In early October, Brother Rice High School will induct three individuals and three teams into the 2018 Brother Rice Athletic Hall of Fame. First instituted ten years ago, the 2018 class of Hall of Famers features Paul Jokisch ‘82 (football), Steve Morrison ’90 (football), Coach Fr. Ron Richards, the 1996, 1997, and 1998 National and State Championship Swimming & Dive Teams.
Festivities will begin at a football tailgate on the rooftop of 24 Seconds Bar & Grill (Berkley, MI) on Friday, October 5, from 5-7:00pm. Inductees will then be honored and recognized during halftime at Hurley Field, in Berkley, where COF Academy of Columbus, OH visits Brother Rice in an out-of-league, out-of-state showdown. On Saturday, October 6, the 2018 class will be inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at Fifth Avenue Sports & Entertainment in downtown Royal Oak starting at 5:30pm. Click here to register for the Induction Ceremony!
Paul Jokisch ‘82 was a two-sport Parade All-American and first-team All-State athlete in football and basketball. During his senior season, he won the Michigan blue chip award in basketball. A few years after he graduated, the Catholic League recognized Jokisch as their Athlete of the Year award winner in 1987. He scored over 1,000 points during his high school basketball career and 112 points throughout his football career. He finished his football career with 18 touchdown receptions, 72 pass receptions, 1,454 yards receiving and averaged 20.2 yards per reception.
The 6’8″, 240-pound Jokisch teamed up with Dave Yarema ‘82 to form one of the most imposing pitch-and-catch duos in state history. The two combined on a 38-yard touchdown pass for the only points in the 1980 Class A state title game, where Brother Rice defeated Dearborn Fordson 6-0. Jokisch was the No. 1 recruit in 1981 and went on to a career as both a basketball and a football player for the Wolverines.
At Michigan, Jokisch started twenty-one games from 1984 to 1986. He played flanker in 1984 and then switched to split end for the last two years of his career. During his playing years, Paul caught a lot of passes from current Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. He caught fifty-eight balls for 1,088 yards and six touchdowns and averaged 18.8 yards per catch for his career. Paul’s longest touchdown catch was a 67-yarder that he hauled in during a 31-7 win at Minnesota in 1984. Paul’s best game took place against Illinois in 1985. He caught six passes for 130 yards against in a game that ended in a 3-3 tie. In 1987, the San Francisco 49ers selected Paul Jokisch in the 5th round with the 134th pick in the NFL Draft.
Paul is the Vice President of Business Development for Atlas Tool and currently resides in Bloomfield Hills with his wife Carolyn and three children: Bethany, Paul, and John.
As a senior, Steve Morrison ‘90 was a co-captain for the 1989 football team that reached the state semi-finals. He earned All-State Dream Team and All-Midwest honors after excelling at fullback, linebacker, and punter for the Warriors. A talented lacrosse player, Morrison also earned All-State and Midwest honors as a junior attackman for the State and Midwest Championship team.
Following graduation in 1990, he accepted a football scholarship to the University of Michigan where he would become a rare, 5-year letter winner, having started as a true freshman linebacker before being lost for the season due to injury. As a senior, Morrison earned All-Big Ten honors, was a semi-finalist for the Butkus Award (given annually to the nation’s best linebacker) and was elected co-captain by his teammates.
As a Wolverine, he ranks tenth all-time in total tackles (360), holds the record for most tackles in a game at Michigan (23) and has the most career interceptions by a linebacker (8). An undrafted free agent, Morrison played four seasons in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts (95-98) where he played in 68 games with 31 starts. The Colts would make the playoffs twice during Morrison’s tenure, including making it to the AFC Championship game during the 1995-96 season.
