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.
Very few athletes had a high school career to match Howard Nathan. With a rainbow jumper and his high-top fade hairdo back in the`90s, Nathan epitomized the in-your-face, slap-the-floor defense that is a trademark of Peoria hoops. He led Manual high school to three Illinois state tournament appearances (1988, 90, 91). In his senior season he led Manual to a 2nd place finish. By playing the late quarterfinal Friday, Manual had to play three games in 23 hours, culminating in a championship loss that Saturday night. Nathan scored 19 points, 11 in the last 5 minutes. He finished his prep play with seven rebounds, six assists and two steals. He was tournament scoring leader, and his 13 3-point attempts are still a record for a title game.
Back in Peoria Nathan’s basketball legend grew. His teams won five straight Gus Macker titles from 1998 to 2002. In July 2006, Howard was paralyzed in an automobile accident and confined to a wheelchair.