This past week, Notre Dame High School in Niles, IL (the only HS directly associated with UND) honored the undefeated 1961 football team on the school’s Wall of Fame. One of the unique aspects of this team was that three of the starting seniors (Alan Loboy, Ray Neihengen and Jim Starshak) went on to UND to join their 34 classmates as the largest high school class ever to matriculate to the university. Following is a repeat of a Journey that I reported three years ago and ending with the speech that Alan gave at the Wall of Fame ceremony.
Probably the most famous transplant from ND Niles was a short, rotund, near-bald man we called “Uncle Joe.” Coach Yonto to most of you. In the fall of 1961, our senior year, Yonto coached a team that went undefeated and led by #40, Captain Alan Loboy. Whereas Yonto was a cigar-chewing, fire breather, Loboy was a quiet, sincere, intelligent bull of a fullback. Still is to this day.
When I was sophomore at Niles, I went out for football. When the coaches asked to line up at the position we wanted to try out for, I wisely noted that there was no line behind Alan so I became the second-string fullback by default. Fortunately that didn’t last long and Uncle Joe booted my butt back to the typewriter to write about sports, not play it.
In his senior year, Alan was chosen a Parade All-American fullback and received a full scholarship to play in the backfield for the University of Notre Dame. Unfortunately, in his junior year, a leg injury during the last contact practice before the Air Force game ended Alan’s playing days and he began a lifetime of coaching and teaching. He eventually earned a Masters in Teaching and his administrative credential from Lewis & Clark College in Portland.
After ND, Alan headed back to ND Niles where he coached and taught for 10 years before heading to the Portland area in 1976. Alan served as athletic director, football coach and head tennis coach at La Salle HS where his tennis team was state champions in 1980. He was also the principal of St. John the Apostle Elementary School in Oregon City, OR, from 1992 to 2002.
Alan was married to Judy Ferlic in 1967 and they had five children and six grandchildren before Judy passed after 21 years of marriage. For the past 25 years, Alan has been married to Merrie, who has four children and five grandchildren.
In Alan’s own words…
Before I start my formal address, I would like to note that I am also speaking for our other Co-Captain, George Risher, who regrets his absence today and gave me permission to speak for him.
First, my congratulations to all of the fellow honorees; this is an honor.
Thank you to Athletic Director Mike Hennessy and the Wall of Fame Committee for looking with favor on our nomination of the 1961 NDHS Football Team.
I would also like to single out our team offensive center, Jim Starshak, for getting the ball rolling for this honor.
A belated thanks to Joe Yonto, Jack Cole, John Burke, Ron Giusti, and John Schwarz for the coaching and guidance.
When I first started to put this talk together, I started with individual names and performances - all of the deeds that go into a successful season. The names were so many - included, in fact, the whole team - that it came to me that our success came about not because of the individuals, but because we - the Juniors and the Seniors - had come together as a team. No matter our place on the team, we all had contributions to make, and we did our best.
So, for this Wall of Fame honor, why us? Easily answered by three numbers: 10-0-0, our season record. At season’s end, we were also ranked in the top ten in the state by three different newspapers: Springfield Gazette - #8, Chicago Tribune - #7, and Chicago Sun-Times - #4.
Over the course of the season we defeated Taft, the 1960 Prep Bowl Champ and 1961 Public League Runner-up, 14 - 13, and out gained them by 104 yards. We then went of to defeat an always tough and well-regarded Marmion Military Academy, 12 - 6, out gaining them by 74 yards for arguably our closest win. Our seventh game of the season brought us up against the 1960 Conference champion, Joliet Catholic. They were undefeated and unscored upon when we met them. Final score: ND 27 - JC 7, with an advantage of 155 yards to the Dons. Peoria Spalding, a non-conference, undefeated and highly ranked opponent came up in the ninth game. The final result: a Notre Dame 21 - 0 victory and a 105 yard advantage.
A few more stats give an even clearer picture of what we accomplished. For the season we gained 3,224 yards to our opponents 1,500. We rushed for 2,493 yards with 449 attempts for a 5.57 average, while allowing only a 2.27 a try average against our defense. ND averaged 57 plays per game against 44 plays for our opponents. We averaged 326 yards per game versus 150 yards per game. Points scored per game: ND - 28, our opponents - 6.
I think the above speaks well for both the offense and the defense. As I finish, a few more words of recognition to the coaching staff and to Notre Dame High School, its teachers and staff and for our faith for giving us the framework to be the people we have become.
To have the discipline to follow as well as to lead; to know that we have to master ourselves before all else. To know that there is no substitute for preparation and dedication. To have confidence in ourselves, as well as others. To be personally responsible. To be tough enough to keep on trying. And to realize that without teamwork, success is hard to come by.
I wish that I could solely claim the above paragraph, but the ideas expressed come from NASA Mission Control. On the other hand, I firmly believe that it applies to our team and our season.
As I finish, I would be remiss if I did not express my personal gratitude to the men standing up here with me and to those who are absent. It is largely because of them that we had the season that we did; that I had the season that I did. Without them I would not have gone to Notre Dame University. Without them, my whole life is different.
Gentlemen, thank you.
Al Loboy '62 (UND ’66)
L-R: Jim "StarStarshak, Rich Gorzynski, Tom Lambert, Phil Kemp, Mike Field, Dennis Bielinski, Bob Buonincontro, Larry Raymond, Alan Loboy & Ray Neihengen