Following his playing days, Morrison began his coaching career by returning to Brother Rice High School to coach under legendary coach, Al Fracassa. He served as Defensive Coordinator for two seasons (2000-2001) and was part of the State Champion team in 2000. As a graduate assistant at the University of Michigan (2002-2005), he coached the outside linebackers for teams that won a Big Ten Championship (2003) and played in two Rose Bowl Games. He spent five years at Western Michigan University (2005-2009) serving a variety of roles including Defensive Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach. In 2006, he mentored linebacker, Ameer Ismail, to All American honors after leading the nation in sacks (17) and tackles for loss (26). Other stops included Eastern Michigan University (2010-11) and Syracuse University (2012) where the team would win the Big East Championship.
In total, Morrison played in or coached in 11 bowl games, including 4 Rose Bowls. He left the coaching profession after the conclusion of the 2012 season to spend more time with his wife (Mary) and three boys (Alex, Marco, and Roman). Currently, Steve lives in Ann Arbor working for a medical device company and coaches youth football in Saline.
He was 30 years old and nervous, never having been a head swimming coach, knowing he was taking over a Brother Rice program where parents, and his bosses, expected excellence. Ron Richards and his Warriors team lost their first dual meet that season, in 1992, to the state’s No. 1-ranked Class B team, Milan High. And then it began – a tsunami of swimming victories that during his six seasons as head coach carried Richards’ teams to an astounding dual-meet record that almost defies belief: 116 victories, a lone defeat to Milan, and one tie. Included in that remarkable six-year run were five consecutive state championships and three national No. 1 rankings as Brother Rice High School became one of the most extraordinary prep success stories in state and national history.
The coach, who is now Fr. Ron Richards, never competed in a single event during those years. But he directed. He inspired. He appealed. He talked not about winning — never about winning — but rather implored his swimmers to be “men of character” and that if they cared about their teammates and about being quality young men, “winning takes cares of itself.” For these achievements in grooming men and athletes, Fr. Ron Richards is being inducted into the Brother Rice Sports Hall of Fame.
A stunning era of competitive dominance by Brother Rice was even more improbable because of where the Warriors had been. The team had finished 27th at the previous season’s state championship meet after scoring all of three points. A mere eight swimmers were returning to the ’92-93 squad. A dozen more were joining the team, all freshmen. The Warriors that season won the Catholic League championship, beginning a streak that continued until 2018. They finished fourth in the state meet after having placed 27th a year earlier. And they featured a state champion in Ken Ehlen ‘93. A year later, the triumphs continued: A victory at the Oakland County meet, which would be repeated the final four years of Richards’ time as coach. The Warriors won the Catholic League, easily, and after being down 12 points to Ann Arbor Pioneer in the state finals, Brother Rice had its first state title, winning by seven points.
Brother Rice was the first and remains the only, private school to win the state’s top division, all as the Warriors were ranked 12th nationally. It was the same story from ’94-98: State titles each year, as well as Oakland County and Catholic League titles. Three consecutive No. 1 national rankings followed a top-five ranking in ’94-95. And then Ron Richards decided a calling beyond teaching and coaching had summoned him to the seminary to begin studies for the priesthood. It was not coincidental, perhaps, that a telling distinction marked Richards’ time as coach at Brother Rice. His swimmers never referred to him as “Coach Richards.” It was always “Mr. Richards.” A man who never talked about winning, but rather urged young men to excel as athletes and as men, was instead referred to with a more casual honorific that explained their relationship with him was built on respect, trust, and friendship. He had shown them the same, of course: respect for the individuals they were, with an added belief that they, collectively, by way of humility and devotion to one another, could achieve in exceptional ways.
These were traits his athletic director, Mike Popson, who likewise is a Brother Rice Hall of Famer, foresaw when Popson named him head coach. A man Richards admired deeply and eternally sensed there was stewardship in a coach and teacher he wanted at the helm of the swim program. There were credibility challenges initially, one being his own self-doubt, but more the uncertainty of a handful of parents, a revelation later made to Richards by Brother Gremley, who then was principal. But the doubts faded with each passing week and season as the Brother Rice community came to realize its swim team was in deft hands.
