It’s generally a nice feeling when someone comments on something you’ve written. Sometimes, though, you write something that a few folks dislike and they let you know about it.
The last few weeks have brought a number of comments, two of which far outweigh anything negative I’ve heard.
First came a letter from a man in Raleigh, North Carolina. He’d seen something I wrote in mid-January. Second came an email response from Wisconsin to another column I’d written last month. The two who wrote me, more than likely have never met, but they share a common bond – both played collegiate football at the University of Iowa.
I’ll start at the beginning.
In a column I wrote in January, I noted that when Army and North Texas played in a bowl game, the two teams had also played during the regular season. I recalled the 1956 Iowa football team, which beat Oregon State, 14-13, during the regular season, then beat the Beavers again in the 1957 Rose Bowl, this time by an overwhelming 35-19 score.
A reader in Story City had seen that column in the Story City Herald and forwarded it on to a man named Don Suchy, who now lives in Raleigh, N.C. Real Iowa fans will remember that Don Suchy was a two-way performer on that Iowa team, playing center on offense and also played linebacker. His career at Iowa began after he served in the Navy and was at the Naval Academy for 33 months after graduating from Belle Plaine (Iowa) High School in 1949.
Originally, he was a walk-on at Iowa after his naval service had ended. By 1956, he was a co-captain of the team. He was a three-year letter winner in 1954, 1955 and 1956, playing for legendary Iowa coach Forest “Evy” Evashevski … and please remember Evashevski as he’ll come up again in the second half of this story.
Suchy wrote me and sent an 8x10 football photo of himself grasping the football in the typical center’s stance. He wrote: “Thanks for your interest and memories of 1956.” He told the tale of that football team, best summed up after a heart-breaking 17-14 loss to Michigan in the Iowa homecoming game that year. “I was honored as Midwest defense man of the week in a loss to Michigan … many of us cried like babies (after the loss). It was our first loss of the season. In the locker room following the game, 1922 All-American Duke Slater told us we are too close to winning it all to quit now. We beat Ohio State the next week, 6-0 and it was off to the Rose Bowl. The rest is history. Go Hawks!”
Mr. Suchy’s kind letter sent my mind racing back to that season when, as a 13-year-old, I listened to every Iowa and Iowa State game that season.
Now, the second part of my story.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about my first experience with the Merrill Ice Drags, where cars race on the ice of a flowage off the Wisconsin River. One of the readers of that column, this time in The Perry Chief, was a woman whose nephew had played football for Wausau West High School, a team I covered from the time it opened its doors through the 1973 season, and into the first couple games of ’74.
Opening my emails one morning, I recognized the name “Steve Wojan.” Steve had played at Wausau West and was an outstanding lineman there.
Now, during my time at Wausau, I also was an unpaid “stringer” for the University of Iowa football team, sending along tips to the coaching staff regarding players I’d seen who had major college potential. I worked very closely with Assistant Coach Bob Grottkau. Among my treasures are letters of thanks from the Iowa football staff for helping with their recruiting process. Wojan’s cousin, Randy, who lives in Perry forwarded him the article I’d written.
“I still have some of the articles you wrote when I played at Wausau West,” Steve Wojan wrote to me via email. “I was wondering how your story on the ice drags wound up in the Perry paper.”
Of course, I emailed him back. Our conversation soon turned to Iowa. He played at Iowa from 1973-77 and noted that one of those years, the team was 0-11. “That was Evy’s revenge season,” he wrote, explaining how Evashevski was responsible for a schedule that included Michigan, UCLA, Penn State, USC and Ohio State in the first five games.
I also told him how he’d wound up at Iowa, noting that during one of Grottkau’s visits to Wausau, he contacted me and we went to the Wausau West football coach’s office and watched game films. It was there that Wojan was spotted … and the rest is history.
Yup, the last couple weeks were a nice “re-connect” with part of my past. And, it’s nice to get those positive types of feedback.