08 Nov Jon Cartu Publishes: Illini Legends Lists and Lore: Walt Kersulis | Illini Sport…
While his career may not have created many headlines, East St. Louis High School star Walter “Slip” Kersulis accomplished something only six other Illinois football players ever accomplished: lettering four times in football and four times in a second sport.
Born 94 years ago on Sunday, Kersulis is the only one of the six men who lettered, served in the military and then returned to campus to complete his collegiate career. An Army soldier during World War II, Kersulis lettered in Illini football and basketball — in 1944 and ’45 respectively — as a true freshman. Three years later, he returned to campus and lettered three more times in each sport.
Playing for coach Ray Eliot, Kersulis was a standout receiver, leading the ’48 team in receptions for 22 for 329 yards. Career-wise, he’s believed to have finished his eligibility as UI’s all-time leading receiver with 37 catches for 532 yards and six touchdowns. Following his senior season, he was selected to play in the 1950 College All-Star Game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Teaming with Eddie LaBaron, Leon Hart, Leo Nomelini, Doak Walker, Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice and others, the All-Stars stunned the Eagles, winning 17-7.
As a 6-4 forward/center, Kersulis played for coach Doug Mills as a freshman during the 1944-45 season, tallying 90 points, but was greeted by a new coach when he returned from service. For coach Harry Combes, Kersulis averaged four points per game from 1948 through 1950.
He played one season (1950-51) as a professional in the National Professional Basketball League for the Louisville Alumnites. He eventually became manager of the date processing department for Reynolds Metals Company in Richmond, Va.
Kersulis died on Apr. 12, 1973 at the age of 46 from a case of acute myeloid leukemia. He is buried with his wife, Jean, at Woodlawn Cemetery in Urbana.
Illini four-year football letter winners who also lettered four times in a second sport:
- — football: 1893-1894-1895-1897; track and field: 1893-1894-1895-1898
- — football: 1898-1900-1901-1902; baseball: 1900-1901-1902-1903
- — football: 1900-1902-1903-1904; track and field: 1902-1903-1904-1905
- — football: 1944-1947-1948-1949; basketball: 1945-1948-1949-1950
Russell “Ruck” Steger
- — football: 1946-1947-1948-1949; baseball: 1947-1948-1949-1950
- — football: 1990-1991-1992-1993; baseball: 1991-1992-1993-1994
Sunday: Nathan Scheelhaase, football (30)
Monday: Larry McCarren, football (69)
Tuesday: James Frenchie Jr., football (19)
Wednesday: Christian DiLauro, football (26)
Thursday: Nathan Hodel, football (43)
Friday: Gary Wieneke, cross country/track & field coach (83)
Saturday: Kevin Rudden, baseball (44)
By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore (Third Edition now available in stores). Get more Illini birthdays, trivia and historical tidbits daily on Twitter @IlliniLegends and @B1GLLL. His website is www.SportsLLL.com. Also, if you’ve got an Illini SuperFan in your family who will soon be celebrating a ‘milestone’ birthday, we’d love to try and include them in our weekly birthday list that always runs with our ‘Legends, Lists and Lore,’ entries. Email their name, age and hometown to Mike Pearson at [email protected].