The philosophy was different, beautifully different. It was something Rob Ambrose, likewise a Hall of Famer, the Warriors’ new lacrosse coach, came to understand one day in the cafeteria when he asked Richards how Brother Rice’s swim team was able to win so many state titles. Richards repeated his coaching mantra: Do not talk about winning. Talk instead about being there for each other, devoted to the objective of growing in character and service to each other, to Brother Rice, and to the world-at-large. Victories would follow in whatever fashion they came. A greater mission would be the greater triumph. In that spirit, Brother Rice is happy to celebrate the years Ron Richards offered as coach, as mentor, as example, and as a priest in Christ’s service.
The 1995-96 Swim Team went into that season as heavy favorites for the state title. At the beginning of the season, the team made it a goal to set two national records, one in the 200 Free Relay and the other in the 400 Free Relay. Though that was not the main focus of the team, it was certainly believed to be a real possibility. As the Warriors went into the season, it was challenging to find competition in a dual meet. The team’s main rival, Ann Arbor Pioneer, would not schedule a meet against the Warriors because, in the words of their coach, they knew there was no way they could beat Rice and he did not want his team to be demoralized.
In the fall of ’95, the Warriors received a call from a private school in Pennsylvania, one of the top swim programs in the nation, to schedule a four-way meet with the top swimming schools in the country. This was the first clear sign, to the Warriors, that they were more than just a regular team. They were now being regarded as one of the top programs in the country. Unfortunately, the meet was to take place at the University of Pittsburgh, and due to MHSAA rules, the location fell 50 miles outside the radius as to how far a team from Michigan could travel for competition. Therefore the team could not attend the meet.
Still looking for competition, the Warriors scheduled a meet with the number one program in Ohio, Toledo St. Francis. The team traveled to Toledo for the dual meet, and though close, they still won the meet handily. It was yet a second sign to the Warriors of how good they were. As the Warriors approached the State Championships, the team still had a goal of setting two national records, in the 200 and 400 Free Relays. The swimmers of both of those two relays were Karl Pawlewicz ‘98 (sophomore), Matt Parrish ‘98 (sophomore), Brian Swinteck ‘96 (senior), and Mario Scussel ‘97 (junior). As the State Championships drew near, the team was thrown a curve ball. Some of the members of the team were stricken with illness. Specifically, Matt Parish, Mario Scussel, and Brett Holcomb ‘97 all became sick and on the verge of pneumonia.
Even with illness, at that State Championship, the Warriors swam out of their heads, from top to bottom, winning the meet by 102 points. The Warriors took first place in 5 of 12 events, setting state records in both the 200 Free Relay and 400 Free Relay. The 200 Free Relay, with a time of 1:22.80, achieved their goal of setting a national record that stood firm until 2009. As the All-Americans came out that year, the Warriors claimed 10 individual All-Americans out of 9 individual events. Along with this, all three relays claimed All-American Honors as well, with the 200 Free Relay and 400 Free Relay taking the number one spot in the nation. After everything was tallied up at the end of the season, the ‘96 Warriors became the first sports program in the history of Brother Rice High School to be crowned the number one team in the nation.
Warriors were yet again a dominate force in both the state and nation. The team, as always, was focused on being the best it could be both in and out of the water. One of the unique things about the team in ‘97 was the senior class. It was the group of young men that were freshmen the year the Warriors won its first state title. These state championships also had a certain sense of Déjà vu (the team motto for the State Championships). As the Warriors would return to the site of that first state title, the University of Michigan.
