Frank Lenti is back.
On Tuesday, St. Laurence announced that Lenti, who led Mount Carmel's storied football program for 34 seasons, 374 victories and 11 state titles, has joined the Vikings football staff as a special advisor. While his specific role is still to be determined, the addition of Lenti to a football program that has been getting closer to winning a state title is nothing but a victory for the Vikings on several levels.
What exactly is Lenti's value, not just this season but potentially for years to come for St. Laurence? It’s endless.
How often does a high school football program get the opportunity to bring in an instantly recognizable Hall of Fame head coach? And how often can a program bring aboard such an experienced head coach, who knows the Chicago Catholic League inside and out as well as anyone on the planet, such as Frank Lenti? That opportunity doesn't come along very often. Credit the Vikings administration and coaching staff for moving quickly.
St. Laurence already has an esteemed football coaching staff in place, led by head coach Harold Blackmon. The Vikings continue to make great strides in getting the program to levels not seen in Burbank since the late 1970s under coaches Tom Kavanagh and then Mike O'Neill. Kavanagh (1976) and O’Neill (1979) guided the program to a state title and a second place finish, respectively. Could the addition of Frank Lenti, who will mentor Vikings coaches and players alike, get to those lofty heights? I can't see how having a Hall of Fame coach on staff would fail to help St. Laurence.
The optics are positive as well. Simply having Frank Lenti available at school clinics and functions, which would potentially include alumni and other high school coaches, could instantly draw a crowd and further solidify St. Laurence as a Chicagoland football destination.
Frank Lenti’s Mount Carmel fate was dealt to him in surprising fashion last December when the school decided to move on after his 34 years of service. Unfortunately for Lenti, he wasn't able to leave the Caravan program on his own timetable or terms. No gold watch. No farewell tour. No special pregame celebrations. No fanfare. While the idea of spending an entire career in one school seems almost impossible in these times, if anyone deserved a chance to write his final act it was Frank Lenti— the winningest high school football coach in Illinois.
But if finishing an illustrious high school coaching career means helping molding the St. Laurence program —potentially helping the Vikings win state titles— it’s terrific for Lenti.
I still feel the Frank Lenti story is far from being finished. Quite simply, the best part of this tale —the new chapter— is that Frank Lenti will be back involved in Illinois high school football this season.
It also so happens that St. Laurence will host Lenti's former employer on October 12 in Burbank for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. Circle the date. It’s a must-watch game. I have a feeling I won't be the only one there in Burbank that night.