As a reporter for The Arizona Republic/azcentral.com, I was among a group of voters that selected the inaugural class of the azcentral.com Arizona High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.
One of the nine original inductees was Fred Enke Jr., a three-sport start at Tucson High who led the Badgers to football, basketball and baseball titles in the 1942-43 school year. He was the state’s Player of the Year in football.
Enke went on to star at the University of Arizona where his father, Fred Sr., was a coach, and then became the first quarterback from the state to play in the NFL for seven seasons.
After leaving the NFL, he went to become a cotton farmer in the Casa Grande-Maricopa area and on April 13, 2014, passed away at the age of 89. He was married for more than 60 years and was the father of four children.
A memorial service will be held May 10 at 11 a.m. at the Casa Grande Presbyterian Church.
I was honored to interview Enke for a story detailing his career and Hall of Fame induction.
When Enke was growing up, most of the roads in Tucson were of the dirt variety. Enke’s father took the family car to work, so if other family members wanted to go somewhere, they would have to walk. That is how Enke kept in shape – there was no such thing as personal trainers.
“I rode a bike or walked to and from school most of the time,’’ Enke told me.
There weren’t nearly as many high schools in Arizona as there are today, so Enke and his teammates played all over the state, and even a few games out of state. There were no facemasks at that time and Enke said, “You got your teeth rattled pretty good.’’
Tucson High was one of the state’s first integrated schools, but African-Americans were not welcomed by many elements of society. The Badgers had a handful of African-American players, and when the team went on one road trip, were refused service at a restaurant.
Coach Rollin Gridley and the team immediately left the restaurant and the coach managed to pick up some hamburgers elsewhere. The team dined under the goal posts.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association salutes Fred Enke Jr. and his exemplary life, both on the field and off.