Sunday, August 21, 2011

Foresters practice off campus!

Wednesday, August 17th signified an important event for Lake Forest College football game: the first two-a-day practice schedule. The first practice took place at Halas on Farwell field like most practices, but the second practice started out with a field trip. The players loaded up in busses and got a chance to practice on historic Constitution Field at Great Lakes Naval Base ( Great Lakes Naval Station is the ONLY Boot Camp for the US Navy. Over 250 trainees attended the night time practice to watch the Foresters. The Foresters had a high contact practice, with a number of situational scrimmages.

A group of trainees who are part of the Special Warriors training program at Great Lakes has a special interest in the process. LFC assistant Coach Mark Dodd, is their drill instructor for their training. Coach Dodd who has served in the military for over 20 years, assists the Foresters with the offensive line. All of the Foresters had to take notice as two minutes into the practice a “Hoo ah Chief Dodd” echoed through the entire Great Lakes Campus.

When asked why he wanted to practice at Great Lakes, Coach Catanzaro replied, “First and foremost, we appreciate the service and sacrifice, that the soldiers perform. We wanted to provide them a break from training, and hopefully some entertainment. There were two individuals who came up to me, one who was a receiver at a conference school (Illinois College) and another who was a tight end at Towson, and I think both of them would have loved to put the pads on again. The second, aspect that I really liked is that it gave us a “different feel” to practice. A night practice is something that we never get to do at home, so it was a great change of pace. Having a good size crowd at a practice is not something that our guys aren’t used to, and I know they were excited to have people yelling and screaming for them. It was a great environment, and I hope to be able to do that again next year.”

Regarding the scrimmage, Coach Cat commented,"The offense really got after the defense in the goal line scrimmage. I was REALLY impressed by the run game down inside the 5 yard line. The defense was able to respond during the full field scrimmage and did a tremendous job of taking away things from the offense. They played with more urgency during that period, and it was exciting to see them rebound in the same practice after a below average goal line scrimmage. I couldn't be more please with our teams effort."

Great Lakes Naval Station has an incredible historic tradition surrounding football. During the first half of the 1950’s, the “Bluejackets” were considered to be on par with the great Army, Navy, and other intercollegiate teams. In 1918, the Bluejackets won the 5th Rose Bowl. On that team was an individual who would later have a strong relationship with Lake Forest College. The starting Wide Receiver/Defensive Back was George “Papa Bear” Halas. The building that “bears” his name on campus, is the home of Forester Athletics, and the football teams locker room. Halas was named the MVP of the Rose bowl as he had a 32 yard touchdown, and returned an interception 77 yards for a touchdown. Halas, and the Chicago Bears, built Halas Hall on campus in 1978. The Bears resided on campus until 1997.

During the World Wars, many college football players, either graduated, or left college early for military service. This lead to an influx of talented players and coaches to Great Lakes. Hall of Fame players like Halas, Johnny Lujack, and Otto Graham, who had been a superstar at Northwestern University before entering the Navy. Future Hall of Fame Coaches like Paul Brown, Weeb Ewbang, and Frank Leahy all roamed the sidelines at Naval Station Great Lakes, prior to roaming major college and NFL sidelines.

Because so many players went from college to military service, Great Lakes boasted players like George Halas, Johnny Lujack and Otto Graham, who starred at Northwestern before joining the Navy. The Great Lakes teams were coached by the likes of Paul Brown, Weeb Ewbank and Frank Leahy.

In 1943, the Bluejackets defeated the #1 ranked team in the nation, Notre Dame, and finished in the top 20 of ranked college teams.

Lake Forest College and Great Lakes Naval Academy played against each other many years ago. In the 1940’s the two teams played three games against each other. Lake Forest won two of the three games, but the third game, played December 2nd, 1948, was a 7-14 loss and sadly the final game the two teams ever played against one and other.