In 1955, Al Papik returned to Doane as a coach after a teaching and coaching stint at Crete High School. Al had a twin brother, Ervin. Ervin’s son is Dan who owns and operates Ace Hardware. Ervin returned to the farm and Al became an educator.
My uncle, Gene Else, coached basketball at Doane from 1958 to 1960. That’s when I first met Al and his family. They were close friends with Gene and my Aunt Virginia. Most people talk about Al and his football team’s 38 game unbeaten streak. There are a few things that most people don’t know about Al
Al was not only the football coach, but he coached track as well. My uncle told me a story about how he and Al ventured to Central Nebraska to recruit a speedster by the name of Dean White.
Dean became one of the top sprinters in the state. He had a great rivalry with an Omaha University (UNO) athlete by the name of Roger Sayers. That’s the brother of Gale Sayers, the Hall of Fame football player at Kansas and for the Chicago Bears.
When Dean ran for Doane, one of the highlights of the outdoor season was the Doane Twilight Relays. It is now the Jim Dutcher Relays. I wasn’t very old, but I remember sitting in the stands at Doane waiting for White and Sayers to battle it out in the sprints.
I was pretty young, but if my memory is correct, Sayers won by a nose over White in the 100-yard dash, but White beat the Omaha rival in the 220-yard sprint. I know it was highly anticipated and it lived up to its billing.
Another legendary story, true or not, came at a game between Al’s Doane football team and Hastings. The Broncos had blazing fast running backs. However, when they stepped on Simon Field, they knew they were in trouble.
It hadn’t rained in several days, but the field was muddy. I guess someone ran the sprinkler system too long. I don’t know what happened, but Doane won the game and the legend is still alive.
One morning in Kansas City, Fred Beile was woken one morning up by his wife, Ester. She brought the Kansas City Star with her. On the front page of the Kansas City Star’s sports page was the news that UMKC was eliminating their track program. That was distressing news to Fred since he was the head track coach.
I don’t know how it happened, but Fred interviewed with Al at Doane. He was hired to become, among other jobs, the assistant track coach. That was a pretty good hire. When Fred became the head track coach, Doane’s track team became a dynasty.
The branches of that tree continue today. Ed Fye is currently Doane’s men’s track team coach. The Doane track program, known for their excellence, can be traced all the way back to Doane’s hire of Al Papik in 1955.
Al Papik recently at the age of 95. If you have read his obituary, it will tell of his time with Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne in the Nebraska football offices. During his tenure at Nebaska, Al was kind enough to allow me to do an internship as he welcomed a new class of freshmen football players.
You also will read of those great football days. That 38-game win streak may never be matched by any team again. My memories of Al Papik are more personal and stories that most people haven’t heard. Al was a true member of the Doane and Crete communities. His stories will last for a long time.