BURROS FOOTBALL HISTORY
It all started in 1963 with guys like Duan Niemann, Brian Knierim, Ray and Billy Patterson, Mark and Toby Krueger, Dewey Moses, Steve Sorenson, Scott Holladay, Duane Pierson, and a few others. That fall George Krueger would haul the kids over to Lincoln-Way field and have a football game every Saturday afternoon. It was a choose up side thing, and George began to have a few dreams when he saw the enthusiasm of these kids. They pressured him to start a real team, In 1964, and with the help of a few parents, including Norm Patterson, Bob Pierson, Bob Fortman, Jim Kraft, and Chuck Swanberg, the Burros were formed.
The idea for the Burros name was given to Mr. Krueger as he watched a parade and the local Colt baseball team was using a little Burro for its mascot. That little Burro was almost uncontrollable. Mr. Krueger liked the spirit of the little guy, and thought it would be a great symbol for a kid’s football team. It would be different. As far as he knows, the Burros of Mokena are the only Burros. After the Burros got their start, other towns in the four county areas began to form teams, seeing that a small town can support a Pop Warner team. In 1965 and 1966 Mokena was the smallest town in America with an official Pop Warner team.
On September 10, 1964 the Burros played their first game ever against the Kankakee Moose team in Beckman Park in Kankakee. Bill Widham, Kankakee’s coach gave the Burros and George much assurance and help in getting started. That year the Burros won 2 and lost 6 with their first win coming at Downers Grove with Terry Ryan scoring the winning touchdown.
Krueger saw a need for organized play, and in 1965 entered his Heavies and Lights in the Southwest Midget Football League. Krueger’s Lights won the league championship by upsetting the Tinley Park Bulldogs 14-7 at Mokena Park in the last game of the year. John Ryan coached the heavies to second place that year. In 1965, a PeeWee team was formed with Jim Lillie as the coach. His team went undefeated. Jim must have had a secret weapon that year, because he was over heard many times telling the defense captain to switch to the 6-3-3-1 defense.
Foster Tekotte joined the coaching staff in 1966 and led the Pee Wees to another great season, winning the Goblin Bowl game in Bloomington on Halloween. Our two other teams won also. In league play in 1966, the Pee Wee won the unofficial title. The other teams both finished second.
The Burros played unattached in 1967 with Dick Mansell and Gene Hug joining the coaching staff that year. Both had great success with everything they did for the Burros. Hug was made head coach later, and Mansell had a heavyweight championship team.
In 1968 the Burros took on the class of the Chicago land Pop Warner teams. Krueger and his coaches joined the George Halas league. The league was comprised of teams in the big suburban affluent cities. The Burros Varsity won the title of the league in 1968 with a 19-13 win over Franklin Park. Krueger said that was his biggest thrill. The Burros stomped a team that had an average 48 points per game with no points scored against them all year. The star of that game was a boy who had to be coaxed to stay on because he thought he was really not much good. Pat Loftus made 12 solo tackles that day. The Lights came in second that year and were coached by Gene Hug. 1969 was the last year for Mr. Krueger, his team took second place. Again Hug’s team took second in a very competitive league.
Every year they took the whole team to a college game. The sites were Notre Dame, Northwestern, Northern IL, and Soldier Field. One year they saw Army play the Air Force. In those days, there were many problems that the organization doesn’t have today. Who would run the line machine each game? Who would buy the paint? Who would hold the equipment till next season? Who would run the chain gang? Would we get anyone to work the concession stand? Where do we keep the bus?
Back then the team owned all of the football shoes, about 120 pairs each. The first few years there was no entry fee charged. It was nothing for a coach to go to work in the concession stand, clean up the field, or do whatever was needed. Guys like Ron Naples, Rich Fronek, Julius Sandy, the Ericksons, Fortmanns, Pattersons, and many others kept teams alive during rough times.
Jin Snikeris of the 1968 team had tryouts with the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos and came close to making it. He was the most valuable player on his college team, was a scholastic All American, and one year was the most valuable player for the Joliet Fire. He went to work in insurance and is now an executive. While playing with the Burros in 1968, Blake Tekotte was named on the Pop Warner All-American team. That was quite an honor. Russ Dickerson, a fine boy on the 1966 team now has a very high position with the German government as a scientist. He has degrees from the University of Chicago, and the University of Michigan. He lives in Mainz, West Germany.
Of all of the boys Mr. Krueger coached he remembers the ones who need that little push to believe in themselves the most. They were his greatest challenge. What a time it was with guys like John Majewski, Kevin Quinn, Billy Clegg, Pat Loftus, Richie Fronek, Bob Dickens, the Thomas boys, Hentschel, Brad Miller, and Zugy. Krueger feels these guys made the grade, and made it big for him - to show him they could do it!
As a famous sportsman once said, “Sport doesn’t develop personality, it reveals it.” – George Krueger.
If children don’t leave the field with the feeling that they had a great time doing something they love, then the program is a failure. It’s for the kid’s to learn a little sportsmanship, football savvy, what injustice is, but most important it is for them to have some fun with their friends and parents.
We would like to thank Mr. George Krueger for his history on how the Burros started. We thought it interesting enough to tell the story. So if you are one of the many who have been involved in the past, please write and tell us your story.