Lyons Township football coach Kurt Weinburg experienced a wide range of emotions throughout Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4.
Weinburg played a minor role in helping recruit Jake Elliott from the tennis courts to the football field during his junior season. Elliott, a tennis standout at LT for all four seasons, decided to accept assistant football coach Mark Kropke’s final attempt to convince him to tryout out for a vacant kicking position.
The rest, is well, history.
Elliott hit two game-winners in his junior season, broke numerous records at Memphis, was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals, then signed by the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3. Elliott made a 42-yard field in the fourth quarter and added a 46-yarder with 1:05 left to pad the Eagles’ lead.
Aided by Elliott’s three made field goals and 11 points, the Eagles soared to the franchise’s first Super Bowl championship, defeating favored New England 41-33 in Minneapolis.
Weinburg said he watched the game from his home, but he felt bouts of nervousness throughout the game.
“I was nervous, especially when he lined up to kick that 46-yarder,” Weinburg said. “I knew he had it in him, but it was definitely very, very exciting. When you kind of got a stake in a young man there, somebody you care about out there, I was nervous, but excited. I was kind of thinking as cool as his story has been, it would’ve been fitting if he lined up to kick the game winner. He definitely put some insurance on it.”
Lyons tennis coach Bill Wham also watched the Super Bowl from his home. He coached Elliott throughout his four-year varsity career that spanned doubles and singles.
“I’ll remember that game for a long time,” Wham said. “You watch all these games where you don’t know anybody in the game, you kind of tune out, but I didn’t tune out at all for that game. I was tuned in for almost every play.
“I think it’s awesome, really almost unbelievable. You know when you saw him play sports, he was a unique athlete. It’s pretty hard to fathom that somebody is going to go from LT to playing two years in football, no matter how good he is, then to go to Memphis and be really good and then to go play in the Super Bowl. That’s a pretty fun story to talk about, and it’s unbelievable and awesome. It’s a terrific end to a first year being out of college.”
Weinburg said he believes Elliott is the first player from LT to win a Super Bowl. He texted Elliott after the game, and noted that the school will wait to decide how to celebrate Elliott’s accomplishment this season.
“It’s cool for the program,” he said. “I’m so happy for him. Great things happen for great kids.
I know the community and the school would like to do something, but everything is probably planning for him in Philly. I know when Jake gets back here, there will be something going on for sure.”
Even though Elliott’s final field goal wasn’t the game winner, Wham noted the significance of the three points. If Elliott missed the attempt, the Patriots would’ve started the final drive on their own 29-yard line instead of the 9-yard line. Wham said he looks forward to meeting up with Elliott in person in the near future.
“When he gets back in town, I’ll probably have breakfast with him and his dad,” he said. “I knew him really well and his family. I was really pleased he had a great game with a great team. If he misses that final field goal, things get little more screwed up. When he hit that field goal, it changed everything.”