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Tim Lester remembers the zip Tim Brylka put on a football even as an eighth-grader.
"The first time he threw me a ball I was in shock," remembers Lester, now the football coach at Elmhurst College. "For an eighth-grader I was like, 'Oh my Lord.'"
Two decades later it's natural the two former Wheaton Warrenville South quarterbacks will be inducted Friday into their alma mater's Athletic Hall of Fame.
Along with former Tigers coach Bob Horsley, early track star (and later, famous astronomer) Edwin Hubble and mid-1970s Wheaton Warrenville bruiser Mike Terna, they get the posterity treatment at 4:45 in the school auditorium. The two quarterbacks will then take part in the coin flip prior to the Tigers' football game against Glenbard North.
Hubble and Horsley (95-18-1 as Tigers coach between 1937-55) will be inducted posthumously, with Horsley's daughter, Pam, accepting on his behalf. Terna, an all-state running back-linebacker unable to make it in from California, will be personally recognized in a later ceremony.
Lester and Brylka — a WW South business teacher, freshman football coach and the Tigers' baseball coach — will each be presented by their old prep coach John Thorne, a 2009 inductee now working magic at North Central College.
"Tim played big role in my high school career. He was like a big brother to me, I was really fortunate. Then when I found out he was going in, that was perfect," said Brylka, who succeeded Lester as Tigers quarterback and even took over when Lester suffered a knee injury in his senior year. They also played on the same baseball team for one season; Brylka, a second baseman, still owns the DuPage Valley Conference record for batting average, at .576 in 1996.
Both players enjoyed record-setting college football careers. Lester, who played with the Chicago Enforcers of the short-lived XFL, held 17 records when he graduated from Western Michigan. He remains No. 2 in Broncos total offense, pass attempts and completions for a career, and with his 34 touchdown passes in 1999.
Brylka, who led the Tigers to state football titles in both 1995 and 1996, still owns many records at Millikin and is a 2007 inductee into the Big Blue's Athletic Hall. Among those marks are touchdown passes in a career, season and game as well as passing yardage in a career and season.
As high schoolers, icons like Lester and Ron Grego would drive their little buddy to school. Lester would invite Brylka over to watch game film.
"I felt like I was hanging out with the cool kids," Brylka said.
They're now among the coolest.
"It's a huge honor in a place like Wheaton South, and it's tradition and it's history, to be recognized as a member," Lester said. "I know a lot of guys who've gone in over the last couple years. I'm happy for those guys and extremely honored to be part of it."
At 10 a.m. Saturday, Wheaton College will host a naming ceremony for its recently annexed and newly refurbished Lee Pfund Baseball Stadium in Carol Stream, in conjunction with the Thunder's homecoming festivities. An alumni game will be held following the ceremony at Pfund Stadium off Gary Avenue, just north of Geneva Road.
Leroy Herbert Pfund was a 26-year Wheaton College baseball coach and a 1985 inductee into the institution's Hall of Honor. His 1951 squad, back when Wheaton College teams were the Crusaders, was the last Wheaton College nine to win the title in the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin.
That's just one aspect of a storied career. Pfund also was an accomplished Wheaton College basketball coach, an Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame member who led the Crusaders to the 1957 NCAA Collegiate Division national title. He coached three sons, including Randy Pfund, the former front office man for the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat.
As a young man, in 1941 Lee Pfund was signed out of the University of Illinois as a pitcher by the St. Louis Cardinals and drafted in 1945 by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Debuting at the New York Polo Grounds, the right-hander played on a Brooklyn ballclub managed by Leo Durocher. He went 3-2 with 2 complete games over 10 starts and 62 innings, but an injury ended his career.
He's got to like the field named in his honor. Known for years as Legion Field, it now has lights, an artificial surface, a cable-suspended backstop anchored by a stone wall and new dugouts. Plans include stadium seating and a press box.
Two great leaders
From this viewpoint it's kind of depressing when wonderful people and coaches head into retirement. As it was when Skip Begley retired at the end of the 2011-12 academic year after 16 years as a soccer coach at Hinsdale Central, 33 overall in education.
It was a very pleasant surprise back in June when Neuqua Valley announced Begley was succeeding Tony Kees as the boys varsity soccer coach.
"Like a bad penny, they just keep coming back," joked Begley, whose next deprecating comment toward someone other than himself will be his first.
His Wildcats have resurfaced, too. With Tuesday's scoreless tie against Lake Park, Neuqua improved to 4-0-2 and a three-way tie with Lake Park and East Aurora for the Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division title. Neuqua started out 1-4 overall and by Tuesday had rebounded to 9-6-1.
Begley, who for seven years coached both boys and girls soccer at Hinsdale Central — his 212 girls victories rank him among the state's all-time leaders — said Neuqua's proximity to his Plainfield home and the school's quality student-athletes were perks when the soccer position opened.
"The one theme that went through just about everyone I talked to was they're really good kids," Begley said.
Like Jimmy Kotowski, the senior center back. He's literally captain material. Kotowski may have missed that team appointment as co-captain with defender Paarth Joshi and goalkeeper Zach Goldstein only because from June 12-Aug. 23 Kotowski was at boot camp with 11 Bravo Infantry in Ft. Benning, Ga.
Each of Joe and Jean Kotowski's triplets are committed to service. Brother Timmy will join the Marines after graduation; Danny seeks Air Force training inspired by older brother Joey, an airline pilot.
Jimmy Kotowski was hooked when he saw his first television ads for the few and the proud.
"Ever since I've been little I always loved military life," he said. "I've just recently been accepted into Western Illinois (University) and I'm kind of shooting toward the ROTC route. Then basically after college I'll see where the military takes me from there. It's just always been my lifelong dream to pursue the military."
Indelible broadcast images of shining sabers and pressed midnight-blue uniforms are one thing. A zillion chin-ups in Georgia swelter are another. But Kotowski emerged from his training more convinced than when he entered.
"They really build you into a better character, they really do," Kotowski said.
Begley said Kotowski's hard work, dedication and deserved respect, not to mention three years of varsity experience, add something to the team.
"He represents himself, his family, his community and the high school," Begley said.
Kotowski repeatedly mentioned "brotherhood," which he savored in Ft. Benning and again on the soccer pitch.
"My soccer team is like my family," Kotowski said. "Coming from basic (training) into soccer, it really wasn't that much of a change. That brotherhood was still there, all that respect for each other, all that love. I would do anything for my team."