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Brad Thornton is coming home. The Cary-Grove and Wheaton College graduate has been hired as Wheaton Academy interim head football coach.
Thornton, 28, had been defensive coordinator for six years at Evangelical Christian School in Memphis. State runner-up in its division in 2012, Thornton's 4-3 base defense helped the ECS Eagles win district championships four of his six years on staff with three state semifinal appearances.
"I'm thrilled about it, first of all, to get back to the area that I consider to be home. They actually refer to me as 'Yankee boy' down here in Memphis," said Thornton, who as a senior fullback at Wheaton College earned teammates' vote for the Parmalee Award as "most respected player."
An English teacher set to arrive this weekend and hold his first team meeting Monday night, Thornton is initially joined by two others who will lead Wheaton Academy football into the summer, with the full staff still in development.
Hinsdale Central graduate and Wheaton College all-American Brad Musso comes aboard as receivers coach after four years at Westminster Academy in St. Louis. Another former Wheaton College athlete, Ward Rau will head the sophomore team; he was a 14-year assistant at West Chicago.
In addition, Geof Weisenborn, for the last eight years at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, has been hired as Wheaton Academy's director of performance as well as its head lacrosse coach.
Since Wheaton Academy and former Warriors head football coach and director of performance T.J. Ragan officially parted ways Feb. 8, less than a year after his initial hiring, Wheaton Academy had interviewed more than 20 candidates for the head coaching spot. None were deemed to have sufficient experience, so the interim post was created. The search for a permanent coach will continue following the 2013 season.
"We were looking for a head coach that had experience and had run a program before as a head coach, and we couldn't find that," said Wheaton Academy athletic director Andrew Tink. "But we're excited about the guys we have, and we have a team of guys."
Tink said Thornton had been hired as defensive coordinator and English teacher and emerged as a "long-term, important piece at Wheaton Academy."
"Brad gives us the best opportunity right now, and then we'll keep searching and go from there," he said.
Thornton, who with his wife, Tara, celebrated the birth of their first child, William, on May 31, approached Wheaton Academy when he heard the position was open. He identified with the school's alignment of spirituality, academics and athletics.
"The outcome will take care of itself if you have high standards in place," Thornton said. "If you're working on developing men of commitment, discipline and character the wins and losses will fall into place. ... That's the reason that I coach. I want to see boys develop into men by the time they get out of high school, and I think football is a great teacher of what it takes to become a man."