The 2015 Benedictine College Athletic Hall of Fame

The 2015 Athletic Hall of Fame

Published: Wednesday, October 28

Benedictine College celebrated its annual Homecoming in winning style, with exciting victories in football, women’s soccer and men’s soccer. The weekend also included the formal announcement of the All-Steinway School honor and inaugural concert on the Dalzell Steinway Concert Grand Piano, along with the traditional Homecoming parade, bed races, dance, and the Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony. This year, the Hall of Fame class included Bill Samuels ’54, Jeff Pieper ’86, Jeff Pirog ’87, and the coaches and players from the undefeated 1985 football team.

Bill Samuels was a four-year varsity letterman who was one of the starting five on the legendary 1954 NAIA National Championship Basketball Team. He was named to the All-Conference team and was selected for the All-NAIA second team that year. He returned to the college in the 1960s to serve as the assistant basketball coach, successfully recruiting the foundation of the 1967 National Championship team with players like Darryl Jones and Vince DeGreef. He also helped establish soccer on the Benedictine campus, serving as the first fulltime soccer coach in the history of the school.

“Bill Samuels earned the respect of all the coaches and teammates he played with,” said Marion Nickel, a friend and former coworker at Ward High School in Kansas City, Kan. “And as a coach, the players loved him.”

Nickel went on to talk about how Samuels had recruited many of the players that would go on to with the 1967 championship. He told a story that had been related to him by Darryl Jones, one of the players from that historic team. He said Darryl acknowledged that Samuels was the “sole reason” he attended St. Benedict’s College, now Benedictine College. Darryl had never heard of St. Benedict’s and met Samuels after a particularly bad high school game. But Samuels told him he had seen what he needed to see and he wanted him at SBC. Jones told Nickel he had never met anyone he trusted more than Coach Samuels.

“His greatest asset was his ability to help you see your potential, and work with you to help you achieve it,” Nickel said. “In a 12-year period, he was associated with the only two national championships in the storied history of this school; one he played on and one he assembled.”

Jeff Pieper played quarterback for the Ravens from 1982 through the undefeated 1985 season. During his three years as the starting quarterback, the Ravens racked up 22 victories, made their first appearance in the NAIA National Playoffs in 27 years, and had an undefeated regular season. He is still the top rushing quarterback in the school’s history, averaging 5 yards per carry in 287 attempts and rushing for 19 touchdowns in his career. At the same time, he is in the Top 10 quarterbacks in passing, with a 45% completion rate for 2,458 total yards. When he graduated, he was the only Raven to be in the Top 20 in passing, scoring, rushing and total offense.

Kevin Godar, a former teammate and receiver on the 1985 team, introduced Pieper. After giving him and most of the rest of the team a good-natured roasting, he offered a few comments on his quarterback.

“Jeff was a fantastic football player, a fantastic passer and I’m sure one of the greatest players that ever played at this college,” he said. “He was a great leader. He managed in the huddle. He took this team to the 10-0 season that we had. I don’t think we can give anybody more credit than Jeff. I would say he’s a hall-of-fame businessman, a hall-of-fame father, and I know he’s a hall-of-fame friend, and now he’s going to be the newest member of the Raven Hall of Fame family.”

In 1985, Jeff Pirog became the first Benedictine College position player to be named First Team NAIA All-American. He was known as a fierce offensive lineman who dominated every defense he faced. His determination, quiet leadership and work ethic inspired his teammates throughout his career.

“He’s the hardest working guy that’s ever played football here,” said Kevin Rauber, another member of the 1985 team. He told the audience about a time when they were in college and a huge snowstorm had shut down the city and the Benedictine campus. He said that while everyone else slept and took advantage of the day off, Pirog borrowed his car, drove for an hour through the snow, got his workout done in the weight room, and then drove back for another hour in the nasty weather. “There’s never been a guy that worked self-discipline as it related to being a great football player like Jeff Pirog,” he said with emotion. “And we wonder why he became an All-American.”

Head Football Coach Larry Wilcox introduced the 1985 team. Wilcox had just taken on the reigns as head coach in 1979 and it was an emotional reflection for him, looking back 30 years at that undefeated season.

“It was my pleasure to have had the honor of coaching such a talented group of young men and working with the other coaches, and they were such a dedicated group of young men and coaches, and on top of everything else such a loyal group of young men and coaches,” said Wilcox. “There are a lot of undefeated teams out there, but the 1985 team was something special. They were probably the first truly great team.”

The group enjoyed a night of camaraderie and memories and many in attendance said it was one of the greatest events they had attended.