Tony Pecoraro knows as well as anybody about the once-proud tradition of the Guerin — formerly Holy Cross — football program.
He was a tight end and defensive end on the Holy Cross team that finished 11-2 in 2000. That season came in the midst of five playoff berths in six years for the Crusaders.
“The atmosphere at Holy Cross when we were rolling was electric,” said Pecoraro, who coached at Guerin the past five seasons before stepping aside and becoming the director of football operations. “That’s what I wanted desperately for these kids and that’s part of the reason why I made the difficult decision in stepping down and bringing in a coach of this caliber for the kids.”
Pecoraro spearheaded the hiring process to name his successor, former Chicago Bears wide receiver Glen Kozlowski.
The 51-year-old Kozlowski, who played six seasons for the Bears and was a standout on Brigham Young’s 1984 national championship team, spent the last five years coaching at North Chicago. He didn’t have his contract renewed after North Chicago finished 4-5 last fall, a year after he guided the team to the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
He also coached at Wauconda for seven years where he helped end a nine-year playoff drought in 2007.
“After meeting and getting to know his philosophies, I learned we had a lot of the same beliefs,” Pecoraro said. “We hired him not because of his name or reputation as a professional player, but because he is a great football coach. It was enticing to us that he was able to turn around two football programs.
“I wanted someone who would bring discipline to the kids. I wanted a fiery coach. He’ll protect his players, which is very important to me.”
Guerin is coming off a 2-7 season and has yet to qualify for the playoffs since the school became Guerin College Prep in 2004.
“I’m excited about the new challenge,” Kozlowski said. “It took me a little time to decide. Every time you kind of have a tough season and things don’t work out as well as you would like, you’re thinking, ‘I’m not sure I want to do it anymore.’ You think of a million negatives, but at the end of the day, the thrill of seeing young men have the light bulb go off when they see the little things work that make them successful, makes it all worth it.”
Despite his experience coaching two other programs, Kozlowski doesn’t know what to expect in his first stint with a private school.
“I’ve been nervous every time I’ve taken on a new school,” Kozlowski said. “The day I’m not nervous is probably the day I shouldn’t do it. This is a new experience. Kids are always looking for consistency, stability and accountability. Those are things I know I can provide.”
Guerin president Steve Baldwin is confident about what Kozlowski can bring to the school.
“We set our sights very high and asked ourselves who would be the person who could truly take the program to a level not seen in many years here?” Baldwin said. “The addition of someone of Glen’s caliber to the football program, as well as the community, was what we were looking for.”
Kozlowski said players may give him a little more respect initially because of his NFL background, but the awe usually wears off once they take the field.
While winning is important, Kozlowski’s main objective is to help each student thrive beyond their high school years.
“Football and sports are just a small part of every student,” Kozlowski said. “Academics, still to me, are the most important thing you do in your lifetime. I was done at 31 and the only muscle I still have left working is my brain, which is kind of worn out now.
“I want to help kids see themselves in a winning way and apply it to everything they do.”