State Stories

15

Hoopeston Area CORNJERKERS

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In a time before modern machinery, sweet corn was pulled or jerked from the stalk. The leaves were shucked off and the golden ears were thrown in a wooden wagon pulled by a team of mules. This was "Cornjerking". In other parts of the United States, this harvesting process may have been known as corn snapping, corn shucking, or corn husking. The many laborers who walked the fields to harvest the crops were called Cornjerkers.

Hoopeston has long been known as the "Sweetcorn Capital of the World." In the 1920's the term Cornjerker was first applied to the athletic teams of the high school. Bob Poisall, a sports writer for the Commercial-News in Danville, is credited with first coining the team name. From the information available, the name was a joke that stuck.

In the fall, the team buses to games were often late in leaving because the teams' members were still in the fields jerking corn. Per the custom at that time, Mr. Poisall was riding the team bus in order to cover the game for his newspaper. In exasperation on one of these occasions, he told them they would never get anywhere, they were just a bunch of cornjerkers. Glenn Brasel, coach of Hoopeston High School from 1922 through 1946, liked the term and felt it would be an appropriate team name. The emblem of an ear of corn first appeared on the team uniform in 1930. In 1965, the mascot known as "Jerky" was born. This walking ear of corn was created by Dick Hobbs, who was coach and athletic director at that time.

Originally, Cornjerkers were from Hoopeston. One of their rivals were the East Lynn Hornets. In 1973, the Hornets were turned into Cornjerkers, as Hoopeston and East Lynn schools consolidated.

Famous Cornjerkers include Thad Matta, Herb Neathery and Scott Eells. Matta guided Hoopeston to a third-place finish in the 1985 IHSA Boys Basketball State Final tournament. He is currently the head men’s basketball coach at Ohio State University, where he has coached the Buckeyes in two Final Fours. Neathery was a four-sport star at Hoopeston who went on to play three sports at the University of Illinois, including being a part of the Illini's Rose Bowl champion football team in 1952. Eells went on to be a part of Indiana University’s undefeated national championship men’s basketball team in 1975-76 under Bob Knight.