>Purple Mafia Profile – Jack Cverko

> Jack Cverko and the ‘Cats grace the cover of SI back in November, 1963

For many younger Wildcat fans hearing about the 1995 Rose Bowl season is just that -hearing. For those of us that experienced that magical year firsthand, it is incomprehensible how a Wildcat fan DIDN’T get to go through that transformational year as a fan. Well, for many of us who did go through 1995 it is hard to relate to the experience of the 1962 season when NU -for a brief time – rose to the ranks of #1 in the nation. For relevance, Fitz has never had a team ranked higher than #22 in either poll. Well, today, we connect with Northwestern All-American Jack Cverko who was a major contributor to that 1962 team – the last Northwestern team to be ranked atop the polls in the nation. He also had the pleasure of gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated as part of that run meaning NU has had two cover presences in team history – 1963 (the SI cover ran the following fall about a feature on Big Ten linemen) and 1995. Let’s get in to it with Jack…

LTP: Your name is one that is very distinguished in NU lore – a 1st team All-American. What have you been up to in recent years?
JC: I retired in 2007 from Daytona Beach Community College. I was Senior Professor and Chair of the Mathematics Department. During my time in Daytona I coached several years of High School and college (Bethune Cookman) football.

LTP: Many current ‘Cats fans have no idea that NU was last ranked #1 in the nation in 1962 – your senior season. You did so in impression fashion stomping Notre Dame, Miami and several Big Ten big names. Take us back to that magical season and offer some specific memories that we can’t learn by simply “Googling” that season.

JC: 1962 was a special year! I was a “red shirt” junior. I sat out 1961 due to a knee injury. Ara and the coaches spent part of the of season with The Green Bay staff (Vince Lombardi) and we installed the Green Bay offense that spring. We spent a lot of time running the sweep. I addition we had a soph. QB and a backup fullback (Myers & Flatly) to build our passing game around. We had a walk on 185 pound center Jay Robinson, team captain and a former walk on Qb Jerry Goshgargian 180lb middle linebacker.

We had a great opening vs. South Carolina , with two great sophomore performances (Myers & Bill Swingle). There starting QB was “Deacon” Dan Reeves (37-20). We followed with a 45-0 vs Illinois.
Then it was Minnesota and Ohio State.

That was the big one. Down 14-0 early in the first quarter we came back to win 18-14. We had a great goaline stand to end the game. In that series we had two interferences penalties the last one in the en zone, at least 6 or seven plays inside the 10 yard line and they did not score! The following Monday we where ranked #1.

Then it Notre Dame and Indiana. Indiana left use with several injured starters. We then fell to Wisconsin, and Michigan State. The team the traveled to Miami for Thanksgiving and finished with a win over the ‘Canes. George Mir a and fetal

The most import part of our season was the family like atmosphere on the team. We were indeed a team from the stars to the scout squad. Agra always recognized the had work by those who received little public recognition.

Some of the notables on the line which was a big part of our success were,Burt Petkus, Chuck Urbanic, Chuck Logan, Pat Riley, Kent Pike, Joe Szczecko, Mike Schwager, Lou Dineff, Larry Zeno, Fred and Ed Turk, Joe Cerne, Rich Olson and Dick Uhlir. After all its what’s up front that counts!
I have left off some of the backs and receivers.

LTP: You were on the cover of SI along with your fellow lineman. Tell us about that momentous occasion – what kind of impact it had on you and the team and what that honor meant at that time.

JC: The S.I. at the time was not that big a deal. My first knowledge of it was when the mail was delivered to the frat house I opened it and saw the picture. It has become a much bigger deal through the years.

Actually I was a member of the ’63 team I was drafted as a “future”. The S.I. cover is from the 1963 Minnesota game. I injured my “good” knee vs. Indiana in 1963. I did some post season appearances with Ara and I was aware of his ongoing talks with ND.

LTP: Ara Parseghian coached only one more season after you graduated and were drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1963. Northwestern beat ND too many times for the Irish trustees to stomach it, so they lured him away. Can you offer some insights in to what made Ara so special? Perhaps his approach to training? Or, specifically, were there instances where he just flat out-schemed opponents?

