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Gen. Chuck Whittington (in camouflage uniform) is joined by former Grayslake Central coach Nick Goshe (left), present Rams coach Ben Ault (second from right) and ?defensive coordinator Danny Catanzaro at a ceremony in Fort Belvoir, Va., in which Whittingt
When Chuck Whittington was growing up in a military family, his dad was frequently off serving his country.
But Whittington never felt neglected or ignored.
“I was blessed as a young man,” he said. “I had a community of folks who kind of stood in when my father was away.”
Whittington has followed in his father’s footsteps as a member of the Army National Guard. He is a two-star general who commands the 29th Infantry Division, which has had recent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Last weekend, Whittington was presented with his second star at the division’s Change of Command ceremony at Fort Belvoir, Va. Among those on hand were current and former members of another important group in his life: the Grayslake Central High School football coaching staff.
Somehow Whittington has found time for the last few years — while he was raising a family, working a civilian job and serving in the National Guard — also to serve as the Rams’ quarterback coach.
Noting the mentors he had when he was younger, Whittington said the decision to make time for another activity in his busy life was an easy one. “You pay it forward,” he said.
Whittington played quarterback in high school in Mississippi. “Most folks would say I was not a very good one,” he said.
Though he was good enough to play college soccer at Southern Mississippi, he got back into football as a youth coach in Grayslake about a dozen years ago. He was invited to join the Grayslake Central staff by former coach Mike Munda and was off on a deployment when Nick Goshe took over as head coach in 2007.
“The kids kept saying, ‘Can we do something for Coach Whitt?’ ” said Goshe, who at that point didn’t know Whittington.
But he figured it was a worthy cause, and the Rams sent a care package to their once-and-future coach. When Whittington returned from his deployment, Goshe invited him back to the staff.
Having a general as one of his subordinates was a unique experience for Goshe. “It was an interesting thing telling him that he was wrong,” Goshe said. “He definitely is confident in everything, including football.
“At the same time, this is Chuck’s release. There is a part of it, it’s kind of nice not to [have to] think sometimes. That’s what I got out of him, ‘I’m here to be with the kids.’ ”
The Rams are glad to have him, according to quarterback Alex Lennartz.
“Every football coach, yes, we have respect for them,” Lennartz said. “With him, it’s a different level. You don’t want to let him down.”
Goshe tapped into Whittington’s expertise by having him speak to the team each week about leadership. Ben Ault, who took over as head coach this season when Goshe moved to Fremd as an assistant, was glad to keep Whittington on board.
“As a young coach, it’s great,” Ault said. “You’re talking about someone who has dedicated himself to leadership of young men at a level [beyond what] most people aspire to.”
What Goshe and Ault have appreciated as much as Whittington’s football expertise is his ability to get his point across so it resonates with Lennartz and his teammates.
“The nice thing about it, he does a great job of putting into a context kids can understand,” Ault said.
“It’s trying to teach them through their journey as high school athletes, they can learn [life] lessons,” Whittington said. “I like to tell them all the time being brilliant at the basics is always going to be fundamental to your success.”
On that score, Whittington isn’t just talking the talk. He’s also walking the walk every day by serving his country and serving his community.
His actions speak as loudly as his words — which are pretty forceful on their own.