received from coach Turgeon, my family and my teammates throughout this process. I look forward to continuing my education and building upon the success that we have had at Maryland."

Trimble waited an awful long time to make his decision on whether to withdraw from or remain in the NBA Draft, with news of the decision coming out just a couple hours before Wednesday night's deadline.

Trimble had a strong follow up to his sensational freshman season last year, improving as a distributor and as a defender despite a significant dropoff in his scoring and shooting numbers. But he still led the way for a star-studded Maryland team that advanced to the program's first Sweet Sixteen in 13 years.

After averaging 16.2 points per game, shooting 44 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from 3-point range and getting to the free-throw line nearly seven times a game as a freshman, Trimble averaged 14.8 points per game, shot just 41 percent from the field and 31.5 percent from 3-point range and averaged just better than five free throws a game as a sophomore. Still, he earned All-Big Ten First Team honors for the second straight season.

The expectations placed on him and his team were huge. Trimble was the conference preseason player of the year, and the Terps were tabbed as one of the favorites to win the national championship.

A return to school is not without its risks, as a further decline in Trimble's shooting numbers could prove costly for his draft stock. Plus, with many of the stars from last season's team gone, the Terps will enter the season with vastly different expectations, with many questioning whether they'll even make the NCAA tournament.

However, Trimble could be doing exactly what the new rules were designed to do: using better access to information to make the best decision. If NBA teams truly believe he's not ready for the pros, continuing to develop at the college level makes a heck of a lot of sense. Plus, while his stock was high after that freshman season, it no doubt took a hit after his sophomore season and could rocket back up with another big year as a junior.

Plus, Trimble's return means Turgeon doesn't have to go into full-tilt rebuild mode a season removed from one with championship expectations.

"Melo informed me (Wednesday) night that he has decided to return to Maryland for his junior season," Turgeon said. "After gathering information throughout this process, I agree that this is the best decision for him. Melo is a very special person. He is a winner, and his impact on our program has been immeasurable. Melo has an extremely bright future ahead of him both on and off the basketball court. We are excited that he will continue to pursue his degree and build upon his legacy in College Park."