Three local sports personalities, one Green Bay Packer, and one Forgotten Person were honored at the 22nd annual Doug Jirschele Memorial Sports Award Banquet on Saturday, May 10.
The event is a charity banquet sponsored by the Clintonville American Legion Post 63 to benefit the Clintonville American Legion baseball team and other youth baseball activities.
Brian Dunlavy, Jeni Yaeger and James Peters received Doug Jirschele Sports Awards. These awards are given to individuals with Clintonville area ties who have achieved success in the world of sports.
Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy received the Doug Jirschele “Nice Guy” Award, which is presented to a person who has achieved success in the world of sports but may not have ties to the Clintonville area.
Jodi Behnke received the “Forgotten Person” Award, given to an individual who has made contributions to sports in the Clintonville area but has not always received the proper recognition deserved. Bill “Schmidt”
Jartz served as Master of Ceremonies, while Bob Gillespie was the main speaker.
The banquet is dedicated to Doug Jirschele for his many contributions to sports in the Clintonville community.
A crowd of over 400 people attended the event this year, which included a silent auction and a live auction. Award winners were given the opportunity to address the crowd, and bio information on each award winner was printed in a special booklet available to all in attendance. Highlights of each award winner’s comments and athletic accomplishments are summarized below.
Dunlavy grew up on a farm just outside Clintonville with his eight siblings. He is married to Gloria and they have four children: Brian (Sarah), April, John (Joelle) and Kirbianne.
Dunlavy graduated from Clintonville High School in 1971 and went on to college at UW Superior. He graduated in 1974 with a Bachelor’s degree in education. While at Superior, he played baseball all four years and played football one year. He had a career batting average of .303 and was captain of the team his junior and senior years.
Dunlavy also played for the Clintonville A’s BABA team from 1972-86. During his career, the team won the BABA Grand Championship in 1975, when he was the recipient of the MVP Brunner Award. He had five hits and hit for the cycle with two home runs, one being a grand slam. He tallied seven RBIs in the game.
As a catcher, he caught four no-hitters, including two during Legion baseball in Clintonville and two in college.
Dunlavy is also known as “Coach D”, having coached athletics throughout his professional career. He began teaching in Clintonville in 1977, and began coaching at the same time.
As head football coach from 1998-2009, he coached the team to four Regional titles and led his teams to the playoffs 7 out of 11 years with the best run in 2007, when the team made it to level 4. Dunlavy also coached Legion baseball from 2001-05, and his team made it to State in 2002.
Dunlavy retired in 2009 and can be found working at the Riverside Golf Course or walking one of his dogs around town.
“Family was always so important to me growing up,” said Dunlavy. “You all are part of my sports family. My family never missed a game, so it’s no wonder I had the passion that I had.”
Dunlavy thanked his wife and children for supporting his teaching, coaching, and athletic careers. He also expressed thanks for his many teammates.
“We had success and failures, but we did it together,” he said. “What a great time! I’m thankful for all of my teammates and the Jirschele family. Don was the greatest person to play for. He taught us to play the game with respect. He is a top-notch man.”
Daughter of Todd and Laurie Yaeger, Jeni was born June 8, 1987 in Shawano. She has one brother, Joshua. She graduated from Clintonville High School in 2005 and graduated from Ripon College in 2009 with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a minor in Economics.
In high school, she participated in volleyball and basketball all four years. In volleyball, she earned honorable mention All-Conference in 2002 and 2003, First Team All-Conference in 2004, MVP in 2003 and 2004, and All-State Honorable Mention in 2004. In basketball, Jeni received honorable mention All-Conference in the 2002-03 season and MVP in 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons. She also was a member of the 2005 Regional Championship team.
After high school, she went on to play volleyball and basketball at Ripon College all four years. In volleyball she earned academic All-Conference honors in 2007 and 2008, First Team All-Midwest Conference in 2008, and MVP in 2008. In basketball, she earned academic All-Conference honors in 2007, 2008, and 2009. In her senior year, her team beat St. Norbert in the conference tournament to be named Midwest Conference Champions, earning a Division III NCAA tournament berth in the process.
