Larkin football players already enjoy a comfort level with coach Jesus "Zeus" Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, 29, joined the Larkin Physical Education Department five years ago and served as varsity defensive coordinator the past four seasons under former coach Dragan Teonic, who was hired last month to lead South Elgin.
A graduate of Aurora Central Catholic High School and Aurora University, Gonzalez, was named the eighth coach in Larkin history Thursday by principal Jamie Crosen and athletic director Ethan Karolczak.
"I'm very excited for the opportunity that Ethan and Jamie have given me," Gonzalez said. "I also have to thank Dragan. The guy has been a mentor to me for the last four years. He gave me more responsibility each year to the point where I could eventually be a head coach. I'm so thankful to him and everything he helped me with. We've built a culture here the last four years and the plan is to continue with the same discipline in pursuit of our goals."
While the new head coach's familiarity with the returning Royals is a bonus -- he has been directing summer camp in an interim role since Teonic's departure -- it was far from the only reason he landed the job permanently, according to Karolczak, who received "over 20 applications" and conducted "nine or 10 interviews."
"This does provide some continuity, but that was not the driving reason behind the decision," Karolczak said of hiring Gonzalez, who holds a Master's Degree in Educational Psychology from Missouri and is working toward a second Master's in Strength and Conditioning and Sports Nutrition at Concordia. "We took him because he is the perfect guy in the right spot.
"Zeus is one of the hardest-working people I know, a lifelong learner. He's a real gritty person. Basically, he embodies the core values our athletic department wants to stand for. He's the perfect guy to lead our football program."
A lifelong Aurora resident, Gonzalez played high school football under Mike Curry, an Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee.
After graduating from ACC in 2007, Gonzalez wrestled for a year at Waubonsee Community College before he transferred to Aurora. He played one season of football and competed in throws for the track and field team for three seasons. He has served as an assistant wrestling and track and field coach since arriving at Larkin.
Gonzalez's coaching staff will include some holdovers, but the program is seeking more assistants.
"We want guys with football knowledge, of course, but you can teach someone to coach certain positions," Gonzalez said. "We want people who are going to teach these kids to be great leaders and great contributors to the community."