The latest guest on my weekly 20 Minutes podcast is Mount Carmel head football coach Jordan Lynch. Lynch, who was an All-State quarterback at Mount Carmel and then starred as a Heisman Trophy candidate at Northern Illinois University, has led his alma mater to an impressive 25-2 record in two seasons including a 14-0 record last fall and the 2019 Class 7A state title. Lynch and I cover several different subjects from the coronavirus pandemic to an impressive 2019 Caravan season and much more.
EDGYTIM: So as an educator and a coach, what has been the game plan as far as the whole coronavirus is concerned for Mount Carmel as a school as well as for your team?
Jordan Lynch: Educationally it's been a lot to take in, especially for a 16-17 year old kid and in the bigger picture this can all be a lot. At first I thought a lot of kids looked at this as a couple-week vacation, but we've really locked down here as coaches and teachers and administrators and we are all on an eLearning platform. A lot of our kids have fully bought in and they aren't treating this as a vacation. At first I think the whole vacation mentality was the mindset of a lot of kids, but that's all changed very quickly. Everyone is hitting the books and doing eLearning five days a week and getting after it. We've had our challenges because we have kids who come from different backgrounds, and some might not have a device or proper WiFi, but everyone is helping each other out and it's been a success so far. Personally, I do miss being around the kids. I miss getting to see them and getting to check up on them individually. That's been my focus this week and I'm sending out texts along with sending them messages on Hudl. We've been sending them workouts, different motivation quotes and just trying to keep the kids as engaged as possible. But the most important thing right now is that they are keeping up with their education and staying on top of their school work.
EDGYTIM: Your program has been well known for your 6 AM workouts for years now. They have been such a big part of the whole team bonding aspect at Mount Carmel, but that's being lost for now. When you eventually are allowed to get back with the team, is that team bonding maybe as important to recapture as any other work this time of the year?
Lynch: Absolutely. Every team in the state and every kid that plays football is part of an offseason program. The big thing that I think separates us is how we run our 6 AM workouts. Every kid is dressed head to toe the same. You aren't allowed to work out even if you don't have the right socks, everyone is dressed the same. At this time of the year we have no seniors in the workouts, just juniors and younger, so we have juniors that want to take over the leadership roles and who want to lead and want to be a captain. This is the biggest time of the year where they grow the most in that aspect. As an example Justin (Lynch, Jordan's younger brother and starting QB) is more of a quiet kid, and he is going to need to be more vocal this year. This is that time of the year where he can be building upon that over the next few months so when it comes to August hopefully he's already taken over that leadership role. That's a big aspect that we are missing right now.
EDGYTIM: So after two seasons as a high school head coach now, what's been the biggest surprise or the biggest challenge for you so far?
Lynch: I'm still learning and I'm still growing every day. When I was the running backs coach at Northern Illinois you are working on football constantly 24/7, 365 days a year. It's really all you do and you are just grinding it out. I got to Mount Carmel and got hired in late December, early January and there isn't a whole lot of football activity going on from January 'til July. So during that time you are building up relationships with the kids and that's when I realized that mattered the most. At the end of the day it's not all about the X's and O's and winning a game. It's about the kids trusting you and trusting your staff and having them buy into what you're trying to preach. So delivering that message day in and day out is the most important part of being a head coach and winning games. If the kids don't believe in you, even if you have the greatest schemes, it doesn't matter. In Year 2 we really minimized everything and we only had a few different plays. But we know what we are good at and we make sure the kids buy in and know their assignments and really trust us as a coaching staff. In high school you need to have great mentors regardless of all the X's and O's.
EDGYTIM: We've talked before about the new on campus Barda-Dowling Stadium at Mount Carmel and everything that went into that new facility, but did it go maybe above and beyond even your expectations last season?
Lynch: It really did go above my expectations last year to be honest and I'm someone who played at Gately Stadium and who played on the old AstroTurf. I sound really old but that was just 10 years or so ago. I Ioved Gately Stadium and I loved playing there, but that was 10-11 years ago and times have changed. The thing I always noticed playing at Gately was our student section never really traveled to Gately and we never had a great student section. When we moved our games to Mount Carmel our student section really came alive. They came up with different themes each week and different chants and they really bought in. The student section in the end zone was packed every single time and that was really the first time as a player and now as a coach I felt a home atmosphere and we finally had an advantage playing at home now. For the people who haven't been out yet to see a game it reminds me of a Division 2 or Division 3 atmosphere. It's compact and it's tight. It seats 2,200 I believe and we make sure we pack it. It has an old school feeling too where sometimes people don't like to sit in the stands and instead just stand around the field. It was just great and a big reason why we went undefeated at home last season.
EDGYTIM: What stood out to me about last season's 14-0 state title run was that you didn't exactly blow anyone out of games week in and week out. You had a lot of tight games, yet it never felt for the most part that you were ever out of any games and even though the scores were close, they really didn't feel that close. Is that by design or was that just me?
Lynch: Kind of how I felt the season played out when I look back on it is that when you think of Mount Carmel, the first thing that comes to mind is defense and you think of Dave Lenti (defensive coordinator). That guy doesn't get enough credit for a lot of things, but there is a reason why Mount Carmel has been super successful over the years and Dave has a lot to do with it. We pride ourselves on defense and we pride ourselves on grinding teams out. The scores in those games doesn't indicate the game necessarily and for three quarters there will be some teams with our schedule, some high powered teams who are going to be in the game with us. We really pride ourselves and why we train like we do in the off season is that come the fourth quarter we wear teams out. We will stick to the run game, we will eat some clock up and we are going to rely on our defense. We have some great play makers on offense who can do some special things, but I'm not going to drop back and throw the ball 50 times a game. I'm going to run the ball 50 times a game and grind you out for three quarters and when it comes to the fourth quarter, who wants it the most? A lot of the games were close bit in the fourth quarter you saw the clock management, the run game and upfront we just seemed to get stronger and stronger as the game wore on. That's Mount Carmel kind of football in a nutshell and how we play.
EDGYTIM: So who are your nonconference games for next season and have you realized that the CCL/ESCC will be even more stacked with loaded teams in 2020 who all bring back a ton of experience from last season?
Lynch: From what I've heard alot of kids are coming back from last season and a lot of the teams are returning a lot of starters. It's the Catholic League Blue and I wouldn't want it any other way. We open up at home against Calumet High who we played last year as well. The only thing that really changes in our schedule this year from last year is that we play Phillips in Week 2 then after that it leads right into another grinder. It really comes down to who can stay the healthiest and who can have the most momentum heading into Week 10.
EDGYTIM: So let's say we finally get past this whole coronavirus ordeal. I decided to take you out for dinner and I'm buying...so where are you taking me?
Lynch: Man that's tough. One of my go-to spots is I'm a big pizza guy. I would say that over the last 15 years or so my parents have always been going to Roseangla's Pizza in Evergreen Park. That's a spot on almost every Thursday you can catch me eating there. So that's a spot where me and you could sit down and have a nice little hangout. That's where we would go.