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15501493-7254-441E-A46D-41137DD63BB1_1_201_a.heic

A Turkey Day Tribute
to the
1954 Football Team
and
Outstanding Coach Tony Juska

In 1951, Coach Tony Juska began his coaching career at Peoria High School. Coach Juska hailed from the Chicago area and he himself was an outstanding player in the Chicago Prep Leagues.  He scored the only touchdown in the Chicago Prep Title game in 1934 where Lindholm defeated Leo, 6 to 0, before 50,000 fans at Soldiers Field, Chicago.  Coach Juska is a member of the Illinois High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame.  His football coaching record was 50 wins, 13 losses and 6 ties.

 

Upon his arrival Coach Juska was quick to assemble all Peoria High football players and begin what would a call to a winning program. Brock Hessing, who would become the star co-captain of the 1954 team remembers Coach Juska's words.

Hessing recalls, "1951 was Coach Juska's first year at Peoria High. Prior to his arrival at PHS, the school had won only one game in two years. 1951 was our Freshman year and at the beginning of the first week of practice, Coach Juska called all the players together and told us that working together would return PHS to a winning program. He told us we would win some games in 1951, more in 1952 and 1953. He then told us that when we are Seniors we will go undefeated. He also told us we would have to work harder that we ever thought possible to achieve our goal."

"Coach Juska called it just the it way happened.  In March of 2001, 29 of 36 teammates gathered in Peoria to celebrate the 1954 PHS football team induction into the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame.  Most importantly gathered to honor "our coach" Tony Juska."

Here are the excerpts from the letter Coach Juska sent to his players after our reunion celebration:

"This past weekend was an exceptional experience for me!

It was filled with the excitement of seeing you againand reviving old memories of the sweat and tears and joy of winning.  Our visit to the school brought back so many different feelings and emotions, especially when we visited the locker room with its stimulating aroma, the auditorium when I gave "pep talks" to everyone, the classrooms, and finally driving by the football field--it was so strong a feeling that I almost needed to blow my whistle and organize a drill.

Our time together was also about finding out all that has happened to you since graduating from Peoria Central High School.  As a Coach, I always wanted the very best for my players, not only on the football field, but also throughout life.  It was so gratifying for me to hear about your college successes, travels around the world, new families, business careers, grandchildren, and yes, even retirement.  

Could time have passed so quickly?  I guess that it has, but being together again makes me feel young, and reliving the challenges and glory of our Championship Season invigorated me in ways you can not imagine.  As I said in my remarks, "At a time when most people my age are being forgotten or ignored, you have remembered me at a time when I wondered if I ever made a differencein someone elses's life, you reminded me.

Gratefully yours

Coach Juska"

Hessing continued, "Coach made a difference is so manyy lives.  Yes, he taught us to win in athletics, but most importantly, he taught ius how to win in LIFE."

"Coach Juska gave us a true formula for success.  That formula served us well in 1954 and has guided us throughout all of our working careers.  Coach's life and his teachings can be embodied in the word  "SUCCESS".  

S= Coach taught us to begin each day with a smile.  That first smile of the day set the tone for the day.  The first sets the tone for yourself and for those around you.

U= Coach taught us to understand our teammates, our friends, and most importantly, our family - understanding results from being a good listener.  When Coach blew the whistle "Listen Up" we did!

 

C= Have the courage to do new things- take calculated risks and accept the consequences.  He taught us to do things and set goals we never thought possible.

C= Caring- Coach taught us to care about what you do, about how you do it, and to care about those around us.

E= Excellence - Approach everything you do life with an attitude of excellence and enthusiasm - both are contagious.

S/S= Be a self-starter - don't wait for my whistle, don't wait for direction, but rather focus on doing the right thing as opposed to doing things right.

The "Anthony M. "Tony" Juska Memorial Scholarship is given every year at PHS Honors day.  Coach Tony Juska passe away on Nov 30, 2001 in Chicago.  

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