After graduating from college, she returned to Clintonville to help on her family dairy farm until she found a job at GreenStone Farm Credit Services. She currently works in their Little Chute office as a credit analyst. She resides in Waupaca, where she continues to play volleyball year-round.
“I’d like to thank my family for supporting me throughout all of my athletic years,” she said. “My parents traveled to all of my high school games and all of my home games at Ripon, all while having to tend to the cows.
“There is no ‘I’ in team,” added Yaeger. “I am so thankful for my family, friends and teammates.”
Peters was born Nov. 7, 1935 in Antigo. He married Jollene Jepson, a member of the Clintonville High School Class of 1956. The couple has four children: John, Jodi, Jeff and Jayme. Throughout their life together, James and Jollene have moved 61 times in the past 55 years.
Jim participated in football, basketball, track, band, student council and stage plays while in high school. He graduated from Clintonville High School in 1953 and then attended the Michigan College of Mining and Technology (MTU) in Houghton, and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering in 1958.
While at MTU, the annual lists James as having played football four years, serving as a captain and earning MVP honors. He was the team’s leading rusher for three years while playing both offense and defense.
After graduating, he went to work for the Chicago Bridge and Iron Company, along with several other companies. He was a licensed professional engineer in the state of Michigan and New Mexico and has been involved in several projects including the Wausau hospital, Neenah Senior High School, and Grand Butte Hotel in Mount Crested Butte, Colorado.
James retired in 1991 after spending 33 years on construction projects. He says his career was similar to playing and coaching athletics.
“Being on the road in diverse locations, putting together a team of new people and mending them into a unit that works together and has good chemistry over a set period of time is what I did at work. It’s very similar to athletics,” he said. “The final score is easily established by the financial report—and if you lose, you may be traded.”
He said growing up around Clintonville provided many opportunities.
“Clintonville has been very good to my wife and I,” he commented. “I appreciate the years we spent here. Thank you for having me back.
“Moving 61 times was difficult, but I told Eddie Lacy about it and said he should remember my story when considering free agency,” James said with a laugh.
Lacy was born June 2, 1990 in Gretna, Louisiana. He attended high school at Dutchdown High School and ran for more than 4,000 yards while scoring more than 60 touchdowns in his high school career.
Lacy attended the University of Alabama, playing for the Crimson Tide from 1999-2012. While at Alabama, he was a member of three BCS National Championships and two Southeastern Conference Championships. He was SEC Championship Game MVP, First Team All-SEC, and was BCS National Championship Game Offensive MVP.
Lacy was selected by the Packers in the second round with the 61st overall pick in the 2013 draft. He set rookie franchise regular season records for carries (284), rushing yards (1,178), and touchdowns (11).
In 2013, he was selected to play in the Pro Bowl, and was AP Second Team All-Pro. He was selected as the 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year, the first Packer chosen for the award since running back John Brockington in 1971.
Banquet attendees enjoyed a question-and-answer session with Lacy.
“I am excited for Ha Ha (Clinton-Dix),” said Lacy, referring to this year’s Packers’ first-round draft pick, whom he played with at Alabama. “He looks small, but he comes up and hits like he’s as big as I am.”
When asked about his role models, Lacy turned the focus away from football.
“My role models are my parents,” he said. “I don’t have a favorite player who is my role model. My parents made me who I am today.”
Lacy said he was extremely excited upon hearing the Packers had drafted him in 2013.
“I was on a plane at the time, and I was so excited inside. But then I thought about it and realized that this would be the first time I had ever played in cold weather,” he said with a laugh. “Getting hit when it’s cold hurts a lot more than getting hit when it’s hot, but once you go numb, it’s not so bad.”
When asked about his future plans, Lacy said, “I hope I can stay here forever.”
This year’s “Forgotten Person” award was presented to Jodi Behnke, who works behind the scenes to help the banquet succeed year after year, while also providing key support for the Legion baseball programs.
“My involvement is a labor of love for Clintonville athletes,” she said. “Thank you for this wonderful award. I don’t deserve it—I’d rather put the focus on what this banquet does for Clintonville.”
