Sam Styler

The new head varsity football coach at Riverside Brookfield High School is intense, enthusiastic and young. 

On Feb. 8 the RBHS District 208 Board of Education approved hiring 28-year-old Sam Styler to replace Brendan Curtin, who stepped down as head football coach after the 2021 season. Curtin is staying on as assistant principal for athletics.

Styler has worked for RBHS ever since graduating from the University of Iowa and teaches U.S history, American Civilization and AP Government. He student-taught and helped coach football at RBHS in the fall of 2016. He’s been a football coach at RBHS ever since. 

After a couple of years as a varsity assistant, mostly on the defensive side, Styler was named head sophomore coach in 2018. For the past two years has also served as the head freshman coach.

“He possesses a strong grasp of all three phases of the game, has been the head coach for soph and frosh levels these past few years, and has assisted the varsity level on the headsets in the press box on regular season game days and in the playoffs,” Curtin said in an email. “Our student-athletes respect him and genuinely like him as a coach, a teacher and a leader.”

Twenty people applied for the head coaching position and there was one other in-house candidate. Eight finalists were interviewed by a committee that included a player, a parent, two teachers, coaches, RBHS Principal Hector Freytas and Curtin.

Styler was a wide receiver, safety and kick returner at Libertyville High School where he played football for Illinois Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame member Randy Kuceyeski.

“He was a huge impact in my life,” Styler said.

Styler played football for one year in college at Illinois Wesleyan before transferring to the University of Iowa where he did not play football. However, he helped out coaching a high school team there. Once he started coaching, he knew that was what he wanted to do with his life.

“I kind of fell in love with it right away,” Styler said.

Styler is known as a player’s coach, and he is high-energy — enthusiastic and demonstrative on the sideline.

“I’m very passionate about the game, very passionate about my players,” Styler said. “I’m very much a people person, animated in a lot of ways. If they do something good, I want to make sure they know about it and if they do something that may need to be corrected on, they know it.” 

Styler knows that some may wonder if he is too young to be a head coach.

“Being 28 it kind of seems like an uphill battle,” Styler said. “I’m extremely excited for the opportunity.”

Styler helped start the lacrosse program at RBHS. He coached girls lacrosse for two years and boys lacrosse for three years. He no longer coaches lacrosse and now serves as the assistant athletic director for the spring season.

Curtin served as head football coach for 10 years and complied a 48-46 record. He led the Bulldogs to six state playoff appearances.

The Bulldogs will have many starters and key contributors returning last year’s 5-5 team led by running back/linebacker Ryan Novak.

“We have an extremely talented group coming back,” Styler said.

Styler said he doesn’t anticipate major changes in the football program but is looking to put his own stamp on it. Since all the players know him from his time as an underclass coach, Styler anticipates a smooth transition for the players. 

“They all know kind of what I expect out of them, so I don’t believe the transition period is going to be too difficult,” Styler said. “We don’t need to make any dramatic cultural changes, but we get to kind of put our own stamp on things that our boys are buying into.”