Rockford West High School was the crown jewel of Illinois boys basketball in 1955 and 1956, winning back to back state titles. A new book celebrates their legacy, which lives on in the hearts and minds of our community.
"This is a priceless moment to have these players here."
Warriors Forever, a book to hold in your hand and a badge of honor for those who wore the uniform.
"It's just awesome for the community to support it like they are right now with lines out the door," said West alumnus Rex Parker.
Hundreds gathered in Rockford to celebrate a project years in the making.
"We started getting involved in this book about eight to ten years ago," said West alumnus Rod Coffman.
Authored by a proud West Warrior.
"I was just a young child when the Warriors won the championship, it was an inspiration not just for me, but the entire community," said author John Gile.
West won the 1955 state title by a 61-59 margin in the final minute. Though the film rolls in silence, it evokes powerful memories of a transformative moment.
"It was as though the river dried up. There was no East or West. It was just one community, in unity, behind the Warriors," said Gile.
"We had 100,000 people waiting for us when we came home," Coffman recalls. "That surprised all of us, much like this crowd that's here today."
Players of the past basked in the present, and celebrated those not in attendance.
"Be sure some of the players no longer here with us, get proper credit," said Gile.
"Wives whose husbands have passed away that were on the team, we've been able to share experiences and reminisce," said Parker.
Gile added, "Bonding that took place even extends beyond the grave."
A thread that ties them all together, from coast to coast.
"I live in California," says Coffman, "and everyone would think California would be my favorite place. It's not. It's Rockford, Illinois. Always has, always will be."
A time, a place, a team to treasure, like the ink in the pens signing the books, permanently on fresh pages to turn.