Kyle Rohde’s ties to Elgin High’s football program run deep.
A 2002 graduate of the school, Rohde earned All-Upstate Eight honors for his efforts as an offensive and defensive lineman while helping lead the Maroons to a playoff appearance as a senior.
While attending college at Millikin, Rohde would periodically come back home and lend a hand with the football team. He officially joined the coaching staff in 2007 and spent the past three years as the varsity team’s defensive coordinator.
Now Rohde is at the pinnacle of Elgin’s football program after being introduced as its head coach Wednesday, and he can thank his strong connections to the school for his rapid ascent.
“That’s a huge element,” Rohde said. “I love this school and I love this town. I don’t think I’ll be leaving anytime soon.”
Rohde replaces Dave Bierman, a 1981 Elgin graduate who stepped down last October after compiling a 12-34 record in five seasons leading the Maroons.
Given his close involvement with the team, Rohde understands as well as anyone the challenges facing Elgin’s football program.
The Maroons are coming off back-to-back 1-8 seasons, and last year they took the field for their season opener with only 17 players in uniform. Thin rosters have become commonplace at Elgin, and Rohde realizes there is no magic wand he can waive to change the program’s fortunes.
“I have my plan, but it’s going to take a lot of work,” Rohde said. “It would be ideal to go downstate next year, but you have to be realistic and look at the whole picture.”
Working with the youth football programs that feed into Elgin High is part of Rohde’s long-term plan, but in the short term his main task will be maximizing personnel on the Maroons roster.
Elgin finished 6-4 and reached the Class 7A playoffs in Rohde’s first year as defensive coordinator in 2010, marking its only postseason appearance since Rohde’s senior year. The 2010 team blended some noteworthy talent at the skill positions with a strong work ethic to beat the odds.
Rohde was a hard-nosed player while at Elgin and later at Millikin, where he was an offensive lineman and long snapper from 2002-06. As head coach he’ll try to instill the same toughness in his team.
“I look forward to getting to work and seeing where we end up in the fall,” Rohde said. “I think we have a good group of sophomores and juniors that will be on the varsity team. It will be up to us to coach them up and fill some other spots with kids who haven’t played too much.
“You know the numbers situation in the school district in general, so it’s up to us to build that up. We have to get guys on the field to play.”