A Tribute to Lion John Jooss
By: Lion Mike Weyenberg

John Jooss is one of the nicest people I have ever known. I met him in 1970 when I began my teaching career at Wilson Junior High. John was the ninth grade football coach, and I signed on to coach the eighth grade team. In 1975 I moved up to the ninth grade and we coached together. We had a very good team that first year, including Donny Marquardt, a gifted quarterback, and Scott Reppert, who later on had a tryout with the Chicago Bears. We also had an undersized lineman named Paul Rudolph. Paul had a special gift that John and I spotted on the playground while working noon lunch together. Paul was playing keep-away with a football, and, while on the run, kicked a perfect dropkick to his teammate. The light-bulb went on in our heads at the same time.

We played Menasha in football that week. We got a big lead, and John was enjoying getting everybody involved. He played 33 guys on defense in the second half. He switched a different eleven on every play. It was semi-organized chaos, but the kids had a great time, and to John, that was more important than winning. Late in the game we scored, and sent in our new weapon. “Rudy” lined up 7 yards behind the center for the extra point. I heard the Menasha kids yelling “It’s a fake, there isn’t even a holder!” Rudy took the snap, and dropkicked the ball through the uprights for our 35th point.

John was in charge of the defense, and I ran the offense. John was always drawing up wacky plays ; guys spread out all over the field, all the linemen lined up to the right of center making the center an eligible receiver. Wacky things like that. “Put it in, Mike, I guarantee it will work!” Finally, to appease John, I installed an old 1920’s play; The Statue of Liberty. On this play the quarterback goes back to pass, and the halfback circles around behind him, takes the ball from the outstretched hand of the quarterback as he fakes a pass and runs around end, hopefully, for a big gain. Evidently, the quarterback looks like the Statue of Liberty just prior to the halfback taking the ball from him.

The last game of the year we played Neenah. We were both undefeated. Late in the game we were down by 6 points. On fourth and 7, we ran The Statue of Liberty for the first time that year. Donny went back to pass, Scot plucked it out of his hands and ran around left end for 20 yards to tie the game. We sent Rudy in for the extra point. We hadn’t used him since the Menasha game, and there was a lot more pressure on this kick. He calmly took the snap, made a perfect drop, and kicked it through to win the game. I remember The Post Crescent wrote a nice article about our championship team and our now famous drop-kicker. Over the years, John and I ran into kids who played on that team, and we always enjoyed reminiscing about that special season.

A few years later, John turned the football program over to Bob Simon and me and began coaching girls sports that were new to the junior high programs. He especially liked softball, a sport near and dear to his heart. He had been a terrific softball pitcher for years, and now brought his years of experience to the girls programs at Wilson. He coached them all for 20 years, and won The Red Smith award for his lifelong achievements and dedication. That dedication also included refereeing. Basketball, volleyball, softball, John enjoyed doing them all.

Speaking of dedication, John was a part of a dedicated crew that included John Marra, Bob Simon, Dan Kocher, and me. For over 30 years we were in a sports pool. Every week we bet among ourselves on football games during the season, picked the Bowl Games, and never missed the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Even though we had moved to different schools and later retirement, it kept us together. Three days before John died, he had his brother call in his picks. It was very important to him. John also got Bob, Dan, and me to join the Lions. He was still working on John Marra.

In 1998 John retired from teaching. Mayor Tim Hanna, a former student of his, officially proclaimed it John Jooss Day in the City of Appleton. Even though John retired, he still substituted regularly throughout the district, mostly at Wilson, until he couldn’t any longer because of his illness.

I stopped by Wilson in November to pick up the football signed by the players and coaches from the 1975 football team. It had been in the trophy case for years, and I hoped I could get it for John. I didn’t know it, but it had already been given to him two years prior. I told the secretary that John was not doing well. She was very sorry to hear it and wished him well. “You know”, she said, “John is such a nice person. He would come in during the summer and help the custodial staff clean lockers. He would paint lockers that needed it. He didn’t get paid. He just did it because he wanted to help them out.”

That was John Jooss. One of the nicest people I have ever known.