SIOUX CITY -- A little geography lesson today, starting with my early-teen years at 409 20th Street N.E. in Cedar Rapids.
Across the street was Franklin Junior High, formerly Franklin High School, and school started promptly at 8:20 a.m. So, I’m embarrassed to admit, there were days when I’d roll out of bed at 8:15 and still beat the tardy bell.
Remember, please, kids in Grades 7 through 9 are often not sticklers about hygiene.
Over there at Franklin, one of my physical education instructors and coaches was a classy fellow named Bill Quinby, who later refereed 15 seasons in the NFL after many years of college football and countless bowl game assignments.
Bill Quinby, now 86, is a Cedar Rapids icon. So, it was fun to remember when I was so young and he’d never have had the time or inclination to chat like we did for so long Monday morning.
I wanted to pick the brain of Coach Quinby -- sorry, but I still don’t feel “Bill” is appropriate for me -- about a great story that resurfaced with a unique chapter over the weekend. And, that would be the story about the high school that sat just down the street from me, just up the driveway after the second chance to turn left.
Cedar Rapids Regis. Wow, what a shame this place has become just a memory, even if it probably serves as a fairly nice middle school. So much is certainly lost on young people who are at a time of life when priorities can be really “out there,’’ anyway.
The merger of LaSalle and Regis into one Catholic high school named Xavier kind of clouded over quite a legacy.
Yet there it was this weekend in Ohio, where Mr. Quinby suggested, “I doubt if any high school in America has ever had two people making major sports news just 20 miles apart like that.’’
He’s right, too, although according to Google Maps, only 15.4 miles actually separate Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame and Akron’s Firestone Country Club.
Saturday night in Canton, 1989 Regis High grad Kurt Warner, 46, was inducted into the aforementioned hall of fame. The following afternoon in Akron, Regis Class of ’94 alumnus Zach Johnson, 41, had his biggest PGA Tour payday in two years, collecting $1,045,000 for a runner-up finish at the lucrative World Golf Championships’ Bridgestone Invitational.
A 12-time winner with two major titles (2007 Masters, 2015 British Open), Johnson and Phil Mickelson are the only men in tour history to shoot two rounds of 60. With at least one win in all but one of the last nine seasons, we have a body of work here that will almost certainly land Johnson in all of his game’s halls of fame, as well.
The impeccable character of either man is a marvel to behold, let alone for both to have come from the same high school. Sunday’s earnings, by the way, bumped Johnson up one spot to 11th on the PGA Tour’s all-time money list at $42,421,627.
That’s quite a haul, of course, but this is a list totally dominated by modern-era stars. For heaven sakes, Nicklaus, Palmer and Player won less than $10-million between them and rank 264th, 425th and 429th, respectively.
No question, though, this has been quite a ride for Johnson, who was actually born in Iowa City and probably still has lots of big checks ahead of him.
Likewise, it was a spectacular 11 seasons in the NFL for Warner, also not a native of C.R. (Burlington). Even though he didn’t reach the NFL until he was 28, the guy who waited four years for a starting nod at Northern Iowa -- time out for a reverential pause -- had to stock shelves in a grocery store. Then, he nagged his way into an Arena Football League gig just to get an NFL Europe shot with the Amsterdam Admirals. He’d never have imagined the $71,768,001 that one website lists now as his NFL salary total.
Warner gave a shout-out Saturday to his former Iowa Barnstormers teammates, which made Jarrod DeGeorgia, the former Sioux City Bandits quarterback and later head coach, feel good. Jarrod was Warner’s backup in Des Moines.
In a speech that lasted nearly 33 minutes, the two-time Super Bowl winner thanked lots and lots of people. The list included the wonderful Dick Breitbach, his head basketball coach at Regis. He thanked both of his parents along with his wife and their seven children, all of whom were on camera, Breitbach included, reacting emotionally to some beautiful words.
The next day, when Johnson would have been a winner if a youngster named Hideki Matsuyama had not taken another step toward becoming golf’s next big thing, a few minutes of interviews went to his admiration for Warner. “He was a role model for me as a kid,’’ said the Drake University grad. “God gave us ability to play a sport. Utilizing that platform is a responsibility and a gift.’’
Regis certainly had some other shining stars over the years as a perennial Iowa power in many sports. If the Royals were to have their own Mount Rushmore, it would have to include a fellow named Jim Cummins, whose uncle, Tait Cummins, was born in our neck of the woods (Ute) long before his decades as a legendary Cedar Rapids sports journalist both in print and electronic media.
It was 6-foot-4 post player Jim Cummins that led Regis past a proud Laurens High squad in a 76-64 final to a one-class state tournament at the Iowa Fieldhouse, the last time the tournament was held somewhere other than Des Moines. Red Jennings, the father of Dr. Mike Jenkins, a longtime Sioux City physician, was the head coach and is still with us at 90.
Cummins, who grew up barely more than four blocks from me, went on to play for Northwestern of the Big Ten, where the head coach is now Chris Collins. I mention this because Chris is the son of NBA great Doug Collins and the former Kathy Steger, who was maybe seven years younger than Cummins, living six or seven houses away from him at most.
Northwestern, at any rate, allowed Cummins to attend the prestigious Medill School of Journalism and become a highly acclaimed NBC reporter. He reopened NBC’s Southwest Bureau in Dallas in 1989 and that was his center of operations. Nonetheless, his suitcase took him all over the planet, covering major stories like the Iran hostage crisis, the Salvadoran Civil War, Hurricane Hugo, the Oklahoma City bombing and the list goes on and on.
Tragically, mere months after retiring in 1967 at age 62, Cummins died of cancer, leaving behind a wife and six children plus an Emmy Award. So these awards, you see, aren’t really all they’re cracked up to be. And, it takes so long to figure this out that lots of people never do.