Monken opts out coaching, in favor of parenting
A man who knows all about the option had only one.
His choice would be Anthony Monken. All day. Any day.
What an easy call for dad.
Choosing to watch his oldest son play his senior season of high school football was, in the end, why Tony Monken submitted his resignation as Vernon Hills' football coach.
Anthony Monken, who "throws a darn good ball," his dad boasts, will be a senior at Libertyville in the fall and could emerge as the Wildcats' starting quarterback. His dad will be cheering from the stands.
"When you're sitting there listening to a guy," Monken said, "and the only thing you can think about is being around your son, I think the voice in your head is telling you everything you need to know."
So, the father of two football-playing boys, a man who built Vernon Hills' football program, who led the Cougars to nine playoff berths in 13 seasons, whose last name is household in IHSA football, will have his autumns free. At least this year.
"They tell me that the leaves change colors," Monken, the only football coach in Vernon Hills history, said with a laugh.
Running a triple-option offense -- that never changed -- Monken built a program that treated kids the right way, was always competitive and played the game hard. Even during the Cougars' inaugural campaign in 2000, with no seniors on their roster, they managed to win twice. Then the following year, the Cougars took off, tying for second place in the North Suburban Conference Prairie Division, winning eight games and advancing to the Class 5A state quarterfinals.
A program was on the map.
"We were very fortunate as a bunch of young guys that the principal, Jim Whittington, and the athletic director, Al Janulis, let us start a program," Monken said. "To start a program from scratch and to create a winning tradition and to have the success that we did, that's pretty special."
The Class of 2002, featuring all-state quarterback Jason Newburger, will always hold a special place in the coach's heart.
"They had to take their lumps without a senior class ahead of them," Monken said. "For them to come in and start that winning tradition and get to the quarterfinals, to me, those guys will always be legends.
"They really put Vernon Hills on the map."
The following season, Vernon Hills earned a share of the NSC Prairie championship. The Cougars would win the division title outright in 2005, 2009 and 2010. The latter two teams included all-state wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, who shined for Notre Dame in Monday night's BCS national championship game.
The Cougars have missed the playoffs the last two years. But with Monken and his veteran staff, it didn't figure to be long before the program returned to the postseason.
Now the Cougars will have to do it without Monken. He had started his coaching career at Libertyville in 1986, serving as an assistant coach, before taking the head job at Vernon Hills, which was just opening its doors in 1999.
What Monken will do next he's not sure. Certainly, he will have lots of options. For now, all he knows for sure about next fall is that he will be coaching youth football again. His youngest son, Thomas, will be a sixth-grader.
"I'm certainly not going to apply for any head-coaching jobs for next year," Monken said. "I'm going to take a year off from that.
"If you think about it, I haven't had a year off from playing football or coaching ball since the early '70s," added Monken, who played at Winona State and Wheaton North (Class of 1981), where he was a teammate of Chuck Long, who went on to play quarterback in the NFL.
What we also know about Monken is that coaching is in his blood.
His brother Todd is the head coach at Southern Mississippi. Brother Ted was the head coach at St. Charles East and Metea Valley. Cousin Matt is the offensive coordinator at Bolingbrook. Cousin Jeff is the head coach at Georgia Southern. Cousin Tommy is the offensive coordinator at Casey-Westfield High.
Monken's dad, Bob, who coached for more than 50 years, and all four of Bob's brothers are in the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association hall of fame.
"I signed up to do this a long time ago because I love the competition and I love being around kids and working with them," Tony Monken said. "I don't care if you're working with third-graders or you're working with grown men, when that light bulb goes on and something you've been working on works, that's exciting as a coach. That's why we do this."
That's why Tony Monken will coach again -- after Anthony Monken's senior season, of course.
Tony Monken compiled a 77-55 record in 13 seasons at Vernon Hills
2000: 2-7, 1-4 (fifth in NSC Prairie)
*2001: 8-4, 3-2 (tie second in NSC Prairie, Class 5A quarterfinals)
*2002: 7-4, 3-2 (third in NSC Prairie, Class 6A second round)
*2003: 7-3, 4-1 (tie for first in NSC Prairie, Class 6A first round)
2004: 3-6, 3-2 (third in NSC Prairie)
*2005: 7-3, 6-0 (first in NSC Prairie, Class 6A first round)
*2006: 5-5, 4-2 (tie second in NSC Prairie, Class 6A first round)
*2007: 5-5, 4-2 (third in NSC Prairie, Class 6A first round)
*2008: 8-2, 5-1 (second in NSC Prairie, Class 6A first round)
*2009: 8-3, 6-0 (first in NSC Prairie, Class 5A second round)
*2010: 10-2, 6-0 (first in NSC Prairie, Class 5A quarterfinals)
2011: 5-4, 3-3 (fourth in NSC Prairie)
2012: 2-7, 1-5 (sixth in NSC Prairie)
* indicates playoff season