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John Stella was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, attended St. Peter grade school and graduated from South High School in 1953. While at South, he played basketball and baseball for Coach Conrad “Cornie” Collins and played American Legion Baseball in 1951 for Coach Harold Hunter and for Cornie Collins in 1952. In 1953, he played for Coach Red Brummer in Woodbine, Iowa, after disqualifying to play American Legion Baseball due to his age. Stella went on to play baseball at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (then Omaha University) for Coach Virgil Yelkin from 1954 to 1957. In 1955, “Runt” Marr offered him a professional contract to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals but he opted to remain in college and finish his degree.
In 1959, he signed a contract as a pitcher and outfielder with the San Francisco Giants and played for its minor league – the Hastings Giants – in Nebraska. He left professional baseball the following year to work for the U.S. Postal Service and retired in 1992. In his spare time, he served as a coach for the St. Ann team of the Omaha Catholic Youth Organizations Baseball League (1961-1966), South High School’s American Legion Baseball team (1982-2012) and continues to serve as the team manager. In addition, he served as the assistant coach for South’s spring baseball team from 1985 to 2012.
Honors and awards he’s achieved include the Nebraska Baseball Coaches Man of the Year in 1992, 1994 and 2002, Nebraska Baseball Coaches Association’s District 5 Assistant Coach of the Year in 1996, South High Packer Greats Hall of Fame in 2003, Omaha Old-Timers Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006, was honored by the city when the baseball diamond at Brown Park was named John Stella Ball Field in 2009 and he was inducted into the Nebraska Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.
Additionally, he was named the Sons of Italy’s Italian/American of the Year in 2003 and honorary president of the Santa Lucia Festival in 2014. He is a lifetime member of the American Legion Post 331, and serves on the American Italian Heritage Society, Croatian Cultural Society of Omaha, Omaha G.I. Forum, National High School Baseball Coaches Association, Nebraska Coaches Association, Nebraska/Western Iowa Oldtimers Association, Santa Lucia Festival Committee and Sons of Italy.
Calvin Jones was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and raised by his grandmother, Pauline Smith, who instilled in him the importance of empowerment, education, resiliency and perseverance toward excellence. He graduated from Central High School in 1991. As a student-athlete at Central, Jones was a consensus prep
All-American for Coach William Reed and established Class A rushing records for a game (367 yards), a season (2,196 yards) and a career (3,965 yards). In 1989, he averaged 8.4 yards per attempt, scored 22 touchdowns and was the Gatorade Circle of Champions Nebraska Running Back of the Year. Additionally, he was a track and field state champion sprinter in the 100 and 200 meters.
Jones’ career at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) is legendary. As a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate and All-American I-back, he recorded two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, earning him Second All-Time honors at UNL. His career record of 3,153 yards and 40 touchdowns earned him 12th in the Big Eight. He averaged 105.1 yards per game.
Honors he received during his college football career include Second Team All-Big Eight (1991), Sports Illustrated Player of the Week (11/11/91 vs. Kansas), Big Eight Offensive Newcomer of the Year (1991), Big Eight Offensive Player of the Year (Coaches, 1992), Sophomore All-American (Football News, 1992), Honorable Mention All-American (UPI, 1992), Second Team All-American (Football News, 1992), Two-time Consensus All-Big Eight (1992, 1993), Honorable Mention All-American (UPI, 1993), Third Team All-American (Football News, AP, 1993), Four-time Big Eight Player of the Week (1993), Doak Walker Award finalist (1993) and preseason All-American (1991).
Oakland selected Jones in the sixth round of the 1994 NFL draft. In 1997, during his season with the Green Bay Packers, Jones played on the winning team in Super Bowl XXXI (31). In 2004, he was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame.
Christy Neneman was born in Omaha, Nebraska and graduated from North High School in 2000. She began her sports career while in grade school at All-Saints Catholic School, playing baseball, softball, soccer, football and basketball. At North High School, Neneman was a three-time All-State and Super All-State selection, a three-time All-Metro choice, served as captain of the All-Tournament All-Class team her sophomore year and was named Miss Nebraska Basketball as a senior.
Neneman attended Creighton University where she established herself as one of the greatest players in Missouri Valley Conference history. As a team leader and go-to player, she earned All-Freshman Team honors in her first season with the Bluejays, notching 19 points and eight rebounds in her first career start. The feisty guard continued to blaze a path through the Valley and was a two-time Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year as a sophomore and junior.
Neneman was the leading scorer for Creighton during the Jays’ march to the NCAA Tournament in 2002, averaging 16.6 points per game in a 27-7 season. She was named to the All MVC First Team three times during her career. Neneman finished her career at Creighton with 1,732 points, which remains the fourth best in the school’s history. Her name appears all over the record books, including her career-high of 39 points scored against Drake in 2002, the fifth largest total for Creighton.
Neneman is a member of the Creighton Sports Hall of Fame, along with the Omaha Sports Hall of Fame. She graduated from Creighton in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Neneman went back to school to pursue a degree as a physical therapist assistant and graduated from Clarkson College in August of 2014. Today, she works at the Neuro Rehabilitation Center as a physical therapist assistant. We salute Christy Neneman inducted into the 2016 OPS Athletic Hall of Fame.
