Davis’ signing brings reflection of past Big Ten products from Bureau County

Princeton's Jim Howard was a member of the 1971 Indiana Hoosiers football team.

Teegan Davis’ signing to play football for the University of Iowa made for a time for reflection of past Big Ten products from Bureau County.

The last Princeton Tiger to play Big Ten football was Eric Foresman with the University of Illinois in the early 1980s. PHS grad Bud Kittler also played for the Illini a decade earlier.

Jim Howard of the PHS class of 1970, played for the Indiana Hoosiers in the early ‘70s.

Bureau County has seen its share of players follow the path to Champaign to play for the Fighting Illini.

Walnut’s Ron Bohm, a member of the Blue Raiders’ 1981 state runner-up team, and Tiskilwa brothers, Todd and Tom Schertz, all played for the Fighting Illini in the early ‘80s. Bohm was a replacement player for the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1987 NFL strike.

Walnut's Ron Bohm played for the University of Illinois from 1982-86.

They were followed to Champaign by Mike Suarez (1989) of DePue.

Davis is the first player from the Illinois Valley to sign with Iowa since La Salle-Peru’s Mike Goff (’94), who went on to a 12-year career in the NFL.

Other Illinois players from the Illinois Valley include Joe Rutgens of L-P/Cedar Point (’57) and the Brown brothers, Bill and Jim, Gerald Wood and Ken Gehler all of Mendota, and Doug Dieken of Streator. Rutgens (Redskins), Bill Brown (Vikings/Bears) and Dieken (Browns) all went on to Pro-Bowl careers in the NFL.

Darrel DeDecker of Atkinson played for the Illini in the early ‘60s.

Walnut’s Ken Bourquin, the “Blue Bullet,” was at Illinois when the Illini won the 1952 Rose Bowl and Big Ten championship, but was ineligible to play as a freshman. He transferred to Western Illinois, to launch a Hall of Fame career and returned to Bureau County as a Hall of Fame coach at Manlius and Bureau Valley.

* Grand ceremony: The Prouty Gym lobby was filled with family, coaches, friends and teammates from the football and basketball teams to watch Davis sign his National Letter of Intent.

His scholarship announcement was shared by a multitude of family friends and classmates on social media, a testament of a young man’s character, who is well-liked and respected by his friends/teammates.

Davis’ signing was a crowning moment for all of the Davis family. His father, Spencer, played for Augustana College and his brothers, Drake and Wyatt, have played for Division II Northern Michigan University.

He is the first to sign with a P5 program and all were equally proud of their little brother.

“We’ve all had our time. It’s his turn now,” Spencer said.

* 1,000-point club: Grady Thompson became the 11th Princeton player to score 1,000 points when he scored 36 points in last Saturday’s win over Rochelle. The moment he shared with his mom, Amy, his No. 1 fan, when he presented her with the game ball, was special.

Thompson passed up both Jamie Reinhardt (2017-21) with 1,010 points and Roger Angel (1959-62) with 1,009 points to move into the No. 9 spot on the Tigers’ scoring charts.

The big question, can he catch the all-time scoring record held by legendary Tiger great Joe Ruklick?

Ruklick, a Prep All-American center with a deadly hook shot, scored 1,306 points playing for Princeton’s 1953-54 and 1954-55 state teams. He poured in 944 points as a senior to lead the Tigers to a fourth-place finish at state.

Legendary Princeton great Joe Ruklick stands as the Tigers' all-time leading scorer with 1,306 career points. He led the 1955 Tigers to a fourth-place finish in the single class system.

He went on to an All-American career for Northwestern and played three years in the NBA, most famous for his assist for Wilt Chamberlain’s 100th-point basket in 1962.

Thompson should pass up both No. 7 Rick Allen (1968-70) at 1,017 and No. Bill Howard (1956-60) at 1,026 in his next game.

From there, he has six more rungs to climb up the Tigers’ ladder to the top with No. 6 Rick Larson (1966-69) at 1,077, No. 5 Matt McDonald (1989-92) at 1,140, No. 4 John Rumley (1976-79), a former PHS coach, at 1,179, No. 3 Vern Magnuson (1956-59) at 1,234, and No. 2 Gary White (1963-66) at 1,298.

Thompson is averaging 25.6 points through the Tigers’ first 12 games. With 18 games remaining, and if he maintains his average, Thompson would shatter Ruklick’s record and finish the regular season with around 1,472 points.

Knowing Joe, who passed away on Sept. 17, 2020, he would be rooting for Thompson to break his record. He told me playing Princeton Tiger basketball was like Mecca.

* Remembering a hero: As young sports fans, we all had our heroes growing up. One of mine was Franco Harris, who turned me into a Pittsburgh Steelers fan at a young age with his iconic “Immaculate Reception.” Sadly, we lost Franco, 72, just three days before his No. 32 uniform was to be retired along with a salute to the 50th anniversary of the “Immaculate Reception.”

I had a No. 32 Franco jersey which my daughter has worn on sports day at school. I was able to meet Franco when he came to the Quad Cities years ago for an autograph show. Knowing when he was supposed to appear at the show, I went to airport a little ahead of time and caught him for an autograph. He couldn’t have been any nicer, a Hall of Famer off the field.

RIP No. 32. Thanks for the memories.

Kevin Hieronymus has been the BCR Sports Editor since 1986. Contact him at khieronymus@bcrnews.com