Schaumburg mourns passing of former football coach Cerasani

Tom Cerasani, the longest tenured and winningest football coach in Schaumburg High School history, died Sunday. He was 71.

Cerasani compiled a 105-98 record in his 21 years as head coach of the Saxons. He was 112-109 for his career, spending two seasons at Palatine before taking over the reins at Schaumburg in 1984, succeeding Bob Ferguson.

He took Schaumburg to the state playoffs seven times and won five Mid-Suburban League championships. He had a quarterfinal team in 1985 and had his best season when the Saxons finished second in the state in Class 6A in 1999.

That team, which finished 11-3, featured the state's leading rusher in Jason Hawkins, All-America kicker Brian Huffman and current Buffalo Grove girls basketball coach Steve Kolodziej at quarterback.

Cerasani, who was known for his innovative play calling, sent two quarterbacks to the NFL.

Paul Justin, who graduated in 1985, was a 7th-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 1991 and was a 10-year pro who was a member of the Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams in 1999. Kurt Kittner, a 1998 graduate, was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 2002 and played four seasons in the NFL.

Cerasani coached his sons at Schaumburg — Tom Jr., a quarterback, and John, a tight end, both of whom have fond memories of playing for their dad.

“He was the hardest on you,” Tom Jr. said. “But the experience of spending time playing for my father was irreplaceable.”

Current Schaumburg football coach Mark Stilling praised Cerasani for steering him in the right direction.

“I would not be the coach I am today without Coach C's influence,” Stilling said. “He had an immeasurable impact on my coaching philosophy. As a coach, his ability to evaluate personnel was unparalleled. As a person, we would all do well to emulate his compassion for others. The thoughts of the SHS community as well as our football family are with Tom, and his family. “

After his retirement in 2004, Cerasani returned to the game in 2007 as an assistant coach when his son Tom Jr., was named head coach at Leyden.

Tom Jr. said the best lesson he had from his dad was how to deal with losses and wins.

“He would never put anything on the players,” Tom Jr. said. “He always took it on as his responsibility. And whenever anything good happened it was all the kids.”

John said his dad was able to get kids who weren't football players to come out and try the game.

“He had a knack of getting guys out of the hallways to come out for football,” John said. “And then he would develop them into solid football players.”

Tom Jr. said that is his dad's greatest legacy.

“My dad had dozens of scholarship players,” Tom Jr. said. “After he passed, the guys I got calls from weren't just scholarship players. They were from guys who said that if not for my dad, they would not have been successful in life.”

Visitation is 3 to 9 p.m. Nov. 28 at Ahlgrim & Sons Funeral and Cremation Services, 330 W. Golf Road, Schaumburg. Funeral prayers will be said at 9:15 a.m. Nov. 29 at the funeral home, with a procession passing Schaumburg High School, to St. Matthew Church, 1001 E. Schaumburg Road, Schaumburg, for 10 a.m. Mass.

For more information, visit or call (847) 882-5580.

Tom Cerasani in 2000.
Leyden High School football coach Tom Cerasani Jr., left, and his dad, Tom, are shown here coaching a Leyden practice in 2008. Tom Cerasani Sr. passed away Sunday at 71. Daily Herald File photo
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