1981 Linebackers (Draft/unedited)

The Best Linebackers I played with at Eastern Illinois University 1981-83 (Draft)

I had a great athletic experience at Eastern Illinois University. I also had the pleasure of playing with some impressive defensive and offensive players. In my later years, I reminisce often about players I had the fortune to play with. I’ve had this writing project on my mind here and there…but lately I began recording these experiences. But, more important, I was a part of a winning college football program. So, I got the idea to rank the best defensive and offensive player by segment from my time. Again, I played with national champions, runner-up national champions, and an 11-1-1 season record team.

The Candidates:
EIU linebackers I played with (1981-83)

Ira ‘Rue’ Jefferson
Thomas ‘Mur Dog’ Murray
Bill ‘Superman’ Mine
Oretago ‘Hollywood’ Jackson
Reggie ‘Hawk’ Taylor

The Preacher and the Baller

In 1981, EIU football wore the robe of Division II national runner-up… second best. However, one chooses to look at it..we lost. I say “We” although I did not make the traveling team.  The start of the 1981 season seemed somewhat uncertain, I was elevated to a “Red” i.e., first string but wasn’t comfortable just yet. I recall ‘Coach Shack’ my DB coach screaming at me so much I thought several times wanting to hit him in his head. Inside of me was a burning fury to go back to Chicago. I thought about it day and night. At Eastern, I came in contact with many cats from Simeon High School. To say they were arrogant pricks would be kind. I found most just talked a good game, they were like Chicago catholic league players. Great with their high school team but were bums on a college roster.

One Simeon player that came in 1980 was CB Bryant Hobbs. This cat had a sculptured body, bench 300Ibs, squat 400, run 4.5, he could do everything. He was elevated quickly on the depth chart. But something was bugging him, he looked as confused as I was. I thought it was the ‘Charleston City Virus’. The ‘Charleston City’ virus was an illness that only I possessed. You get chills because the ghosts of Andy Griffin and Barney was walking around. This city wasn’t your ordinary Stephen King was more than that.  It was fucking BORING!!!! Nothing in Charleston resembled the life I had for eighteen years in Chicago. I was sad and depressed my entire four years at Eastern, I secretly lived in misery.

Chicago in 1980 was and still remain a city marked by race, racism, and class. Charleston Illinois elevated my fear, not against bigotry or racism but social isolation. Race, racism, and social isolation occurred on the campus, in the dorms, as well as on our practice field. However, I never knew how isolated I was in the Chicago Ghetto until EIU. Bryant had become a close a friend. We would talk for hours, he was deathly humble. Totally the opposite of this asshole, the author. I was a loud opinionated little boy wanting his mother. This, however, would turn into fury on the gridiron.

My first attempt to leave Eastern was in January 1981. While walking with my guy Hobbs by Lantz heading toward Stevenson, this cat humbling announced he’s leaving. I’m like “What”? His words were that the Lord was calling him to preach, my Lord was calling me to get the hell outta dodge. I was like cool.  I’m with you when are we leaving? Now bare in mind, the spring depth chart has been announced. It didn’t matter to me I was first string, I wanted home. Hobbs next phrase froze me in my busted boots and EIU athletic uniform, “Rob you shouldn’t leave your path may call for something different.” I was like damn this cat’s a man. He left, I stayed, he went on to preached, I went on to raised hell.

Eastern Illinois/WestSide Invasion

In 1981, some new cats came into Eastern from the Westside of Chicago, Al Jennings (Dr. Death) DB, Roy Ellis-RB, and Jerry Wright-WR. Coach Shack ask if I would go meet them at the ‘Bar’ (Dunbar my high school alma mater) and talk about the campus. I did just that, they were practicing for the Public Catholic All-Star game. I spoke to them like David ‘Smooth’ Cobb spoke to me after I intercepted a pass in the end zone to win the 1980 City Catholic All-Star game.  Oh, by the way, Catholic league were bums…they can only play with their teammates. Isolate them on a college team and some fizzle. In Chicago, the catholic league in football. Mount Carmel, St. Rita, Loyola were the greatest…yadda, yadda, yadda…Bums.  We ripped them a new on in the 1980 All-Star game. In fact, seven players on the 1980 Public League team played professionally…briefly.

Again, I digress. I told those three when they come down I’ll look after them. In fact, Al ‘Dr. Death’ Jenning was supposed to take my job.

I’ll never forget Greg Duncan stuttering ass…dr…dr…dr…dr…dr…dr.death ga….ga…ga….go…take…take…your..ja…ja…job rob. Greg Duncan is one of the best men I’ve played with at Eastern. I never saw a mf with a speech impediment talk so damn much. Needless to say, I helped Al Jenning be the best athlete he could be…even if it meant taking my job. I counseled him like Will James, Smooth, and Rich Brown counseled me. But Death was on some other shit and faded into the campus scene, eventually pledging Kappa. I think at that moment Death stop playing football although he remained on the team.

Rue and Roy Ellis

Roy Ellis was a talented running back from Manley High School on the Westside. As was known around the ‘Chi’ Westside football wasn’t nearly as competitive as Westside Basketball. Westside basketball was equally if not better than Southside basketball on a given day.  Depaul university benefitted from both sides of town in their run in the NCAA tourneys. Roy older brother “Little John” came down to Eastern and lit us up while playing I believe for UIC. Roy Ellis was laid back cat, he had the look I had, wtf is this. He would soon come to find Eastern football had a bad element.

In the fall of 1981, Rue the starting outside senior linebacker began to terrorize Roy. I’m not sure where this came from, I had never seen this behavior from Rue. Or I possibly overlooked it, but I’m not sure why Roy became his whipping boy. Rue made Roy’s freshmen year hell. After catching wind that Rue is bullying Roy, I choose to sit with Death, Roy, and Jerry, at their athletic table for dinner. I wasn’t for him bullying Roy.   Rue would throw food on him in the mess hall trying to incite him. He would intimidate him in practice… dig this was the first case of athletic stalking. Again, I never understood what the fuck Roy did to him. But he hated him with a passion or it appeared that way.

Although some upperclassmen knew about Rue’s behavior. To my knowledge, I never heard one tell Rue to knock it off. Now bare in mind this hulk of a being is just feet away, with the human power to crush our asses. Yet, I sat there to make a statement, I’m not for that shit. Rue was pissed, to say the least…he threw food more deliberately at Roy. Again, this went on for the entire fall training camp.  I never found out motives for Rue’s behavior.  But it was one of the saddest moments at EIU for the program. You don’t bully your teammates. You just don’t do shit like that…I respected Rue, but was disappointed. I’m sure he was also disappointed as we all eventually matured. We all did stupid shit in our youth…me more than others.

Robert Williams