More than 275 individuals and six teams have been inducted into the St. Ambrose University Athletic Hall of Fame. That represents barely a cross-section of the many thousands of athletes who have worn a St. Ambrose uniform over a century-plus. All of them were most valuable players in many and varied ways. Here are five who helped create St. Ambrose athletic history and whose names still occupy the record books.
Art Michalik ‘51
The last of eight St. Ambrose alums to play in the National Football League, Art Michalik was part of a golden age of St. Ambrose football. He played for teams that won 37 games and multiple conference titles.
Michalik went on to play middle linebacker and offensive guard for the San Francisco 49ers, and he went to the Pro Bowl in 1953.
"I can't explain how good it felt to be playing in the pros," he said. "At that time there were no multiple contracts-one year and a second year under option. Money was different then."
After two seasons with the 49ers, he was traded to Pittsburgh and played there for two years. The former collegiate wrestler then returned to California as a part of a professional wrestling tag team with a former 49ers teammate.
"Ninety percent of guys who wrestled were ex-college wrestlers," he said. "It wasn't the big showmanship they're doing now."
Retired in California, he remembers his time on campus. "At St. Ambrose, you're a regular community right there," he said. "It rounded me out in my personal life."
Albert Williams '78
You won't find Albert Williams' name in many places in the men's basketball record book, but it sits atop two lists-thanks to one unforgettable night in 1975.
Williams netted single-game records with 56 points and 22 field goals, and that was before the 3-point shot was introduced. He remembers more than that one night, however.
"I look back at that time period-it was quality, it was good," he said of his experience at St. Ambrose. "It set the foundation for where I am right now."
Williams has spent 33 years working for the US Department of Agriculture. He lives in Chicago, where he founded an organization that works to fight childhood obesity and build future leaders. "We have so many childhood health problems," he said. "That has been my passion."
Stephani (Vander Horn) Nagle '95
Stephani (Vander Horn) Nagle was a cross country conference champion in 1992. Two years later, she ran for conference crowns on the track in the 800-, 1500-, and 3000-meter runs. She remains a part of two record track relay runs.
"All those meets, it was a lot of work," said Nader, who now directs marketing and public relations at the iWireless Center in Moline, Ill. "There were days when I thought it was too much, but I'm certainly glad I stuck with it."
Kim Clarke '91
Sandwiched around an SAU career that included basketball and softball, Kim Clarke spent 14 years on the US national handball team and competed in the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympics.
"I had never even heard of team handball, which is similar to water polo played on land," said Clarke, who grew up in Muscatine, Iowa. "It was right up my alley from playing basketball and softball."
Clarke, who lives in Atlanta and works for Blue Cross Blue Shield, fondly remembers playing for powerhouse SAU basketball teams that reached two Final Fours.
St. Ambrose turned out to be a perfect fit for me," she said. "A competitive team, but a small college where you know everybody. When you look back, that makes for some great memories."
Lionel Porter '97
Lionel Porter holds the SAU career rushing record with 5,437 yards, and in 1995, he ran for a single-game record 301 yards, a total that helped make him the season's leading rusher in NAIA Division II.
"My linemen wanted that record," he said. "They were saying, ‘If you have to run the ball 50 times, you're going to get the record.'"
The two-time All-American works in the Quad Cities for John Deere, and said what he learned on the football field translates to his job today. "A team sport can shape a person," he said. "It teaches you how to trust people, how you can work with people from all over and work toward a common goal."