First day of football practice at Wheaton Academy High School.Coach Ben Wilson shouts out direction to his team.
Daily Herald File Photo
Citing "a slow recovery" following brain surgery last Oct. 24 to remove a benign tumor, as well as more time to devote to his family, on Wednesday Ben Wilson resigned as Wheaton Academy's varsity football coach.
A 33-year-old Wheaton resident and physics teacher, on Jan. 3 Wilson returned to his teaching role on a part-time basis. He hopes to resume a full schedule after physicians evaluate his condition at the end of the month.
Continuing as an assistant football coach also is part of his plan, but Wilson didn't feel he could commit to the time demands of a head coach.
"I just really prayed about it and I had a lot of time to think about my life as a whole. I really decided that right now my family my wife (Leah) and my kids (J.R., Lainie) really need me being 100 percent, and I just felt like I needed to take something off my plate as I recover," Wilson said Wednesday from his office at the West Chicago school.
"I'm not sure how long the recovery's going to go and I love coaching, but the head coaching job is a year-round job. I want to do that job 100 percent, and I don't feel like I can right now."
Last fall Wilson began experiencing vision problems. Following an eye exam, an MRI found a 3-centimeter tumor situated at the base of his brain, between the optic nerves and pituitary gland.
A seven-hour surgery at Loyola Hospital in Maywood removed the tumor, and on Oct. 31 Wilson underwent a shorter surgery to clean up blood in his brain.
A follow-up MRI indicates no tumor remains. His vision has improved, though the pituitary gland has "thrown some hormones off kilter," Wilson said, including thyroid levels.
"The healing is happening, but it's a long process," said Wilson, who told his players Wednesday of his resignation.
A former Maine South football player who coached at Wheaton College and Glenbard North, among other places, before arriving at Wheaton Academy in 2006, Wilson was assigned the task of rejuvenating a program dormant 19 years.
After a 6-3 record on a junior varsity schedule in 2006, Wilson led the Warriors to an 18-29 varsity mark over five years, 1-8 last season.
"We're grateful to Ben for everything he's done the last six years in resurrecting the football program," said Wheaton Academy athletic director Paul Ferguson, noting a search for a new head coach will begin next week.
"His announcement is a little bittersweet," Ferguson said. "It's sad that he's stepping down as head coach, but at the same time we're really supportive of him having his health as his No. 1 priority, and we're thrilled he's going to continue with our program as an assistant."
Wilson "glad to be alive and glad to be healing," he said wouldn't rule out a return to the top spot and was disappointed not to continue what he'd started.
He will, however, always be the coach who led the 16th-seeded Warriors to a 20-19 victory over No. 1 seed Hillcrest in the 2009 Class 5A playoffs.
"I'll never forget that score, trust me," Wilson said.