No surprise: Stevenson's Hjorth chooses family
Before Friday's surprise at Stevenson, where head football coaches are as constant as winning, there was the other shocker in Josh Hjorth's life.
Gracie arrived nearly a year ago.
Little Jack, little Joey and little Jon suddenly had a baby sister. Josh Hjorth suddenly had his little girl. Quarterbacks everywhere would be lucky to be surrounded by this kind of protection.
In November of 2016, Stevenson introduced Hjorth as the fourth head football coach in its history. A couple of months later, Christine Hjorth called her husband.
"I was actually driving to our 6 a.m. workout when my wife called," Hjorth said, "and informed me of our surprise."
A "wonderful surprise," the proud daddy noted.
Wonderful news for Jack, 8, Joey, 6, Jon, 3, and Gracie, almost 1, arrived Friday.
Daddy stepped down as head football coach so he could spend more time being Daddy.
Maybe Christine can take a series off.
"She might be taking it tougher than I am," Hjorth, 38 and a special education teacher at Stevenson, said of his wife, a middle-school teacher. "When she met me, I was the head freshman coach at Wheaton North High School. Football has always been a part of who I am, and it's who she knows me as. She's been unbelievable. I can't say enough about her."
When it was announced Friday that Hjorth resigned after only two seasons, current and former players of his blitzed Twitter with love for their coach. Hjorth's Patriots went 6-4 in each season, qualifying for the state playoffs for the 29th and 30th consecutive campaigns.
"It's a very tough decision," Hjorth said. "The toughest part was telling our players. But obviously the future, like every year at Stevenson, is very bright."
Since replacing Bill McNamara as head coach, Hjorth has been blitzed with family responsibilities. If having four children under the age of 8 wasn't enough for his plate, he had an unexpected tragedy in the summer of 2017, when his father passed away.
"I had to take on more family responsibilities as a man," Hjorth said.
The good part for Hjorth was, he had his grandfather, 90 years young and sharp as ever, to lean on. Hjorth called him.
"He said, 'Back in my day, each kid was worth a million dollars,' " Hjorth said. "So in my terms, I got $4 million I need to invest in."
It's only money. Your children are priceless. So Hjorth called an audible on his life.
"I got to the point where I looked at my kids and my wife and I realized I need to be there," Hjorth said. "I had to make probably one of the toughest decisions in my life and realized I needed to back off for this window of time. (Stevenson) is the absolute right job for me. It's just not the right time in my life."
Hjorth, a former football player for Glenbard West (Class of 1998), has coached football the last dozen seasons at Stevenson and was McNamara's defensive coordinator. He will not coach at all next season. Which means it will be his first break from the game since 2000, when he coached a youth-league team with his dad.
"I'm not going to say I'm automatically coming back (to coaching)," Hjorth said. "But I have a feeling one day I'll be back around somewhere doing this type of stuff."
In the meantime, he'll keep living a wonderful life.
"I'm very thankful for the opportunity Stevenson has given me," Hjorth said. "And I hope that I'll be able to give back more once another window or another door opens."
When that happens, it won't be a surprise.
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