DANVILLE (WCIA) (IHSA release) — Fowler Connell and his career can only be described as amazing, as the 95-year old Danville resident continues to cover high school sports to this day.
Born in Chicago, he was raised in Kansas City, Missouri, where he made his foray into sports writing at Paseo High School’s student newspaper. He went on to attend Kansas City Junior College and the University of Missouri following his service in the United States Navy. After being stationed in the Pacific through the end of World War II, Fowler eventually came to Eastern Illinois, where he started his professional journalism career at the Champaign News Gazette in 1949. He then made the short move to Vermilion County in 1952 when he became the Sports Editor at the Danville Commercial News. He spent 37 years at the Commercial News before retiring in 1989, but on January 1, 1990 he got back into the game with a new job at WDAN radio in Danville.
He continues to serve as a member of the WDAN broadcast team on high school and junior college games, as well as on University of Illinois pre-game show broadcasts, while also appearing as a regular panelist on the WDAN Sports Talk program for over 30 years. “Seeing the development of young athletes, and then following their careers in high school and into college,” is what Fowler calls the best part of covering prep sports. He also has fond memories of many of the coaches he covered, with Paul Shelby, B.J. Luke, Gene Gourley, John Eakle and John Spezia standing out. The Danville Commercial News published a collection of Fowler’s favorite stories in a book titled “Sports Through My Eyes, 50-Years of Sports Coverage.”
Among all the amazing moments he has covered, he is able narrow down his Top 3:
1) Schlarman beating Clinton 76-75 in first round of 1961 state tournament on Brian Williams 50-foot shot in the closing seconds.
2) Danville High School’s football team stunning archival Champaign Central 16-12 on a lateral kickoff return in final seconds of a game in 1977.
3) Left-hander Steve Kelly throwing a two-hitter to help Danville high edge Moline 2-1 in the state baseball tournament opener in Peoria.
Fowler is a past President of the Illinois Sports Editors Association and was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1979. He led the establishment of the Vermilion County Sportsmanship Award over 30 years ago and continues to serve on the committee.
“The excitement, and the coaches, and the players, and see how they develop, and see how they go on, and go onto college, and how they make success of their lives,” Fowler told WCIA 3 on getting the award Tuesday night. “So I’ve seen the good, bad, and indifferent, absolutely.”