For as long as there has been Grayslake North football, there has been an athletically built, bald head coach with a fuzzy goatee.
"When you go back to when I (first) shaved my head, which was about 13-14 years ago, I really have not changed at all," Steve Wood said with a laugh. "I don't know if it's because I matured prematurely or I've just stayed young."
While the hair on the top of Wood's head hasn't sprouted much, his program has grown with a prolificacy of Rapunzel. Now, it's time for the 43-year-old to watch the growth of something else -- his children.
So after turning in his letter of resignation late last week, Wood talked to his players on Monday and informed them that he has stepped down as head coach after 11 seasons. He is the only head football coach in Grayslake North's history.
Wood's oldest son, Dalton, is a freshman at Richmond-Burton, and his youngest, Brock, is in the seventh grade. Both boys play football and baseball and wrestle.
"The plan for the last couple of years has always been that once (Dalton) gets to high school I would step away and show them the support they've shown me over the years," Wood said. "I can't imagine coaching on Friday night knowing (Dalton) is playing on Friday night, whether he's playing at the sophomore level or varsity level (next year). It's just something I wasn't going to do.
"I can always go back to coaching," Wood added. "I can't go back and watch them in five years when I decide to be done. It was really a pretty easy decision."
When Grayslake North went 1-26 in its first three years as a varsity football program from 2006-2008, Wood knows it would have been easy for his bosses to make a head-coaching change. But it never did, and after a 3-6 season in 2009, the Knights enjoyed a winning season the following year, going 5-4. They were 4-5 in 2011 but since then have made the playoffs five seasons in a row.
Their 8 wins this season tied the school record set in 2012.
"We've had unbelievable support from our administration," Wood said. "I've gone through 3-4 principals (in the last 10 years), and they've all been just absolutely awesome to work for. Obviously Tina (Woolard, athletic director) has been the rock as my immediate boss. She's always been extremely supportive."
Wood leaves the program in awesome shape. The Knights are expected to return several players at skill positions next year, the JV team went undefeated in conference, and while the freshman squad were just 3-6, there is talent.
"We feel our freshman group is a really good group," Wood said. "We think they're going to be outstanding sophomore and varsity football players. One of the things I told Tina was that when I did step away, I wasn't going to step away when the cupboards were bare. This is a good year to do that."
Wood has coached his sons in wrestling and baseball the last few years and is volunteer-coaching at Richmond-Burton with wrestling this winter.
He does not plan on coaching football at any level next fall.
"I really just plan on being a dad next year and enjoying it," he said.
And, no, despite congratulation wishes on social media, he is not "retiring." He will continue teaching physical education at Grayslake North.
He leaves with a 49-57 career record as head coach. In the last five years, though, the Knights are 36-16.
"My plan is in seven years I'll be back," Wood said. "I don't anticipate being back as the head coach, but I anticipate being back on the sidelines in the (Grayslake North) black and gold. My kids will be out of high school at that point. If I end up going back, awesome. If I don't, so be it. But obviously I still plan on being very active in coaching.
"I'm 43 years old, so it's hard for me to go sit in a rocking chair."