Jon Beutjer said the kids he coaches are probably aware of what he accomplished in his playing career, but he pays it no mind.
His priority is their future, not his past.
Beutjer, who threw an IHSA state record 60 touchdown passes as a senior at Wheaton Warrenville South, was hired this week as head coach at Lyons Township.
Beutjer, an assistant at Lyons since 2010, replaced Dan Hartman, who announced in mid-July that he was moving to Ohio after one season in La Grange.
"I try not to talk about myself; this is about them, it's their time – I've had my time," said the 40-year-old Beutjer, married with four children. "That's one of the reasons I went for the job. I want all those kids at LT coming up to have a great experience. As coaches we have a platform to help them grow as students, as football players and most importantly as young men. That's what pulled at my heart to go for the job."
It's been a whirlwind two weeks for Beutjer, even moreso with the backdrop of football life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lyons has run its camp exclusively virtual with no in-person workouts, assistants overseeing the operation of things since Hartman left.
Beutjer was in his backyard when he got a call from Lyons athletic director John Grundke with the news that Hartman was leaving, and gauging Beutjer's interest in the job.
"You go from zero miles an hour in a pandemic, home all the time, and now I'm the varsity head coach, in charge of all the kids in the program, which is challenging because you are not around them," Beutjer said. "We've done Zoom meetings, sent them workouts, we're trying to use this as a teachable moment. We are in a unique situation with the pandemic. It's a lot of uncertainty."
Grundke said he received great interest in the football job in a short time, with more than 20 people applying or inquiring about the position. What made it tricky was not knowing if they were hiring someone for a football season that was to start in August, next spring or next fall.
But he felt he came to a good spot with Beutjer.
Beutjer, who played collegiately at Iowa and Illinois after starring at WW South, later went on to the Arena Football League and Canadian Football League.
He coached for one year at North Central College in 2009, and since 2010 has coached at Lyons as a quarterback coach, the head sophomore coach in 2014 and varsity offensive coordinator from 2015-2017. He's been the quarterbacks coach the last two seasons.
"Jon is a great offensive talent," Grundke said. "You talk about his great experiences as a player, he's been a part of successful programs wherever he's been. He is a great coach but an even better person who cares about the kids, and cares about them being successful outside of football in the community. There is so much uncertainty right now to what we are hiring, but with Jon he made it easy."
Beutjer counts his former coach at WW South, John Thorne, as one of the reasons he went into education and coaching. Beutjer in 1998 led WW South to a 14-0 record and Class 6A state championship, Thorne's fourth state title in Wheaton before he went on to North Central.
"He had such a huge influence on me," Beutjer said. "That's why I went into coaching, to have that same impact on kids. I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to be a head coach, and I had a vision for the kids. I felt it was the right time for me."
It's an unusual time, with the football season moved back to February 15. The first contests cannot be held until March 5.
Fortunately, Beutjer has plenty of familiarity with his players. In addition to football he's been a sophomore assistant in the basketball program, and the sophomore head coach the last three years. He's also taught at both campuses.
He plans to continue to have Zoom meetings with players going forward.
"I know a lot of the kids already, and that does help," Beutjer said. "I think anybody would attest that having a Zoom meeting and talking to the kids is not the same as in person but I am thankful that we have technology that I can communicate with them and actually see them."