One of those unique stories belongs to Bill Pipp, a 1969 graduate and member of the first Warrior football team.
“We played three games,” Pipp said of Wawasee’s first season. “One of those was against Warsaw’s JV, I don’t think they wanted us to get killed by the varsity team.”
The charismatic man has a unique place in Wawasee history, not simply because he played under coach Don Storey for the program’s first season, but because he holds the honor of being Wawasee’s first, and only, professional football player.
Pipp was on the training camp roster for the Dallas Cowboys in 1973 and later played for the Chicago Fire of the short-lived World Football League. The journey from Wawasee’s first team to one of the NFL’s premier franchises took a lot of hard work and courage for the Syracuse native.
After graduating from Wawasee, Pipp decided to continue his education at Indiana University. Pipp had no real intention of playing football for the Hoosiers but had the opportunity to have lunch with IU coach John Pont. The lunch was set up by a family friend who was a big supporter of Indiana athletics and a friend of Pont.
“John Pont asked what made me think I could play football at IU,” Pipp recalled. “Without really thinking about it I asked him what made him think I couldn’t.
“He told me to come down and try out and that was the next step in my football career.”
Pipp spent 1969 playing on the freshman squad as freshmen could not play varsity sports at that time. He earned a scholarship from the team following his sophomore campaign and took over as starting defensive end in the first game of the 1971 season following an injury to the player in front of him. Pipp started every game from then on.
After his senior season is when Pipp signed with the Cowboys for training camp. The differences in the talent level were tenfold.
“The most competitive guys I played against in high school were the Niles brothers at Warsaw,” Pipp began, “they went on to play basketball at college. They were tall guys, good athletes. At IU I played against guys that were up for the Heisman Trophy. There were always four or five guys that were pretty darn good. Four or five. In the pros? Everybody is that good.”
That’s the physical side of it. The mental aspect was just as demanding.
“The Cowboys defense was the most sophisticated in the world at that time. We had about five plays at Wawasee: middle, left, right, pass and punt,” Pipp said with a laugh and wide smile.
From Wawasee to the Big Ten to the Dallas Cowboys, if only for a brief time. The unlikely journey Pipp took is one he loves to share and decided to share the tangible relics of his career with the school that started it all.
Pipp donated his Wawasee and Indiana varsity jackets, his college helmet and player’s contracts from the Cowboys and Fire to the high school’s athletic department in the fall. Assistant athletic director Scott Lancaster and assistant football coach Tyson Kaase recently displayed the donated items in the brickyard at Wawasee. Also donated was a game ball Pipp received after the Hoosiers defeated Syracuse in 1972.
Pipp spent the past 18 years in Indianapolis as the chief sales officer and partner of Australian Gold, a company he helped start with an old fraternity brother. He hopes the donated items will serve as a reminder Wawasee can be the foundation for something special.
“Anything that I can do to give kids the hope that they can achieve great things,” Pipp said about his donation. “This is a great school. I don’t care how strong you are, what school you come from. You have a chance to play anywhere or do anything. Sports, business, whatever.
“I hope kids look at some of this stuff at this school and think, ‘holy crap.’ You’ve got a girl that played in the pros in Shanna Zolman, a guy that hardly knew football that was on the Cowboys. You know, just never let your dreams die.”