BORN: FEBRUARY 24, 1931, MUSKEGON, MI
DIED: MAY 8, 2001, BURLINGTON, ONTARIO, CANADA
Muskegon High School's Paul Dekker was a standout end with All‑State
credentials on some otherwise disappointing Big Red teams in Harry Potter's
first two years as head coach. Dekker was the archetype physical
specimen for a football end ‑ big, strong and possessing a sure pair of
hands. He was a college coach’s "dream" recruit for the end position.
Dekker entered Michigan State College (now Michigan State University) on an academic scholarship in 1949. A welcome addition to head coach Biggie Munn's Spartans, Paul added depth to an end position hit hard by graduation. As a junior, he finally broke into the starting lineup against Ohio State. Dekker caught a pass for a touchdown as the second‑ranked Spartans came back to defeat the seventh‑ranked Buckeyes, 24‑20. Dekker remained in the lineup as the Spartans finished the year as the runner‑up for the 1951 national title in the Associated Press poll.
Michigan State won its first national championship the following season, with a 9‑0‑0 record. Singled out as a "master at opening holes as well as at pass catching," the Muskegon native was selected by the Associated Press as a member of their All‑Western team. Dekker represented the Spartans in the annual East‑West Shrine contest, pulling in a game-record nine receptions for 100 yards. A member of the 1953 College All‑Stars and the 1953 Hula Bowl squad, he was selected in the third round of the National Football League draft by the Washington Redskins.
Dekker remained with the Redskins for only one season. In 1954, he joined the Hamilton Tiger‑Cats of the Canadian Football League. In nine seasons of action in Canada, Dekker played in the Grey Cup championship contest (the CFL's equivalent of the NFL's Super Bowl) on five occasions. Selected to the All Eastern/All Western All‑Star team four times, Dekker tied a Grey Cup record for the longest completed pass with a 90‑yard touchdown reception in the Tiger‑Cats' 21‑14 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 1961 Grey Cup game.
Picked as an honorary member of Hamilton's “Team of the Decade”, Dekker retired from professional ball following the 1962 season.
BORN: JANUARY 20, 1954, SHELBY, MI
A 6-foot-9 center for Shelby High School, Paul Griffin led the Tigers to
state Class C basketball crowns in 1971 and 1972. An All‑State
selection as a senior, Griffin averaged 26.9 points and 25 rebounds per game
in his final year of prep play. After graduation, he enrolled at
Western Michigan University.
The only WMU men's basketball player to finish with over 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in his four‑year career with the Broncos, Griffin led Western to a 25‑3 record and a No. 10 national ranking in 1976. His career marks have stood the test of time at Western. Today, he ranks first with 1,008 rebounds, second with a .567 in field goal accuracy, fourth in assists with 158 and 15th in scoring with 1,078 points. Drafted by both the NBA's New Orleans Jazz and the San Antonio Spurs of the ABA, Griffin made his mark as a role player in the professional ranks. Signed by the Jazz, Griffin served as the feed‑man to sharp shooting Pete Maravich. In 1979, he was traded to San Antonio now of the NBA, where he became a member of the "Bruise Brothers," the Spurs' big, physical front line. Noted for his aggressive style of play, Griffin suffered a career‑ending knee injury in February 1983. He retired with a 5.1 point average in 480 games, spanning seven seasons.
BORN: JANUARY 19, 1931, CHICAGO, IL
DIED: MAY 15, 1991, MUSKEGON, MI
An outstanding two‑way tackle for Oscar E. "Okie" Johnson's Muskegon Heights
Tigers, Tom Johnson earned All‑State gridiron honors in the fall of 1947.
The Tigers rolled to 27 straight victories and three consecutive mythical
state titles during Johnson's years at MHHS. Johnson also competed in
basketball and track for the Heights. An excellent shot putter, he set
a Class A state record with a toss of 54 feet, 4-¾ inches at the 1948
Michigan Interscholastic Track and Field championships.
Heavily recruited by colleges throughout the nation, Johnson selected the University of Michigan. Used on both sides of the line by head football coach Bennie Oosterbaan, he helped the Wolverines win the Big Ten title in 1949 and 1950. In Michigan's 14‑6 Rose Bowl victory over fourth‑ranked California in 1951, the 6-foot-2, 225 pound junior finished second to teammate Don Dufek in the MVP voting. Although Michigan finished fourth in the Big Ten in 1951 with a 4‑2 record and 4‑5 overall, Johnson earned All‑Big Ten honors on both offense and defense.
Upon graduation from Michigan, Johnson was named to the College All‑Star team. Noted for his speed and power, he was selected in the sixth round of the 1952 National Football League draft by the Green Bay Packers. Following one year of service with the Packers, he received his draft notice from the U.S. Army. Upon his discharge from the armed forces 22 months later, Johnson returned to Green Bay for another season of action. In 1956, he signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. Because of injuries, he retired from professional ball in 1957.
Ira C. "Ike" Kepford
BORN: MAY 29, 1919, HARVEY, IL
DIED: JANUARY 18, 1987, HARBOR SPRINGS, MI
Soft spoken and low key, Ike Kepford lettered in three sports at Muskegon
High School between 1935 and 1937. As captain of the football squad,
Kepford earned All‑State honors in the fall of 1937. Considered one of
the finest blocking backs turned out by head football coach C. Leo
Redmond, the 6-foot, 173-pound senior led the Big Reds to a 9‑0 record and
the mythical state title in 1937. Kepford was also a member of
Muskegon's 1936‑37 state-championship basketball squad.