As always, the Warriors were focused on many goals for the season, both team and personal. One of the team goals, during this season, was to set, yet again, another national record. This time in the 200 Medley Relay with the swimmers of Matt Parish ‘98 (junior), Nick Duda ‘98 (junior), Mario Scussel ‘97 (senior), and Karl Pawlewicz ‘98 (junior). As their year progressed, the Warriors, as had been the case for the past few years, won both the Oakland County Championships and the Catholic League in dominating fashion. Then it was on to the State Championships to complete the season. At the meet, the Warriors once again dominated their competition, surpassing the second-place team by 54 pts. The Warriors were able to claim first place in 5 of 12 events. Scussel, taking first in both the 200 Freestyle and 100 Freestyle, was named swimmer of the year by the Michigan Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association. And the 200 Medley Relay team, whose goal it was to set a National Record just missed the mark by six one hundredths of a second.
As the All Americans came out, the ‘97 Warriors claimed 10 Individual All-Americans in 9 individual events and once again all three relays, 200 Medley Relay, 200 Free Relay, and 400 Free Relay claimed All-American honors. The 200 Medley Relay ended up as the number one relay in the nation. When all was said and done, the ’97 Warriors were able to claim their second National Championship in as many years.
The beginning of the 1997-98 season took on a very different feeling from all the years in the past. It was announced to the team, in fall of ‘97, that this would be the last season for their coach, Ron Richards. He announced that he would be leaving Brother Rice at the end of the academic year to enter the seminary in the fall of ‘98. With that news, it was hard to predict how the Warriors’ would respond to this challenge.
Alas, there should have been no doubt, the Warriors responded as men of character, the trade mark of being a part of the Brother Rice Swimming and Diving program. There had always been a true sense of family amongst the team each and every year, but somehow this sense of family seemed to grow even deeper and stronger in the ‘98 season. With this sense of unity, the Warriors marched forward as they had done the past five years, taking no prisoners. They marched their way through the Oakland County Championship, the Catholic League Championship, both in dominating fashion. And finally, the State Championships which would take place at Eastern Michigan University. The Warriors always seemed to rise to greater heights swimming in this pool. It was in this Natatorium, two years previously, that the Warriors set the National Record in the 200 Free Relay as well as claiming their first National Title.
The Warriors came into the State Championships driven and focused. There was no explicit goal to set a national record; these young men simply wanted to go into these State Championship solidifying their dominance in the sport. And dominate they did. In this year, the ‘98 Warriors were able to qualify 21 of its swimmers in individual events. It was an unprecedented number of individual swimmers to qualify. Most swim programs in the state can barely field 20 young men on their team, let alone 21 at the State Championships.
Once the State Championships began, the Warriors once again swam out of their heads and completely dominated the State Finals. The Warriors won the meet by 100 points claiming 7 out of 12 first place medals. Matt Parrish took first place in both the 100 butterfly and 100 Backstroke in state record setting fashion. As a result, he was named swimmer of the year by the Michigan Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association. It was the second consecutive year the Warriors would claim the top swimmer in the state. Along with this, to the surprise of their coach Ron Richards, the 400 Free Relay team of Matt Parrish ‘98 (senior), Matt Kowalski ‘98 (senior), Aaron Lange ‘99 (junior), and Karl Pawlewicz ‘98 (senior), broke the state record Rice had set two years earlier.
At the end of the ‘98 season, the Warriors owned five state records, those being: all three relay records, the 200 Medley Relay, 200 Free Relay, and 400 Free Relay, as well as two individual records, the 100 Butterfly and 100 Backstroke. Meaning, the Warriors claimed 41.6 % of the overall records in Swimming and Diving. When the time came for All-American and National Honors, the Warriors once again showed its prowess. The Warriors were able to tally up 13 Individual All-Americans out of 9 individual events. Once again, all three Relays took All-American Honors, with the 200 Free Relay and 400 Free Relay claiming the number two spot in the nation. Along with these individual honors, the Warriors Team, for the third year in a row, claimed the top spot in the national rankings.
On a national level, with the achievements of the Warriors over this time period, the team established itself as the single dominant force in high school swimming and diving. One could even say, with the dominance of the USA in the world of swimming, these Warriors, over a three-year period, could legitimately claim to have been one of the most dominate swim programs the world has ever known.