Success is probably an understatement when analyzing the coaching career of Bob Gillespie at Ripon College. In 31 years under his guidance, the men’s basketball program had just four losing seasons, while also having a string of 22 consecutive winning campaigns from 1983-2004. Ripon won an average of 16 games per season during his career. They also set a school record of 23 wins during the 1997-98 season, which included a school record 21-game winning streak.
Gillespie’s career winning percentage of .670 is among the top 40 in Division III history. He is also Ripon’s all-time winningest coach with a career record of 508-250. As head coach of the Red Hawks, Gillespie led his team to six conference championships (1986, 1987, 1991, 1992, 1998, 1999) while also leading the squad to the NCAA Tournament on 10 occasions, most recently in 2002.
Gillespie was honored for his brilliance during the 1997-98 season when he was named Midwest Conference Coach of the Year. He earned another prestigious honor in October 2008, when he was inducted into the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame (WBCA). His greatest honor came in 2010, when Ripon College announced that the basketball court in Wyman Gymnasium at the Storzer Center would be named “Bob Gillespie Court”.
Baseball also played an important role in Bob’s coaching career. He spent two stints as Ripon’s head baseball coach, bringing the program to an all-time high in 2006 when the Red Hawks set the Midwest Conference record for wins with 36. In that season, the Red Hawks became the first and only Midwest Conference team to go undefeated in a 16-game conference season.
Gillespie, who served as Ripon’s head coach for 16 years (1979-94) took control of the program a second time from his father, the legendary Gordie Gillespie, after Gordie’s retirement at the end of the 2005 season. In Bob’s 23 years as head coach, he became Ripon’s all-time winningest coach for baseball with a career record of 359-288-3 for a winning percentage of .555. He led the Red Hawks to seven conference championships as a head coach, and was part of six more as an assistant.
“This banquet represents a ‘who’s who’ of Wisconsin sports,” said Gillespie. “Coaches like Carl Bruggink and Chet Jurkovac are legends, as are the Bennetts, Kinzigers and Dunlavys.
“Jeni Yaeger may be my favorite Ripon College women’s athlete,” continued Gillespie. “She is a great competitor and a great leader.
Gillespie said his early years as a coach were marked by his mercurial temper.
“I was brutal on the refs in my younger days,” he said. “But I learned to respect the officials. One year, one of my baseball teams was at NCAA Regionals. There was a close play at the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning, and our runner was ruled out. I went wild! After letting me yell for a while, the umpire asked me, ‘Do you want the play called right, or do you want it called in your favor?’ That was a life-changing moment for me.”
Gillespie said his respect for Wisconsin sports has grown greatly over the years, and said two recent events exemplified the spirit of sports in the state.
“I love that (Packers quarterback) Aaron Rodgers went to the Badgers’ Elite Eight game this year,” said Gillespie. “He was there to support those kids, and that’s what being a Wisconsin sports fan is all about.
“A second example is when Badgers center Frank Kaminsky announced that he would return for his senior year of school,” said Gillespie. “He said, ‘I’m coming back to play at Wisconsin with my team—the money and the National Basketball Association (NBA) can wait’. Loyalty was more important to him, and that’s the beauty of sports in Wisconsin. That’s what Wisconsin and Clintonville are all about—character and values.
“I was fortunate to have my father as my role model,” continued Gillespie. “He is in 17 coaching halls of fame. He had 1,811 wins as a head coach. He was a head coach for 59 years. His football teams won nine Illinois state high school titles. He impacted over 2,500 players, and that’s what was most important to him. It was always about teaching kids the right way to play.
“Dad taught me to respect the game,” said Gillespie. “He taught players to never show negative emotion. He taught his kids to play with class, and not to boast. He created a mystique. Winning was natural because he taught his kids how to act and how to play.
“The biggest lesson I learned from my dad was to conduct my life the right way,” said Gillespie. “I remember one player who was asked what he wanted to be remembered for. He said he wanted parents to see him play and tell their kids, ‘Do you see #5 out there? That’s how we want you to act and play’.
“To all the sports fans and athletes here tonight: respect the game,” concluded Gillespie. “Parents, point out good role models to your kids. Demand that your coaches and players respect the game.”
A silent auction and live auction were held at the banquet, and a meal catered by Mathew’s Supper Club was served.
Next year’s banquet is scheduled for Saturday, May 9, 2015.