Clark Preble was born and raised in Omaha and attended Belvedere Elementary School, Springville Elementary School and Nathan Hale Junior High before graduating from Northwest High School in 1984. In football, he lettered all three years and helped the Huskies earn a three-year record of 28 -5 and make a state championship appearance his sophomore year, a semifinal appearance his junior year and a quarterfinal appearance his senior year.
In basketball, he played varsity his junior year and while at Northwest the team earned a record of 56-17 and advance to the state tournament each year. In baseball, the team earned a three-year record of 64-5, won state titles all three years, were named Collegiate Baseball National Champions during the 1983 season and were second in the Collegiate Baseball rankings in 1984. Individually, he was named All-Metro his junior year and All-Metro, All-State his senior year. During his senior year, Preble had a 0.56 earned run average, which was a Northwest record. In Legion baseball, the Huskies won AAA Midget titles his ninth and 10th grade summers and Legion titles his 11th and 12th grade summers. His Legion career was highlighted by a 50-1 record his sophomore summer.
Preble attended Auburn University where he was named to the All Southeastern Conference baseball team his junior year. During his senior year, the Tigers won the Southeastern Conference tourney, he was named to the All-Tourney Team and the team came within two wins of making the College World Series. Preble graduated from Auburn University in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. In 1990, Preble returned to the Omaha Public Schools to teach mathematics at Nathan Hale Junior High School. In 1995, he transferred to his alma mater where he has taught ever since. At Northwest, Preble has coached basketball, track and baseball.
During his years as an assistant baseball coach for Bill Olson, the teams won state titles in 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1994 in Legion ball and 1994 in high school baseball. A highlight of his basketball-coaching career occurred during the 2004-2005 season when his freshman team went 18-0. Clark earned his master’s degree in education from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1997. He is married to wife, Maureen and they have two sons: Chad and Connor.
Following his father’s example, Jay Ball began his teaching and coaching career with the Omaha Public Schools in 1987. In 1995, he became the head football coach at South High before taking over the same position at Central High in 2006.
In the spring of 1998, Ball and six other OPS high school football coaches met with the purpose of improving athletes’ performance on the field at a camp that stressed fundamentals through individual and team drills. In June of 1998, they held their first team camp at Norris Middle School that culminated a Jamobree/Scrimmage Day at UNO. Outback continued to sponsor the camp until 2004.
In 2005 MG Contracting and Design, owned by Ball’s sister Jill and late brother-in-law Mark Goodrich, became the new sponsors. Since 2005, the camp has grown into a premier high school team camp in the state of Nebraska. Today, the camp includes Papio South, Bellevue West, OPS and Concordia, attracts tremendous media attention, and is recognized by players, coaches and parents, as the event where the football season begins and player development is highlighted.
Since 2005, teams participating in the MG Camp have made the state playoff semi-finals seven times, finished as state runner-ups twice and crowned as state champions three times. In the final state ranking for 2015-2016, teams who attended the MG Camp held four of the top six spots for the season.
The opportunity to help improve the lives of young people and the football teams of OPS is a core belief of the Ball family. Jay Ball is married to his wife Bette, they have a stepson Kris, and a granddaughter Hailey.
John Morse began his baseball career with Murphy’s Midgets for Coach Duce Belford in 1950. He attended Benson High School and graduated in 1953. As a student-athlete, he served as a guard on the school’s basketball team for Coach Scotty Orcutt, lettered seven times in basketball and baseball, earned Intercity in basketball honors and Second Team Intercity in baseball honors.
At the University of Nebraska at Omaha, he lettered eight times and was a catcher for Coach Virgil Yelkin for two years and then Coach Jack Cotton. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1957 and his master’s degree in education in 1975.
He taught at Technical High School from 1958-1984. As a coach, his freshman basketball team was unbeaten in 1964 and in 1966; and the baseball team took the state title and won the district title in 1967. He taught at Benson High School from 1984 until his retirement in 1993. During his tenure as a history teacher for the Omaha Public Schools, he completed notable work in history, human relations and multicultural programs, which exposed students to Black history, American Indian history, Chicano American history and Asian American history. As a member of the Nebraska Advisory Committee in the 1970s, he helped schools integrate multicultural education into their classrooms and wrote a teachers’ manual for integrating Black history into American History textbooks for the Omaha Public Schools.
He taught human relations classes at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Metropolitan Community College from 1993-2008. Awards he received throughout his career include the Omaha Education Association’s Human Relations Teacher of the Year (1980), Benson Booster Club’s Teacher of the Year (1989), Nebraska Cooper Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching (1986), and the Peter Kiewit Foundation’s Teacher Achievement Award (1991). He was inducted into the Technical High School Hall of Fame and the Benson High School Hall of Fame in 1991. Morse was married to his wife, Anita, for 49 years before she passed away in January of 2006. They have three children, seven grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
As an Omaha Public Schools’ graduate, Jill Ball grew up spending Friday nights at various football stadiums around the metro area, cheering for Technical High School and Bryan High where her father, Jerry Ball, was the defensive coordinator. Soon, the Ball family had to divide their football watching and cheering time between North High, South High and Central High once Jill’s brother, Jay, started his football-coaching career. In the spring of 1992, Jill met her future husband, Mark Goodrich.
