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Steele and Murawski have much in common

Fri, 2012-07-20 11:34 -- univcomm
Anderson University's offense was the talk of the conference, and heading into the big game -- a showdown with Defiance for the league crown and a trip to the national playoffs -- the Ravens' hopes and dreams rested mainly on the strong arm of their All-American quarterback. The year was 1969, but it could just as easily be 2001. AU has seen the likes of Joel Steele before, and the Ravens have also seen a similar turnaround led by a hot-handed signal caller. More than 30 years ago, Terry Murawski led a Ravens team that had won just one game in 1967 to an 8-1 record and the cusp of the national playoffs. All that kept Anderson out of the postseason was a loss to Defiance. The similarity is eerie (PHOTO: Terry Murawski throws the ball to Ted Williams during a practice day in 1969.

"It was almost the same situation as this group," Murawski said in a telephone interview from his home in Madison, Wis. "We went through a lot of the same things."

Murawski was a senior in 1969, when he set most of the single-season passing records Steele eclipsed this year. But his legend, much as Steele's has, grew two years earlier when he was just a sophomore.

A native of Terre Haute, Murawski came to Anderson University for the same reason most of its students do today -- he liked the campus when he visited and he was a member of the Church of God.

"I wish there was some great story to tell you (about my decision to attend AU)," he said. "But that's pretty much it."

Once he got here, Murawski knew he'd made the right move. He quickly became best friends with Ted Williams, who would go on to set a number of career receiving marks that are now being erased by Steele's top target, David Vance.

The two had great chemistry on and off the field, and it made for an electric offensive attack -- especially in those days.

"If I looked back through the old record books, I bet we threw the ball about 20-25 times a game," Murawski said. "We weren't pass-happy by any means, we had a pretty balanced attack. But we threw the ball quite a bit for that time."

Murawski set many of what he terms his "crazier" records during his sophomore season of 1967, when the Ravens simply weren't very good. It was then that he set the school records of 60 pass attempts and 27 completions in a game against Ashland.

"I was playing well, and getting a lot of recognition, but I actually had kind of a hollow feeling because we were 1-8," he said. "We were behind a lot, and we had to throw the ball to get back into the game."

Two years later, Murawski could take much more pleasure in his accomplishments. The Ravens became a powerhouse, and he was left sounding a lot like Steele does now -- constantly unleashing quotes about the importance of team goals and setting aside his personal stats.

"I know those comments sound kind of trite," Murawski said. "When somebody hits 73 home runs and then says all he really cares about is the success of his team, people have a tendency to think he's just trying to be humble. But the truth of the matter is, people remember champions and championship teams. Records can be broken, but they can never take that championship away from you."

Murawski never got that championship, following one game short with the loss to Defiance, but he has found plenty of success since leaving Anderson.

He first moved to Wisconsin in the early 1970s when the owners of a semi-pro team in Madison asked him to come up and try out. While he was there, he got his master's degree from the University of Wisconsin and made several contacts within the administration.

A short time later, the Badgers tabbed then Ball State coach Dave McClain to run their football program. A mutual friend in Indiana gave McClain Murawski's name and told him to look the former quarterback up when he got to the Dairy State.

McClain did, and he hired Murawski as an administrative assistant. Murawski spent four years on the Badgers' staff and went to three bowl games -- the Hall of Fame Bowl, the now-defunct Garden State Bowl and the Independence Bowl. He coached a number of future stars, including Al Toon, who would go on to play for the Ne

w York Jets. "It really was the start of some better times for their football program," Murawski said. "And I made some great friends."

When his coaching stint ended, Murawski moved into the administration. He's been the director of Wisconsin's Alumni Letterwinners Association -- or 'W' Club -- for the past 18 years, and he said he loves his job.

"I've been very fortunate to grow with this organization," Murawski said. "I'm very lucky to get the opportunity to work with some of the people I've been able to work with. For the last decade, our athletics have really been phenomenal. We've been to three Rose Bowls and one basketball Final Four. It's been a real great opportunity. Madison is a fabulous town, and I'm lucky to have had my life migrate up here."

But Murawski hasn't forgotten his roots.

He returned to AU this fall for homecoming, as an inductee of the Ravens' Hall of Fame.

"It was one of the highlights of my life," he said. "It was very heartwarming to be back on campus, and to see some of the old coaches and professors who were there when I was there. Don Brandon is a dear friend, and it was great to see Coach (Dick) Young again and President Jim Edwards. It touched my heart to see them. I even had a couple of old teammates who still live in the area, and they heard I was coming in and came out to see me. It was just a beautiful fall day, and a rush of memories came back to me. It couldn't have been any better."

During his visit, Murawski had a chance to address this year's team and to meet Steele in person.

"I enjoyed meeting Joel in person," Murawski said. "He seemed to be a very sincere young man, and that was important to me. I was impressed with the way he threw the ball and the way he conducted himself on and off the field." Murawski was also impressed with coach Steve Barrows' offense.

"I would have liked to have played for him," Murawski said. "That offense is very conducive to anybody who can throw the ball. Joel has a great opportunity, great talent, and he seems to be taking full advantage of it."

Murawski admitted he has mixed emotions about seeing his records fall, but he seems genuinely proud of Steele's play.

"I took a lot of pride in what I accomplished in Anderson," Murawski said. "But I also told my wife the other night that 30-something years is long enough for my records to stand."

Murawski had one important piece of advice for this year's team, hoping they have an appreciation for the situation they're in and the opportunities that lie in front of them.

"I've been around the Big 10 and to a lot of big bowl games," Murawski said. "I know people always have a tendency to think things are better somewhere else, but I wouldn't trade my experiences at Anderson for anything."

He had a special message for Steele, as perhaps the only man around who can truly appreciate the unique position AU's sophomore superstar finds himself in.

"He has my heartfelt congratulations," Murawski said. "The numbers he's putting up are just incredible. He's had a fabulous year. He's an exceptional player, and as long as he stays grounded and focuses on team goals first, I'm sure his records are going to stand even longer than mine did."

--George Bremer is a reporter with the Anderson Herald-Bulletin.