NeveHarms When Mike began coaching Junior Football League games in 1972, money was tight. "We had our meetings on Adams Street, and they'd have to walk across the street to South Side Bank to sign a note to fund the season," Burns said.
The 55-year-old Washington native retired earlier this month as president of the JFL of Central Illinois. During his 15 years in that volunteer position, Burns added flag football and cheerleading, developed seven new JFL areas and increased total participation by I,500 for today's total of about 4,000.
Participation in JFL coaching clinics increased about six times, to around 600. And
the formerly cash-strapped organization had about $280,000 in the bank and an annual operating budget of nearly $500,000 by the time Burns retired.
"We had a bad reputation with a lot of high school coaches and officials, for good reason," Burns said. "We had some coaches out there who had no clue about youth sports. They were out there reliving their high school days. Now, high school coaches all welcome the JFL. We cleaned up a lot of things."
Burns is retired after working 30 years as a Caterpillar, Inc. assembly worker. Although he had no college degree or background in the field, Burns became adept enough to start his own fundraising business.
He is now retired from that job as well, in order to spend time with wife Crystal, daughters Kelley and Missi, stepsons Sean and Troy and three grandchildren.
But Burns still plans to help the JFL, remain president of the Old Timers Association - which raises $15,000 to $17,000 annually for youth sports and charities - and help a host of other causes.
"Anything I'm involved with, he's my first choice to add to the committee," said Old Timers treasurer Quent Yerby, the 1978 Neve Harms winner. "Everything Mike has ever done, he's never gotten paid. He won't accept anything - maybe a free lunch."
When Mike began coaching Junior Football League games in 1972, money was tight. "We had our meetings on Adams Street, and they'd have to walk across the street to South Side Bank to sign a note to fund the season," Burns said.
1974-75 Richwoods Boys Basketball Team
Left to right: Coach Hammerton, K. Sims, J. Hohstadt, J. Grigsby, K. Westervelt, A. Cornelius, M. Smith, D. Marr, D. Holcomb, C. Williams, S. Miller, G. St. Julian, D. Stein, J. Dixon, K. Kowalis, Assistant Coaches Eisele and Snarr.
The Knights looked promising with four-returning lettermen. They remained undefeated through every MS-9 bout including a sellout game with Peoria High. The Knights only fell once to upstate Thornton, to take second in the Pekin Holiday Tournament. The perfect conference record got Richwoods its second consecutive crown. It was only the second time in conference history that a perfect record had been accomplished. The Knights were led by Chris Williams with 801 points that season which was a school record. Other players that performed outstanding that year were Kevin Westervelt, all-conference guard; Derek Holcomb, a defensive specialist and all-conference center; and Jim Hohstadt, conference leader in free-throw shooting. The Ricwoods Regional proved to be two of the best games they played all year. They set a school scoring record with 121 points in defeating Canton. In the title game they defeated Galesburg and won a chance to meet arch rival Peoria High in the Sectional. The Knights were able to avenge their loss from last year and beat Peoria High and advance to the Super Sectional, where they defeated North Central Sterling Warriors. The Knights found themselves in the Elite Eight for the first time. They won their first game at state then dropped the last two to finish fourth in the state. The Knights finished with a 30-3 record and 16-0 in conference play.