Ronald Reagan wasn't anybody's superstar in football (he played right guard) but as his old coach was saying at breakfast yesterday, he was really "dedicated, and a real plugger,"
At 86, Ralph McKinzie still coaches the Eureka College football team as in the days of young Reagan, though he is not still head coach. He hasn't seen the president during inaugural festivities, he went on, but he's kept up with him all these years and has visitedin his house.
Eureka College in Illinois is not far from Peoria, the nearest city of note, and it has 450 students. Dr. Leonard Rich, a dentist of Gridley, Ill., and college trustee, said that like all other small private colleges it has had its troubles, but is surviving and plans to increase the size of the sutdent body by 10 percent a year.
It was formerly a school to prepare ministers of the Disciples of Christ Denomination, said a Marine Corps major, Pete Hanner, who is here studying special courses at Quantico. He himself played football at Eureka and is a fraternity brother of Reagan's(Tau Kappa Epsilon) and like Reagan lived in the Teke House. Many jocks are Dekes, at some schools, but they are another kettle of fish from Tekes.
Rich said the Reagans have given theschool money over the years and the gymnasium is named for him. Reagan sawto it the school got its first swimming pool. And he has said the school's national advisory committe will be invited to hold one of its metings at the WhiteHouse. Also Rich went on, President Reagan will deliver the Eureka commencement address in 1982.
The college president, Daniel Gilbert, presided yesterday at Eureka College breakfast attended by 125 persoons at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. He said he had met positively scores ofReagan teammates and several hundred or so college roommates of Reagan's.
"i don't know," he said, "if Ronald Reagan just couldn't get along with anybody or what." but he had milllions of roommates, all of whom have introduced themselves to President Gilvert.
"well, he really did have a lot of roommates at the Teke House," an old boy said.
Croissants vanished quickly, but several people asked what the prune danishes were, not being familiar with them. (They don't make prune danishes north of the Bronx, west of the Adirondacks or south of the Potomac.) A waiter, estimated to be from Sikkim, said they were "fruit tarts I think -- try one and tell me what it tastes like," and thus incouraged, people chewed on them tentatively.
"i was in the senior play with Reagan," said Hartzell Givens of Taylorville, Ill., a college trustee.
"was Reagan the romantic male lead? He was a handsome young dog," someone ventured.
"i don't think so," said Givens, "it wasn't a romantic play as I recall it, though I can't quite remember now what it was about. All I remember is that I played the third apothecary."