After becoming a member of the family in 1994, Mark soon became a passionate supporter of football even though he was more comfortable as a swimmer and being outdoors fishing and hunting. In the summer of 2004, Jill’s brother and father approached the couple about sponsoring and becoming the directors of a high school football camp formerly known as the Outback Camp. They accepted and in spring of 2005, the MG Contracting and Design Football Camp – soon to be known as the MG Camp – made its debut. Mark and Jill enjoyed being a part of such an amazing group for 11 years.
Sadly, Mark passed away on January 11, 2016 and the decision was made to dissolve MG Contracting and Design, Inc. and the company no longer sponsors the camp. Goodrich says the camp would not have experienced the success it did if not for the dedicated coaches whose objectives were to ensure that each participant received individual instruction, fundamentals of the game, and proper technique. Mark and Jill considered it a privilege and an honor to have contributed to the young players of the Omaha football community and the OPS Athletic Department.
Ken Dirks was born in Nashville, Kansas and graduated from Nashville-Zenda High School in 1971. As a student athlete, Dirks lettered in both basketball & baseball and developed his love for sports. After graduation, Dirks attended St. John’s & Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas on a basketball & baseball scholarship. He student taught at a middle school for the Wichita, Kansas Cooperative Urban Teacher Education program and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1975.
Dirks began his teaching career with the Omaha Public Schools in 1975, and spent the first three years as a traveling physical education teacher at Wakonda, Fontenelle, Belvedere and Franklin Elementary Schools. In 1979, he transferred to Lewis and Clark Middle School where he taught physical education and coached for the next 32 years. During that time, his teams won city championships in football, girls basketball, boys basketball, wrestling, track and boys soccer. He also served as the head baseball coach at Central High School in the spring of 1986 and 1987.
Dirks has been married to his wife and high school sweet heart, Shirley Allender, for 40 years and they have four grown children: Joe, Dustin, Amber and Ashley. They have six grandchildren, with another on the way. Today, Dirks is the state director of Nebraska’s United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) for Baseball where he sanctions teams and tournaments for athletes ages seven to 14.
Terry Thomas was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1969 and graduated from Burke High School in 1987. He attended Coffeeville Community College in Coffeeville, Kansas, Ellsworth College in Iowa Falls, Iowa, and Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska. At Burke High School, Thomas was a standout student-athlete in track and field and football. Thomas started his track career as a bantam for the North Omaha Boys Club. He was known for his speed and agility. In track field, he was a member of the first place 4 by 100 relay team in 1985, and first individually in the 100 and 200 in 1986, and in the 200 and 400 in 1987. At the time, he held the metro record in the 400 with a time of 48.93 seconds. During his senior year in high school, Thomas was All-State and selected to the All-Metro First Team.
In football, he was an All-Nebraska wide receiver in 1986, participated in the 1987 Shrine Bowl and held the school record with 1,220 yards his senior year. Thomas has served as a track and field and football mentor for young boys and girls. Today, he serves as the head drummer during Sunday services at Pleasant Green Baptist Church and oversees the drum section for the Pleasant Green Marching Saints.
Scarlett Wilson was born in northwest Arkansas. She attended Rogers (AR) Public Schools from the 1st through 12th grades. As a student-athlete at Arkansas Tech University, she lettered all four years in basketball, volleyball, soccer-speedball and tennis. She graduated with bachelor’s degree in physical education, English and social studies.
Wilson began her teaching career at Mabelvale High School near Littlerock, Arkansas. In addition to teaching, she coached team and individual sports and played Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball for two years. She later accepted a physical education position at Central High School in San Angelo, Texas. Over the course of four summer sessions Wilson earned her master’s degree in education/physical education at the University of Arkansas.
In the 1960s Wilson’s husband was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base, that’s when Wilson began teaching at Indian Hill Middle School and Bryan Junior/Senior High School. Another military transfer took the family to Tainan Air Force Base (TAFB) in Taiwan. There, she taught conversational English at a girls’ middle school, physical fitness and swimming at TAFB, and Pacific-Rim volleyball.
Wilson later returned to Omaha Bryan High School and coached tennis, gymnastics, swimming, diving and soccer. In addition to her professional career, she coached U.S. Synchronized Swimming, served as a scorekeeper for basketball, volleyball and wrestling, volunteered at state events and registered as a referee in volleyball, basketball, swimming, diving and soccer. She retired from OPS 1998 and went on to teach language exploration and health at Elkhorn Middle School and then physical fitness at Elkhorn High School. After 50 years, she officially ended her education career.
Today, Wilson referees volleyball, swimming and diving, serves as a basketball scorekeeper, volunteers and continues to maintain her childhood farm in Cross Hollows, Arkansas. She also enjoys activities with her daughter, Lara, her son in-law Mark, and their two sons Jake and Zack.