CARBONDALE — When George Loukas walked on to the SIU football team in the spring of 1969, he had three goals.
Loukas wanted to earn a scholarship, have at least one good season, and earn his degree. Nearly 50 years later, the Chicago businessman said he should have reached higher.
"I accomplished my goals, and after I finished my career and I was at graduation, I said to myself I set my goals too low," Loukas said. "I should have had three good years of football. But as it turned out, it worked out pretty well."
Loukas, 69, will be inducted into the SIU Hall of Fame Friday night as part of a storied seven-person class. The former fullback rushed for 1,427 yards between 1970-72, the third-best total in school history at the time, under coach/offensive coordinator Dick Towers. Loukas' 1,052 yards in 1971 was the second-best single season in Saluki history at the time, and included a 224-yard performance against Wichita State.
SIU, which did not compete in a conference at that time, went a combined 13-15-1 during Loukas' time. The Salukis won their first six games in 1970, defeating the likes of Louisville, East Carolina and Bradley, before falling on the road at Ball State, Drake and Arkansas State in their final three games. They won four of their first five games in 1971 before losing three of their last five to finish 6-4. The 1972 season featured one of the program's 32 ties, a 6-6 draw against Dayton.
Loukas' family of seven came from Greece when he was 4 years old. Growing up on the south side of the Windy City, he graduated from Bowen High School and had hoped to play big-time college football, but poor grades prevented him from earning that opportunity. He went to a military school after one of his older brothers, Anthony, gave his father money from a pro football contract to pay for it. Anthony, who played at Wisconsin, had a tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers after graduation. Loukas' other older brother, Angelo, an offensive lineman at Northwestern, competed in 15 games in the NFL and helped him buy his first building in Wrigleyville.
George Loukas worked in the steel mills to help pay for college at SIU before he earned a scholarship in a scrimmage against the freshman team in 1969. A quarterback, defensive back and punter in high school, Loukas competed on the scout team before Towers found that he needed a running back during the scrimmage. Loukas volunteered, and after what he called "a good day," Towers said "Well, we found a position for ya."
In the spring of 1971, Towers moved from a power-I offense to the veer, which features a split back/option system. Lionel Antoine, the highest draft pick in Saluki history, was the starting tight end. With linemen like Mark Otis, Paul Dumas, Craig Rowells, Dick Smith and Nate Stahlke and quarterback Brad Pancoast, it was the perfect style for Loukas.
"Houston ran it the previous year, a couple years, and they ran it really well. Coach Towers shifted from the power-I to the veer, and we were very successful," Loukas said. "Brad Pancoast was the quarterback, and he was very efficient operating that offense. The coach would call the play, and Brad would read the defense and then execute the offense extremely well."
Loukas plans on thanking his former linemen as much as the university on Friday night.
"Those guys, and I hope I'm not missing anybody, those guys were outstanding," he said. "The execution was terrific. It allowed me to take advantage of the opportunities they gave me. I give them all my credit."