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Mack's influence still seen throughout area high school football

An intriguing aspect of Bill Mack’s football career is how he continued to impact others long after retiring as a head coach.

Mack coached 26 years of high school football and is best known for his 20-year stint at Crystal Lake Central. His teams were 154-71-5 in those 26 seasons and Mack was the youngest active coach voted into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1987.

Yet, an argument could be made that Mack’s influence has been even greater in his “retirement.” Mack, considered a triple option guru, helped Carmel coach Andy Bitto, Cary-Grove coach Bruce Kay and Prairie Ridge coach Chris Schremp, to mention a few. Not coincidentally, those three all won state championships in the past 11 years running the option.

So when American Football Coaches Association director Mike Taylor solicited nominations and then sent out forms to 12 voters for the Randy Walker Power of Influence “Doing Great” Award, Mack was a shoo-in.

“It wasn’t even close,” Taylor said.

Mack, 77, will be honored at the Randy Walker Power of Influence Golf Outing on Monday, June 23 at The Ivanhoe Club. Golf starts at 12:30 p.m. with dinner around 7. Bears offensive line coach Aaron Kromer will be the featured speaker for the event, while Mack and others will speak.

The criteria for the recipient calls for a winning tradition (not defined solely by wins on the field), serving as a role model, teaching by example in effort, attitude and discipline, and giving back to the community. Kay, who won the Walker Award two years ago, is thrilled for his long-time friend.

“He’s so deserving. He’s influenced so many coaches, kids and families,” Kay said. “He’s a sounding board for great advice every time. As a head coach, people are trying to beat you and you’re trying to beat them. Later, he became a mentor to those of us smart enough to listen.”

Mack views the honor with his normal humility.

“I tried to do the best I could at the time and let it go at that,” he said. “I look forward to seeing a lot of old friends. I’ve already received a lot of calls and emails.”

Mack played football at Beloit College from 1955-57. After he finished as a high school head coach, he was head coach at North Central College and also assisted at the college level at Lake Forest, Trinity, Wheaton and Elmhurst, and at the high school level with North Chicago, Carmel and Prairie Ridge.

Taylor emphasized that the AFCA wants to push the mentorship aspect because the influence coaches wield is invaluable. Walker, the former Northwestern football coach, died in 2006, a month before the AFCA had its first Walker Outing.

“A guy like coach Mack is integral with all the young people he has affected and impacted,” Taylor said. “You talk about a ripple effect, where you throw a stone in the water and all the ripples it creates. Bill Mack is that stone for a lot of people.”

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