I talked with legendary Montini head coach Chris Andriano about his underrated players, the keys to the Bronco’s consistent success and more…
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LPI: Everyone in Illinois High School Football knows the legendary Chris Andriano. For a moment let’s all act like we don’t. Can you give our readers a little background on you? Where did you play football at and how long have you been coaching at Montini?
CA: I graduated from Palatine High School in 1970 then played football for Millikin university graduating in 1974. My first job right out of college was at Montini in 1974. I was an assistant coach for 5 years then got the head coaching job in 1979 and have been here ever since.
LPI: What is your ultimate goal in coaching or what keeps you coming back everyday to coach football after so many years?
CA: I love the kids and I love football. That’s really what it’s all about for me. I have great kids and a great bunch of coaches so it’s pretty easy for me. Football has been so great to me and with my great coaching staff as well as my coachable kids everything is exactly how I want it at Montini. Winning isn’t bad either.
LPI: On or off the field, what are the most important lessons that you try to teach your athletes?
CA: Its work and it isn’t easy. You have to work hard and take pride in what you do. You have to never give in and never give excuses. There’s a respect you have to give the game and your opponents. I also want to help these players become good men so they can ultimately have families and become successful adults. We don’t have to tell them exactly what is right and wrong because our players are always held accountable.
LPI: Montini runs an air raid offense. That type of open passing offense seems to be more and more common with teams each year with a growing emphasis on the passing game. How do you guys execute that style of play so effectively?
CA: We used to run a split back option about 10 years back, but have been running the air raid ever since Lewis Borsellino came in 2007. The air raid just fits our system. I think we are great at it simply because we have athletes. Our players are fast and athletic so it really fits into our offense. We have to tweak it at times to fit our personnel, but for the most part we usually keep it the same. We usually don’t have the huge linemen that other teams have, but we are fortunate to have a lot more receivers and skill position players than most teams do so that really fits our offense.
LPI: Montini finished great last year at 9-0 culminating in a state championship over Crete-Monee. What are you and the Broncos doing to get ready for this season that you would say is different than most teams?
CA: The first thing we do is forget about what we did last season. We don’t dwell on the past. Our kids have a great offseason program led by our great coaching staff. We also really encourage our kids to play other sports. The talent level and speed always gets better here and we always work with our athletes to get the best out of them. Also, there is no entitlement here. Everyone has to earn their spot so everyone is motivated to keep their position. We really try to get 2 deep at every position so everyone is always working hard to keep their spot and it has turned out well for us.
LPI: What game, more so than any others, do you have circled on your calendar this year?
CA: We always have game 1 circled and it just happened to be against Maine South. They’re a top program and have been for a long time. We find out who we are after that game. We find out what we have to correct after that week. We play Lake Zurich game 2 and we haven’t played them in a while so that will also be a challenge. We also play 2 Chicago Catholic League games this year in Mount Carmel and Brother Rice so we really have our work cut out for us this year. We have a tough schedule this year, but we like that challenge as we’re not afraid to play anybody.
LPI: Everyone knows about the highly recruited Prince Walker, Mitch West and Joe Spivak and deservedly so. Tell me about some guys on your roster that you believe are quality recruits, but are for whatever reason, flying under the radar a bit in terms of recruiting.
CA: We have a few guys that have a chance to be D1 players…
Nick Foster: Nick is a hybrid outside linebacker/strong safety. He has great speed (4.6 40 yard dash, 10.8 100 meters in track) and is a very aggressive football player. He may get overlooked a bit because he’s 6’1” 190lbs, but he is fast and a hard hitter. I really think he can play FCS and succeed. I would love schools like EIU or SIU to look out for him.
Michael Ross: Recently got offered by WIU. He is a D1 football player. He’s 6’3” 310lbs and had a great offseason working with Joe Spivak. He could play offense or defense, but I think he’ll be an OL in college. He’s our starting LT and DT and we are very fortunate to have him.
Will Smith: Will is very comparable to Prince Walker. Will is about the same size as Prince, runs a 4.50 40 yard dash and is only about 0.1 of a seconds slower than Prince. He doesn’t have as great of vision/cutback as Prince, but is still a very good player. He’s got great hands and can play the slot. The best thing about him is his grades as he has a 3.85 GPA. He works really hard and has a great attitude. Unfortunately he’s been living in Prince’s shadow a few years because he’s still a very good player that has not only succeeded in limited in play, but can also make an impact at the next level. I think he can be an Ivy League kid or a really high academic D3 player. Very coachable and has an outstanding attitude, no better kid on or off the field and always does everything the right way.
Tommie Morrissey: Tommie is new to us having just transferred in from York. He’s 6’2” 195lbs. He’s another OLB/SS hybrid just like Foster. He’s got good hands, is physical and we’re going to play him on offense and defense. He’s a D2 maybe FCS type player.
Brandon Shilgalis: Brandon is 6’0” 190lb wide receiver that is a great route runner, has good hands and is a great blocker. 4.7 40 yard dash so he’s got decent speed. He always does everything right and is an exceptional blocker. He also is great in the classroom with a 3.85 GPA. He’s another kid that could be D2-D3 or Ivy League. He is very underrated as a possession receiver.
Christian Pirog: Christian is about 6’0” 190lbs. He plays wide receiver for us as well as the slot. He’s got good speed with a 4.6 40 yard dash and is very athletic. He likely profiles as a D2 player with a chance for more.
Brendan Rauen: Brendan is 6’0” 185lb defensive back. He is one of the hardest workers on our team and has a fantastic attitude. Last year he profiled as a D3 player, but he has really worked hard this offseason and he now looks like he could excel at the D2 level.
LPI: This is the question I’ve been dying to ask. Over the last 7 years, bouncing back and forth a few times between 5A and 6A, Montini has been to the state title game every year. That is amazing in itself, but, in those 7 state title games appearances the Broncos have won 5 state championships. What do you attribute most to that success?
CA: First, it’s the players. They buy into what we’re doing and have a great team attitude year after year. Sometimes it takes longer to develop it, but it is always there. Our coaching staff is also outstanding. They’re the glue that not only holds everything together, but makes the kids better. I also give a ton of credit to our coaching staff in terms of planning and preparation as they make sure our kids are ready for each game and fundamentally sound. We really just have a great staff. A lot of our guys went to Montini, know me, know the system and how I operate it. It makes it that much easier to work with the kids to get the most out of them.