Larry Calhoun was going to see if he could lure his son’s family back to Texas during a visit to the Northwest suburbs earlier this month.
Then Calhoun’s wife Kathy made a suggestion related toward her husband’s goal of becoming a high school head football coach.
“My wife encouraged me and said, ‘Why don’t you look in the Chicago area and see what’s available,’” said Calhoun, an Oklahoma native who had been interviewing for jobs in Texas.
So, Calhoun checked out the Illinois Athletic Directors Association website for openings. One of the intriguing ones was at Elk Grove, where Brian Doll stepped aside in late May after going 24-9 in three seasons to take a position promoting football in Europe.
Now, one month later, Calhoun has his dream job at Elk Grove as his hiring was approved by the school board on Monday night. Safe to say it’s a been a whirlwind few weeks for the school and its new coach.
“I think it was really fate and it happened the way it was supposed to,” Calhoun said. “I was pleasantly surprised. I don’t want to say I was skeptical, but I thought it was a long shot.”
Especially considering Calhoun was coming from the state where high school football is king and Elk Grove didn’t exactly have a great length of time to get this done with the season opener against Highland Park on Aug. 24. But the 12-year assistant coaching and teaching background of Calhoun at three Texas high schools and his earlier professional business history were too good to pass up for a program that was 10-2 last year, won the Mid-Suburban East title and advanced to the Class 7A quarterfinals in its third straight playoff trip.
“He’s going to continue that excitement and fun with ‘Nation’ football,” said Elk Grove assistant principal for student activities Rick Mirro. “We’re going into a new era of Elk Grove Nation and it starts in seven weeks.
“We moved fast but we wanted to move in a way that was best for the program and for the kids.
“We had a parent meeting (Monday) night and introduced him to the group. He drove 19 hours last week to come up and meet face-to-face with the coaches. It was all good.”
So good in Calhoun’s mind that he said he withdrew his name from consideration for a couple of potential jobs in Texas. But coming to Elk Grove is also a long way from where Calhoun once was professionally.
He played defensive tackle at Abilene Christian University and then went into business for about 15 years. He stayed involved in coaching youth football and then became an offensive coordinator for two years at Dallas Christian High School.
“I fell in love with it and realized it was my calling and what I wanted to be,” said Calhoun, who has also coached baseball, basketball, track and softball.
But Calhoun had to be a teacher in order to coach in Texas public schools. So he met that goal and went on to coach five years at Lakeview Centennial in Garland and the last two years at Westwood in Austin.
He was offensive coordinator last year for a 10-2 team which averaged 32 points and was ranked 10th in the state by The Associated Press.
Because of the quick transition, Calhoun said he is initially committed to sticking with the Grenadiers have been doing for the first year. But eventually it will be an up-tempo attack similar to the University of Oregon.
“It will be a mix of what you’ve seen of Elk Grove in the past,” Calhoun said, “with a little Texas flavor added to it to make us more explosive.”
Calhoun was impressed by what he’s seen from one of the area’s best defenses and the commitment level toward the program from players to coaches to administrators. He will be teaching at Elk Grove and will be spending a lot of time initially in Barrington at the home of his son Cooper, his wife Kristen (the daughter of ex-Bears great Mike Singletary) and their daughter Brooklynne, who celebrates her first birthday today.
A month ago it would have been tough to imagine they would also be celebrating a new job for Larry Calhoun. But now the plan is to start building toward even bigger celebrations on the football field.
“It’s a great situation to step into to build on the success they already started and continue to take it to the next level,” Calhoun said. “We want excellence on the field and we want to build character off the field.
“Hopefully every year when we begin the season we’ll think we have a chance to be in the state championship game. We want those expectations to be high.”
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