MINOOKA – After getting the chance to coach his son the past few years at Aurora Central Catholic, John Belskis figured his football coaching days were over.
And after assisting Belskis a year ago, Bob Williams thought he had coached in his final high school football game, too.
But Terry McCombs wasn’t quite ready to throw in the towel just yet, and as a result, the three Hall of Fame coaches not only will be back for the 2017 season, but will also be together on the same staff at Minooka under McCombs.
Many programs have only one person with head coaching experience. But the Indians’ trio has combined for more than half a century of being head coaches and has been on the sidelines in some role for over a century.
The process started when McCombs, who is in his 48th year of coaching, was named as Minooka’s new coach. He enjoyed a successful 15-year run as Bloomington’s coach from 1978 to 1992, during which time his teams went 111-43.
After serving as an assistant for the next 24 seasons, including stints at both Normal Community and Lincoln-Way Central under Hud Venerable, he decided to give it one more try in a school district whose superintendent, Dr. Ken Lee, coached with him in Normal.
“I’m like a kid in a toy store,” McCombs said. “Obviously it’s one of my best friends, John, agreed to come down here to coach with us and Bob is as good of a line coach as you could find. And the young guys that we have all have future head coach potential and they’re excited about learning different things. If it all comes together, it’s going to be fun.
“You coach for the kids and it’s always more enjoyable when you coach with people that you like and want to be with. I met John when I was the head coach at Bloomington and we’d talk at clinics and he told me about the opening at Downers South. When I retired from there, Hud called me up and said that he needed someone to coach his defense and I said, ‘Sure, I’ll do it.’ ” I’ve been lucky to be associated and around good people and good coaches.”
“You can tell a lot by watching these kids and how they react. They’ve been brought up right at home and their parents have been great role models for them. And Ken wants what’s best for the kids and that carries over to our young coaches and obviously to John and Bob.”
Belskis was at Downers Grove South for 33 years, including for 24 years as its coach from 1989 to 2012, during which time he had a 201-62 record with 22 playoff appearances. Then he coached his son Johnny at ACC, serving as that school’s head coach the past two years, where he was helped by Williams last season.
While McCombs assisted Belskis for 10 years after becoming DG South’s athletic director, he actually had Williams on board before his longtime friend agreed to return. Coming back to Minooka was enticing to Williams, who served as an administrator at Minooka, primarily as the principal, for 10 years after he finished a 15-year coaching run at Yorkville.
“I never really thought that I’d get back into coaching,” Williams said. “But when John gave me a call a year ago, I was really excited. It really makes you appreciate the game when you’re away from it, so to have the opportunity to go back, I was in hog heaven. It was a great opportunity to work with John and for all three of us to be together is amazing. I’ve been in the game a long time, but with their experience, I learn things every day. It’s been a blast just being with these guys and we have a great blend of younger and older coaches.
“The Minooka community has been a special place in my heart. It’s great to walk the hallways and bump into some of the teachers that I used to work with. This is a great place where the teachers, coaches and administration really care about the kids. It’s really a neat place and I’m pleased to be a part of this program. The kids believe that they can win and the coaches believe it, so it will just take some time for everyone to jell as a group. There’s a lot of new things that are occurring and you can see great growth in the kids every day.”
With Williams helping to persuade Belskis to also come back, the Indians feature one of the most-experienced staffs in the state. McCombs will also work with linebackers, while Belskis is the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach and Williams will coach the offensive line.
The rest of the staff includes defensive coordinator Matt Harding, secondary coach Tony Garcia, receivers/special teams coach Mickey Ressner and running backs coach Alvin Lewis.
“Last year when my son was a senior, I decided that it was going to be the end of my coaching career,” Belskis said. “I took all of my files and got rid of them, and sure enough, I got a call from Terry and he said he took the job and asked me if I was interested. At the time, it seemed like it would be a little bit too much. I told Bob that Terry was looking for coaches and he was hired and then our ACC staff got together and Bob convinced me that this is something that I should do. It’s been great and I’ve enjoyed the kids and people here.
“I wouldn’t have traded coaching my son for the last two years. I never envisioned it, so what a wonderful opportunity it was. And this is so much fun and it gets into your blood as anyone who’s coached for a while will tell you. We also want to mentor our other coaches, who are excited about their futures as head coaches. It’s a new system and the kids have bought into it and somewhere down the road it will pay dividends. The reward of coaching is being able to impact these kids, not only on the field but off of it, too. We’re looking forward to it.”