Heart of a Champion Wheaton Warrenville Southcarries Red Grange's Legacyon the Field for Every Game

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), August 27, 2011 | Go to article overview

Heart of a Champion Wheaton Warrenville Southcarries Red Grange's Legacyon the Field for Every Game


Byline: Marco Santana msantana@dailyherald.com

The Red Grange legacy didn't mean much to Danny Vitale when he arrived as a freshman at Wheaton Warrenville South High School. But as he heads into his fourth year with the football team, he says he now understands what the legendary Wheaton son means to the school.

With Grange's image and name so ubiquitous on campus, along with constant reminders from head football coach Ron Muhitch, the starting running back says it is hard to elude.

"You walk through the halls and you see his face everywhere," said the 17-year-old senior captain. "It is like he's always watching over you. As you get older, you respect that this is what our program is built around."

Grange, who grew up in Wheaton, helped transform professional football. His success, his drive and his attitude continue to motivate Wheaton Warrenville South players decades later.

Nowhere is the Red Grange connection more apparent than in Wheaton Warrenville South High School's powerhouse football program. With seven state titles in the last 20 years, the program has gained national notoriety.

The Tigers kick off the season in a Sunday morning tilt with the Glenbard West Hilltoppers, a game that will be televised nationwide at 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 28, on ESPN2.

It seems fitting that a high school game played on what is traditionally an NFL game day will be played at a field named Red Grange Field Memorial Field.

Harold "Red" Grange was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963 after a career with the Chicago Bears. His induction came, in part, because of his effect on professional football's popularity during its infancy.

During that time, college football players rarely played

professionally. But Grange had had a stellar career at the University of Illinois, and some pro owners saw potential in Grange's appeal. He debuted with the Bears in November, 1925, at what is now Wrigley Field before 36,600 screaming fans.

"That's the pioneer of modern-day football," Muhitch said. "You had a red-headed kid running around with ice on his shoulder for a summer job. Who can't relate to that?"

In a 1994 Wheaton history book by local historian Jean Moore, the author says Grange moved to Wheaton in 1908 at the age of 5. For two separate nine-year stretches between 1914 and 1939, Grange's father, Lyle, served as Wheaton's chief of police.

It's unclear where Grange's nickname, "The Galloping Ghost," came from. …

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