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Updated April 17, 11:30 a.m.
Brendan Curtin grew up on Rockefeller Avenue just two blocks from Shuey Stadium. He began going to RB football games when he was nine or 10 years old. He watched his older brothers Michael and Kevin play and star for the Bulldogs. When it was his turn to go to RB Curtin became a two year varsity starter at quarterback.
Now 21 years after graduating from RB, Curtin is coming back to his alma mater as head football coach. Curtin was hired last week to succeed Jason Rech who resigned his position for citing health reasons after a tough two year stint replacing long time RB football coach Otto Zeman.
Curtin, 39, has coached for the past 16 years at Nazareth Academy, serving as the varsity offensive coordinator for the last 15 years. Curtin graduated from RB in 1991.
"It's great to be coming home again," Curtin said about being hired at RB. "Just walking through the hallways the other day and throughout the interview process a flood of memories came rushing back. I look back at my time at RB fondly. I developed many relationships that I still have today. I made a lot of great friends. I'm really excited about heading back to where it all started for me. It's really where I fell in love with the game of football."
Otto Zeman, who was the head football coach at RB for 28 years before being let go in 2010 praised his former player and fellow RB alum.
"I really enjoyed coaching against him when he was at Nazareth as their varsity offensive coordinator," said Zeman who coached all four Curtin brothers at RB and is currently the offensive coordinator at Fenton. "He's a really good young coach and I'm kind of excited to see an RB grad take over the football job again. It makes me happy."
Curtin's offenses at Nazareth averaged more than 32 points per game over the last six years. Last season, Nazareth was a co-champion of the always tough East Suburban Catholic Conference. The Roadrunners finished 10-2, losing to eventual Class 6A champion Prairie Ridge in the state quarterfinals. Nazareth defeated eventual Class 5A runner up and perennial power Joliet Catholic in the regular season.
District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis, a former star football player at Nazareth, is enthusiastic about what Curtin will bring to RB.
"Anytime you can bring back an alum to help build a program and to bring excitement to the community and the high school, that's a good thing," Skinkis said.
After starting at quarterback for RB for two years Curtin played for Pasadena City College for a year and then started at College of DuPage. He then transferred to Eastern Illinois University where he redshirted but transferred after Spring practice. He ended up at St. Xavier where he started at quarterback for two years.
"I was kind of a journeyman in college," Curtin said.
After college Curtin started working at the Board of Trade as a floor clerk or "runner" and eventually traded commodities and financial instruments.
But football and coaching was his passion.
He began coaching at Nazareth in 1996 as soon as he got out of college. A few years ago he decided to get his teaching credential.
"My passion is really working with young student athletes and giving back to the game I love so much," Curtin said.
He is currently finishing up his student teaching in physical education at Nazareth. He also is the boys lacrosse coach and assistant athletic director at Nazareth but he said he will be resigning those positions at the end of the school year.
At Nazareth he coached under Dennis Moran and Tim Racki.
Since RB is not hiring any new teachers, Curtin was added only as head varsity football coach and will be paid $8,860. It's not clear what else he might be doing next year, but substitute teaching at RB is one possibility.
"I can't comment on that right now," Curtin said. "Right now I'm just looking forward to being the head football coach at Riverside-Brookfield."
Curtin is a passionate coach. He said that he is not wedded to any particular offensive scheme.
"In the past I've used everything from a three back, two tight end set to an empty shotgun formation," Curtin said. "It's all about putting the kids that you have in a position to succeed. My philosophy regarding offense, defense and special teams can be boiled down to one word and that's attacking. Kids need to play fast and play with confidence: simple keys, simple assignments."
Last year RB won just two games, its worst record since 1999. In two years as head coach, Rech compiled a record of 6-12.
The press release announcing Curtin's hiring said that the school had selected "an alum to rebuild the football program." Curtin said he hopes to build on the past.
"There is a deep legacy of excellence regarding Riverside-Brookfield football," he said. "Restoring that pride, restoring that legacy, developing a sense of brotherhood and a sense of pride in the program."
This article has been changed to correct a quote by Brendan Curtin regarding his days as a college player.