Glen Kozlowski spent part of Monday afternoon at North Chicago trying to help create a college-football opportunity for one of the Warhawk senior football players.
That’s not any different than what coach Dave Mohapp does for his football players at Warren, and what coach Nick Browder does for his guys at Waukegan, and what coach Brian Glashagel does for his players at Antioch. And so on and so on … Lakes, Libertyville, everywhere.
But there is one huge difference.
Kozlowski was helping his player about a week after he’d been fired as North Chicago High’s football coach.
Koz said he was dismissed after five seasons by school athletic director Brian Colbert before Thanksgiving, but wanted to finish what he’d started with this group of seniors — giving them chances to play college football, if possible.
And when that’s done, it’s over. Truth be told, by the time you read this, Koz might already have been hired to coach at another school.
Love him or hate him, like his coaching demeanor on the sidelines or not, Koz does have three things going for him that make him very desirable at some high schools.
■ He knows how to coach football. A lot of us know all about football, but very few of us know how to coach football. Koz is one of the few.
■ He’s earned the reputation of taking scuffling programs and turning them into competitive programs within four years. He did that at Wauconda, and then he did it again at North Chicago. There are plenty of train wrecks out there that could use Koz to get things back on track.
■ The players in his program are his children, so to speak. He cares about them on the field, and off the field. He defends them to referees and he defends them to sportswriters.
He’s like a Dad. He will correct his players when they’re wrong, but will defend them to the hilt if you try to say that they’re wrong.
On the other side of the ledger, he can be confrontational. He wants more for his players. He thinks they deserve more, and if he thinks you’re shortchanging his kids, he’ll let you know. If you’re a football referee and he thinks that, there’s going to be an argument.
In any case, looking at the five years he was at North Chicago, it’s safe to say he’s leaving the program in a better place than it was when he took over.
We also are going to assume something about the man who decided that Koz had to go, that being Doc Colbert.
That is, he knows what he’s doing. The reality is, when it comes to coaches in high-profile sports like football, it’s always good for an athletic director to know who his new coach is going to be before he fires his old one.
Here are three possibilities:
■ Perhaps there was somebody on Koz’s staff who really impressed Colbert and is ready to take the ball and run with it.
■ Perhaps Lake Forest High coaching legend Tommy Myers might be looking for a challenge. Retired from teaching, he’s been an assistant football coach at Lake Forest College and maybe he would want to give this prep thing one last try.
During his Scout days, he was always able to turn the whole into something greater than the sum of the parts.
■ Perhaps Mike Grenda, the Warhawks’ coach during the school’s last great football run, could be lured back onto the pitch.
Grenda stepped down from coaching because he was hired as a principal at a grade school in North Chicago’s K-12 school district. Right now, he’s principal at Neal Middle School, but it’s very possible that next year’s seventh- and eighth-graders will attend their classes at the half-empty North Chicago High, making that a school for students in grades 7-12.
That would put Grenda back in the high school building, and within easy walking distance of the football locker room.
Game 1 of the Glen Kozlowski Era as North Chicago’s football coach in late August of 2009 was a 42-6 loss to a strong Marian Central.
Game 2 was one that North Chicago fans will never forget.
On Sept. 5, 2009, Kozlowski’s team fell behind Simeon from Chicago 21-0 in the early going, and then all heck broke out.
There were fights on the field among players, fans reportedly spilled out of the stands and onto the field, and the game was called and victory awarded to Simeon. The fallout from the game-stopping brawl saw North Chicago forfeit its game the next week against Vernon Hills, while eight Simeon players were suspended for their next game, which it lost.
The Warhawks returned to action in Week 3 against Zion-Benton and surrendered 42-8 in a game that went on without incident. That led to a 1-8 season, and few at that time figured that 1) three years later, North Chicago would be 7-2 and a playoff team, and 2) Kozlowski still would be around to coach the team to a 7-2 season.
But Koz was committed to the kids and the program. Some didn’t like his style, but no coach around these parts invested more of himself into his student-athletes than Koz did.
And, hopefully, that is how these past five years of North Chicago football will be remembered.
And more importantly, hopefully the next Warhawk coach learns from Kozlowski in that regard, and builds on it.