Former Illinois football stars share their summer job woes

Former Illinois football stars share their summer job woes

Nearly everyone has worked those summer jobs that helped earn a little spending money, filled idle hours, kept parents at bay and taught valuable life lessons. The following is a collection of responses I got to the question, "What was your worst summer job" when I wrote my books on college football in Illinois.

This is part two of a three-part series.


"That job working as a roughneck in the oil fields was the hardest."

--Lou Stivers, Eastern Illinois

"Everything I ever got in this life I worked for. The most physical labor I ever did was working for my brothers’ concrete block plant. "

--Red Miller, Western Illinois


"There are two jobs. As a youngster--I was probably 10 or 12 years old--I worked on farms. I picked string beans. It was so hot. It took so much effort to pick the volume they wanted just to earn a small amount of money. After my senior year in high school I took one class at Florida A&M and worked construction. That was hot! That tar paper was something. I hated that."

--Sam Silas, Southern Illinois

"I was 17 years old. It was for the railroad up in Joliet. First, it was being a carman’s apprentice. Later it was heating rivets and throwing them. The next summer it gets even worse. I worked for the Norfolk and Western. I was laying rail. It was like Cool Hand Luke. You only stopped when there was a train coming through. But, it did me good. It convinced me there had to be a better way."

--Don "Deek" Pollard, Western Illinois


"I worked for Streator Drain Tile. I was 16 years old. I had to carry around these 109-pound tiles all day long. It just wiped me out."

--Ted Schmitz, Eastern Illinois

"Working as a bartender. You had to keep track of the money and keep the waitresses happy. There were people drinking and wanting to tell you what they knew about football. It wasn't my kind of thing."

--Dennis Nelson, Illinois State

"Oh, mercy. I worked in a brick plant once. I didn't enjoy it. Clay bricks, and it was hard. We were the low guys on the totem pole. We were high school kids as summer help. You had to sort those bricks and put them on a pallet with straw between each row and then put pallets on open truck carriers. Sorting in the morning, stacking in the afternoon. That was your day."

--Tom Laputka, Southern Illinois


"Oh, I liked 'em all. I worked at a steel factory in Charleston during intersession to make a little money before I moved to Decatur. I worked three weeks or a month. It was night shift. You had to clean up. The guys that worked there said, 'You aren't going to work you're one of those college students.' But, I won them over with my work."

--Nate Anderson, Eastern Illinois

"It was probably during my playing career. I worked third shift at a steel factory. It was tough to keep your sleep pattern and work out."

--Phil Meyer, Illinois State

"I played in the Central Illinois Collegiate League. During the day I would cut grass, and at night I would play baseball."

--Kevin House, Southern Illinois

"Macomb Park District when I had to cut the weeds along Highway 64 with a manual weed wacker. I got the worst case of poison ivy ever!"

--John Passananti, Western Illinois


"I worked down on 39th and Cottage Grove. It was a job I got through the Urban League. It was run by some guy who was a civil rights activist. It was a bunch of paperwork. It was up on the second floor and all he had to drink was hot tea. I still don't know what we did."

--Robert Williams, Eastern Illinois

"I worked for Manpower in Gary, Indiana when I was in high school. I worked at some place that made mittens. The conditions were just plain filthy."

--Brian Gant, Illinois State

"Working at Kentucky Fried Chicken; it lasted all of two days. It was filthy, greasy, sweaty and a downright horrible experience."

--Donnell Daniel, Southern Illinois

"I was a roofer in New Jersey. It was miserable."

--Frank Winters, Western Illinois


"I was 16 or 17, and I worked as a welder. Nothing against those guys who do it, but it was too damn hot. It was 100 degrees and you're wearing this helmet and heavy clothes. You can't run a fan because it will blow the gas away. I couldn't wait to get back out and detassle corn."

--Tim Lance, Eastern Illinois

--"I worked at a ranch in Texas. Businesses would have company functions there to watch rodeos and barbecue. I was responsible for picking up all the trash."

--Ryan Pace, Eastern Illinois

"Selling knives."

--Justin Roebuck, Southern Illinois


"I never worked a real job. I never really had time to work a job between school and football and track."

--Erik Lora, Eastern Illinois

"I did some construction-type projects for a guy back home in Canton the summer before my senior year. Basically he had me busting concrete up with a sledgehammer, not a jackhammer, but a sledgehammer. It was concrete with the wires running through it. I was ferociously upset with the task, for how hard it was becoming. I hit it harder and harder. I actually got it done and when I went over and told him, he said, 'Wow, I didn't really think you could do it.'"

--Boomer Grigsby, Illinois State

"The first year I came up to Southern I worked for Chartwell's, the catering service. It was horrible. I also worked on some farms, doing things like clearing brush in 90-degree weather. But, really, I didn't work much because I was so involved in sports year-round."

--Joel Sambursky, Southern Illinois

"I sold fireworks one summer. We were in this little hut and it was hotter than heck. The job really wasn’t that bad, but when it came time to get paid they shorted us. I was expecting to get paid one amount, and they gave us something a lot less."

--Herb Donaldson, Western Illinois

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