JC: I think Ara’s greatest asset was his relationship with his players and his staff. As I mentioned we were a close knit group. When things were going good he kept us from getting big headed . Monday meetings started with “we weren’t that good and they weren’t that bad” and “there is nothing older than yesterdays headlines”. As for training we did a lot of running at the end of practice during two a days(several full field gassers). He also introduced a isometric routine during the season. Weight lifting was not a big thing in the early sixties. I think our schemes were fairly simple and the emphasis was on execution. There weren’t a lot of secrets you just out executed your opponents. We did usually have one of two specials for each team. I can remember the Greenbay sweep guards opposite for Illinois when we recognized the linebackers were chasing the pulling guards. Benz scored on along run while Burt and I were pulling the opposite direction. Our trapping game was also very effective.

LTP: The brothers tradition is a long one at NU . Currently Nate and Quentin Williams are carrying the torch. I’ve read that your brother was a key reason for your matriculating in Evanston. Can you talk about that relationship?

JC: As for my brother I would likely not have been recruited to a Big Ten school had it not been for his success. He was both an academic( electrical engineer) and football All American. Neither of us made all-anything in high school. During my freshman year Andy returned to Evanston and we lifted weights and played handball several nights at the Evanston Y. The weight facilities at the campus were sparse. I think this gave me a great advantage over those who were not doing weight training.

LTP: How involved are you today in Northwestern football? How much do you follow the team or even connect with Fitz and company?

JC: Today I am just a fan. I have volunteered to give any help requested recruiting Florida but I can not make any direct contact as per NCAA rules. I think Coach Fitzgerald is doing a good job since he took over the program and his addition a new defensive coordinator seems to have been a great find.

I am impressed with his discipline and the demeanor of the team. I think a little more running game would help give the defense more of a break. But overall they are doing what they have to compete. It’s tough to recruit the kids the big boys are after so they must find those who don’t quiet fit the mold. Sutton was one such player not big enough not fast enough just a winner. Of course in order to do that you must not try to do what others are doing you have got to do things your talent can be successful with.

I think coach Fitzgerald has a good grasp on the program. I am also impressed with his sense of the history of N.U. football. I understand that the lockers in the locker room have the names of past notable players. I have not seen these but one of the players told me he had my locker. In addition he has requested an appearance from Ara Paseghian and his All Americans. Two years ago at a post game tailgate he south out me and my brother Andy and said I heard the Cverckos were hear and I came to say hello. I was quite moved by ths gesture.

I think Coach Fitz has a great start in building a program can be proud of and the future looks bright. I hope the fans and the school will continue its support.

  • jhodges

    >Don't forget there's another set of brothers on this year's squad besides the Williams: the Nagels (and now both play superback).

    But don't get confused by the large amount of players with the same last name who are unrelated (e.g. the 3 Jones, 2 Fields, Brandon Williams, etc.).

  • Greg

    >Great, post, LTP. I love to hear from guys like Jack Cverko who were successfully personally and as part of some the great NU teams of the past. It would be fun to hear from some of the guys, other than Telander and Adamle who we already know, from the terrific teams of '69-'71 like Maurie Daigneau, Jim Lash and Steve Craig. Lash and Craig both went on to the NFL, with the Vikings I think.

  • Lake The Posts

    >Thanks for the insights Greg…great call JHodges…and also don't forget the incoming "Watt" who is no relation to Kevin Watt, but is the brother of Wisconsin's DE.

  • Michael

    After all that teasing leading up to today, I was a bit disappointed. There is so much to learn about those exciting times under Ara. For example, as opposed to now, most players at that time still played both ways. Also they were much smaller. How does that compare to the game now. As a player then and a coach recently, how do the players of today compare to the players of his day, especially off the field. After all the preseason hoopla, how did the team handle the disappointment of the 1963 season? The disappointment of losing Ara? Also, more about Jack before, during and after his NU football days. Just a few thoughts.

  • Jim C

    Condolences to the Cvercko family on the loss of Andy, Wildcat All American and Academic All American.