by Thom Van Vleck
I had thought about titling this article: How the JWC made Football America’s Game over baseball. That’s quite a claim, isn’t it? Well, it’s true! First, let me talk a little about Lenvil “Lenny” Elliot and the rest of the the Pro football players that came out of the JWC.
Lenny came to school at Northeast Missouri State University, which is now Truman State, here in Kirksville in the fall of 1969. My Uncle Phil returned from Vietnam after a stint in the Air Force and started school in 1971. Phil already had two years of credits so they were both Juniors. They were both in school to be Physical Education teachers so they took a lot of classes together. They began to train together, but more than that, they shared a love of hunting and fishing and spent nearly every weekend doing just that for the next two years. That was the source of their real friendship.
At this time my Uncle Phil aspired to be a football trainer, maybe even for a professional team, and Lenny was on track to play in the NFL. So they had a lot in common and Phil often shared his unique training philosophy with Lenny and personally trained Lenny for a year and a half before the NFL draft. Phil had the JWC in the basement of his house and basically it was the only gym in town. He told me he got enough in membership dues to pay the rent on the whole house!
Northeast Missouri State was in a “golden” era in football. In 1969, 1970, and 1971 they won the MIAA conference and out of those teams they had 5 players drafted into Pro football. This included four that were trained by Phil! Besides Lenny, there was Tom Geredine who was drafted into the NFL. Then, in the WFL there was Craig O’Sadnick and Marvin Robinson. Phil designed training programs for them for the off season (it was unusual to train in the offseason back then) and they lifted at the JWC gym.
This is remarkable in a couple of ways. Northeast (or Truman as it is now known) had about 10 players EVER play pro football. That means that the 5 that came out of this group was HALF of that total. Pretty amazing and I have often wondered how much the training they got from Phil helped. I think it had to help! I was just a kid, but I recall Phil, Lenny, and the guys hanging out, and hitting the town. Phil has a lot of stories…after all, it was the 70’s and the school has always been about two thirds girls for it’s enrollment!
Next: Part II The JWC, Walter Payton, Winning a Super bowl, and Pro football becoming America’s Game.