It’s a pretty brainy USD Hall of Fame crew going in this year in Vermillion. Curiously, and fortunately, I covered several of them to some extent during their athletic careers with the Coyotes.
Tiffany Davis — The one athlete going in who I did not see play too often by virtue of being a softball player, which we didn’t cover much at the time. She was a crazy-good hitter, however, with 53 career home runs. That’s 34 more than anybody else in a Coyote uniform has. Also hit .359 for her career. She is a drug, alcohol and mental health counselor in Sioux Falls.
Kelly Gese — She was the best player on the USD team for at least three of her four years in Vermillion (1996-2001). There wasn’t a lot of winning going on back then, but she was the one player who was as good or better than the people on the other team most nights. She’s a speech pathologist in Long Beach, Calif.
Bill Gassen — An attorney in Sioux Falls, went about 5-11 and three bills during his time as one of the best nose tackles in the NCC (99-02). His ability to rush the quarterback from an inside spot in the line made him a spectacular defensive player. I’m not one to throw around superlatives sloppily, but nobody in a Coyote uniform that I’ve seen (1994-present) could affect a game from the defensive side to any greater degree than he did. If it was a game where the opponent under-scouted him or if they left him alone with a center who was overmatched, he ruled the earth. He’s not going three bills any more — a very fit dude these days — but I still wouldn’t want to mess with him.
Phil Meehan — A great receiver out of the backfield and a shifty runner who had a great feel for how to play football. We talk a lot these days about size, speed and bench presses in football but if you watch the game closely you get a great appreciation for those guys who are good because they just plain know how to play the game. It’s an underrated part of the skill set at every position other than quarterback. Phil is a PA specializing in neurosurgery.
Jeremy Kudera — A big man who could shoot from the outside, Kudera is the type of player who I think could have competed pretty well at the Division I level. He would have had less luck inside, but he would have presented matchup issues on the perimeter. He was part of a great core group of Coyotes with Nate Blessen, Ben Ries and Nate Tibbetts. All good players and all talented people who’ve gone on to do very well since leaving USD. Kudera, a Dell Rapids kid, is an orthopedic surgeon in Yankton.
Chuck Welke — A smalltown scoring legend in Warner who was starting as a true freshman at USD. Welke had sort of a Kevin McHale-type game, great footwork, good hands, very industrious scorer. I was going to write just now that it seemed like they got a lot of points out of him without having to give him a lot of shots. Then I checked the numbers just to make sure — he hit 61.3 percent from the field and 81.9 percent from the line. Those numbers define efficient offensive production.