Playing football then serving as an assistant coach for Jason Aubry at two high schools, Jack Rustman saw firsthand the approach Aubry used to get player buy-in.
Rustman now looks to bring that approach to West Chicago, approved Tuesday as physical education teacher and football coach by Community High School District 94.
"Jason, he's all about kids first, building the program up by building relationships up first," said Rustman, 30, a 2005 Johnsburg graduate who lives in Park Ridge with his wife, Maria, and 8-month-old daughter, Penny.
An all-Big Northern offensive lineman who played at Northern Michigan and with the Milwaukee Iron in the Arena I league, Rustman reached the 2004 Class 5A playoffs as a Johnsburg senior under Aubry.
From 2010-2015 Rustman was an offensive line coach for Aubry at Joliet West, then served on John Holecek's staff for Loyola's 2016 Class 8A runner-up squad before returning last season as a teacher, line coach and strength and conditioning coordinator at Joliet West, which has reached the 8A playoffs three of the last four seasons.
"First of all, he's going to be a great teacher, a great fit in the building for physical education," said West Chicago athletic director Doug Mullaney.
"Also the fact that he's a brand-new, first-year head coach, he's been preparing for this for a while. He is energetic, I get a feel he understands our community and our school. He's going to be a great fit and he had a lot of great ideas of how to turn things around at West Chicago," Mullaney said.
The Wildcats went 2-7 in 2017, the last of Ted Monken's four seasons, and haven't made the playoffs since 2002. Rustman, who sees similarities between West Chicago and Joliet West when he joined the staff in 2010, is undeterred.
"That's one of the things that kind of attracted me," he said. "It's kind of a challenge, but I think I know, at least, the formula to make it work over there. I don't see it as much of a problem as a challenge."
His formula to "rebrand" Wildcats football, as Rustman said, includes building a culture within the school and community of success, integrity, hard work and a love for the sport and each other.
"(It is) having kids come out to practice because they want to come to something new and exciting," Rustman said. "Every day is going to be something new, something they haven't heard. We'll make it kind of unique every day."
Over the next two weeks Rustman will meet with Wildcats football coaches to start building staff and with meet the West Chicago players. He will schedule a parents meeting after summer football camp begins, Mullaney said.