Following high school graduation in 1938, Kepford attended Northwestern University and lettered in football for the Wildcats in 1939, 1940 and 1941. The 1940 Northwestern team lost only to No. 1- ranked Minnesota and No. 3-ranked Michigan to finish seventh nationally, according to the Associated Press poll, with a 6‑2 mark. Star backfield mates Paul Soper (also from Muskegon High) and Bill DeCorrevant graduated after the '40 season. In his senior year Kepford led Northwestern to a fourth-place, 4‑2 record in the Big Ten and an 11th place finish nationally, according to the AP poll, with a 5‑3 record overall in 1941.
Following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Kepford was inducted into the Navy during the half‑time ceremony of a Northwestern game. Enrolled in the school of Dentistry, he left the university late in his senior year to become a Navy aviator. As a Navy fighter pilot, Kepford notched 16 documented kills in combat over the South Pacific. At one point early in the war, he was the U.S. Navy's leading air ace. Presented with two Navy Crosses, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Air Medal and the Silver Star, he was actually considered under‑decorated by his commanding officer.
BORN: OCTOBER 8, 1935, MUSKEGON, MI
A two‑time All‑State halfback on the gridiron for Muskegon St. Mary's High
School, Jim Morse tallied 130 points as a junior to finish third in the
state's prep scoring race. In his senior year, he notched 133 points en
route to a second place finish in the 1952 scoring race. On the basketball
court, the senior guard led the Irish to a 20‑3 record and runner‑up honors
in the 1953 Class "C" state finals at East Lansing.
Upon graduation, Morse accepted an athletic scholarship to play football at the University of Notre Dame. A starting halfback in his sophomore season, the Muskegon native turned in his finest collegiate performance for the Irish against Notre Dame's archrival, the University of Southern California. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Morse rushed for 179 yards in 19 attempts and scored twice as Notre Dame came from behind to defeat the Trojans 23‑17. The Irish finished the 1954 season ranked fourth in the nation by the Associated Press with a 9‑1 record.
The following year, the junior back caught five passes for 209 yards from his quarterback, Paul Hornung, including a 78‑yard touchdown reception in a 42‑20 loss to USC. His 41.6-yard-average‑per‑reception in the 1955 contest ranks first in Division I football according to NCAA records. Notre Dame ended the season ranked eighth by the AP, with an 8‑2 mark. Morse finished the year as the leading receiver on the team, with 17 pass receptions for 424 yards. At the end of the season, he was selected to captain the Irish in 1956.
Morse and Hornung were bright spots in a long 1956 campaign. Hit hard by graduation, the squad was young and inexperienced. The Irish would finish the season at 2‑8, the worst record in the school's long history. Morse again led the team in receiving, with 20 receptions for 442 yards. Following the season, he was selected to play in the East‑West Shrine game.
Both Hornung and Morse were picked in the National Football League's annual draft by the Green Bay Packers. However, Morse chose to play professional ball with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. A two‑way player, he lasted two seasons before an ankle injury ended his career.
BORN: July 9, 1917, MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, MI
DIED: JANUARY 3, 1983, GRAND RAPIDS, MI
outstanding all‑around athlete at Muskegon Heights High School from 1933‑37,
Milo Sukup earned All‑State honors in basketball and football. Sukup also
excelled in track, holding the school's record in the 100‑yard dash at 10.2
seconds, and in baseball, as an infielder for the Tigers. His athletic
exploits were recognized with 12 varsity letters.
On the gridiron, the powerful fullback led the Tigers to 27 consecutive victories and three mythical state titles between 1933 and 1935. In his honor, the final football game of his senior year was played on a day declared "Milo Sukup Day."
Following graduation from the Heights, Sukup attended the University of Michigan. At Michigan, head coach Fritz Crisler moved the 5-foot-8, 176 pound back to the offensive line, as the running guard for Wolverine great Tom Harmon. Despite his small size, Sukup excelled on the line. Head injuries suffered in a game against the University of Pennsylvania forced him to miss the final three games of his senior season. Many believe the injury cost the Heights native All‑American honors.
Soon after completing his college career, Milo became head football coach at Grand Rapids Union High School. At Union, Sukup installed the single wing attack used at Michigan. Between 1942 and 1971, his Red Hawks earned five outright City League titles and shared a sixth. His 1948 squad went undefeated en route to the mythical state crown in Class A.
Robert C. "Bob" Zuppke
BORN: JULY 2, 1879, BERLIN, GERMANY
DIED: DECEMBER 22, 1957, CHAMPAIGN, IL
One of the most innovative minds in the world of college football, Bob
Zuppke received his start in coaching at Muskegon High School in the fall of
1906. After a brief stint as an artist in New York City, Zuppke accepted a
position at Muskegon as the director of athletics. Arriving 10 days before
the opening of school, he immediately jumped into action as the head
For the next four years, Zuppke handled the coaching duties of the football team, as well as the basketball and track squads at Muskegon. His football teams compiled a 29‑4‑2 record. Zuppke's boys brought home the school's only state track title in the spring of 1909.
Following the 1909-10 school year, Zuppke left Muskegon for a three‑year stint at Oak Park High School in Illinois. After losses in his first and fourth games at Oak Park, his teams notched 27 consecutive football victories and two mythical national prep championships. University of Illinois athletic director George Huff recognized his talent with a football team and signed him to coach the Illini. With players like Harold "Red" Grange, George Halas and Potsy Clark, and plays like the flea flicker and the screen pass, Zuppke's squads rolled up 131 victories, seven Big Ten titles and four mythical national championships over a span of 29 seasons. His reputation ranks at the very top, along with legendary collegiate coaches like Fielding Yost, Alonzo Stagg, Knute Rockne and Glenn "Pop" Warner.