After serving in just about every football coaching capacity in his career except for the head position, John Quinlan is looking forward to being the top man at Whitnall this fall.
Quinlan, 52, accepted the Falcons' head job in June after Jared McGranahan, who last season took the Falcons to their first WIAA playoff victory in 17 years, left for the top spot at Kenosha Tremper.
Although Quinlan is probably best known at the school for his 33 straight seasons of coaching the wrestling team and winning 18 conference crowns, he also has significant experience in football.
He was an assistant coach at Marquette University High School from 1983-94, directing the freshman and junior varsity teams as well as holding various varsity positions.
He then coached at Whitnall from 1995-2001, serving as the offensive coordinator and special teams coordinator, among other positions.
Returned to football
He took off from football until rejoining the program in 2014 under McGranahan, and last season, he was the offensive coordinator for the freshman squad.
Overall, he has been an offensive and defensive coordinator, special teams coach, positions coach and head junior varsity and freshman coach -- actually everything but defensive line coach.
Now he is the head man for the first time.
"After Jared (McGranahan) left for Kenosha, we (the remaining coaches) met as a staff and decided that it was important to the program and to the kids to keep the head position in the building," Quinlan recalled. "If we went outside, it might take three to four weeks to find a new coach. Also, we wanted to keep the cohesiveness in the program."
The football coaches then met with athletic director Scott Bruening and told him about their wishes to keep it in-house.
"I certainly was not trying to get the position, as far as pushing for it or anything," Quinlan said, "but the administration came to me and offered me the spot. They were thinking along the same lines. They thought I would be the best fit."
Quinlan is eagerly anticipating the season.
"The kids worked hard in the off-season," he said. "We will be young, and we don't have a huge senior class, but we have some quality seniors, and some of our sophomores saw significant varsity time last season. I was really impressed with the way the kids stepped up this summer with off-season work."
He also likes his current staff, which is a mixture of some holdovers from last season and some new faces who have experience at other schools.
Quinlan, who has certainly experienced a good deal of success in wrestling, has a team-oriented coaching philosophy.
"You want to give the kids some life lessons," he said, "and you want them to do what is best for the team. Our motto this season is 'count on me.' The kids need to realize that what they do affects everybody around them. In wrestling, one kid can make four or five kids better, and it's the same in football. A good wide receiver can make a quarterback better, for example."
Whitnall began practice on Aug. 2 in a unique way, with "Midnight Madness," adopted from the recent college basketball tradition of practices that go into the night.
Players gathered at 11 p.m. