Kremer: Boyter Measures Joliet Central Football on His Own Yard Stick
In a 2-minute video drill, Joliet Central coaches Brett Boyter and Kyle Knezetic run the Steelmen through a workout. And senior middle linebacker Malik Neal talks about why expectations are running so high in Joliet Central's camp.
Say this much about Joliet Central’s new football coach: He knows the score.
And Brett Boyter eventually expects the Steelmen to score often and win on a regular basis. He believes anything is possible in Saturday’s home opener against Rich Central. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.
But, for now, Boyter will measure the success of his team and judge his players a bit differently than some others.
He will ask questions like this: Are you a better player and a better citizen today than you were yesterday? If not, what are you doing to correct your own flaws? Can you think an individual goal that will help the team improve?
Boyter, 31, took the reins at Joliet Central in May after serving as an assistant under Mike Maloney. Boyter is looking to build on many of the principles Maloney installed as the hallmarks of Steelmen football over the course of the last two years.
The two were joined at the hip. They played high school football together at Joliet Catholic Academy. Later, they were teammates at the University of Illinois. And they were roommates up until Maloney’s recent departure. He exited to take a new job teaching and coaching at Johnsburg.
During his two years as Joliet Central’s coach, Maloney’s teams never won a game. They never lost a game in the bigger picture, either.
In sport, success is measured in many ways. The Steelmen have come to grasp this concept while slowly working to rebuild their football program since JT school district officials OK’d a measure to split into a two-school, two-sports platform once again.
The numbers on the scoreboard don’t tell the full story. Joliet Central has been outscored by an average margin of 43.8 to 3.6 while going 0-18 since varsity football was reinstated in 2010. The shortsighted will tell you those numbers look ugly.
What about the opportunities Joliet Central is providing for these teenage boys to grow into young men while playing a game they love? What about the satisfaction of participation that comes from playing football, the ultimate team game? And what about accepting the responsibility of representing your school?
What about all the things Boyter will try to teach Joliet Central’s players, some of his lessons centering on X’s and O’s, of course, but many of them transcending the playing field. What about dedication and discipline? What about family?
Boyter’s family is a football family. His father, Jim, coached for many years at the University of St. Francis, Joliet Catholic Academy and Minooka. His uncle, Tom Thayer, played for the Bears. Brett Boyter watched them both, learned from them, too.
Now, he has his own boys to work with at Joliet Central. And they have been quick to embrace his style as a first-year head coach. He is more soft-spoken than Maloney, his predecessor and friend, more laid-back in his approach.
Boyter still gets his message across, though.
“Philosophically, we’re similar,” Boyter said. “How can we not be? We played football together in high school and college. We lived together. We’ve coached together several times. We do have our differences.
“But, I think in terms of how a program should be run and what we want our kids to develop into, not only as athletes but as people afterward, we are very similar. We came in here and Mike stated and I hope to continue it that we’ll graduate men of character and teach life-lessons through football to develop that.”
Joliet Central continues to be outnumbered by opponents on the depth chart, often by more than a 2-to-1 margin. The gap is closing thanks to the work of Boyter and his staff to recruit players from the hallways, no small task considering the socio-economic factors in play.
Many Joliet Central students work after school and literally cannot afford to play sports. Others have no background in American football and choose to stick to their own brand of futbol. Do you call it soccer? No matter.
Joliet Central has 45 players on its varsity football roster this season, up from 32 and 38 over the last two years. Boyter said 50 players will suit up for the first freshman football game. The learning curve is nowhere near as skewed, either.
“This year, the players know what they’re doing,” Joliet Central middle linebacker and three-year starter Malik Neal said. “When Mike Maloney was here—he was a good coach—but we just didn’t understand the way he was doing it. But now we understand the offense and the defense.
“The players have a lot more responsibility. It’s more on us, instead of the coach. It was on the coach because he was teaching it. But now that we know it—it’s on us. We have to put it on ourselves to go out there and do what we have to do.”
Neal, a 6-foot, 200-pound senior leader, thinks Joliet Central’s time has arrived. He stands ready to be measured. His teammates are with him. Boyter would have it no other way, not at this juncture.
“Football teaches you the value of humility, that you can’t achieve anything on your own,” he said. “Great players are great players, but they achieve that status because they have great players around them.
“And, so, carrying those lessons on from the football field is idea that you need to depend on other people and other people need to depend on you to do your job and to accomplish the ultimate goal of your team. I think that carries over in life.
“I need the members of my family to do their job. They depend on me to do my job. And there is that whole thing of having confidence in your ability but also being humble enough to know that great things are not achieved by you alone. It’s the others around you.”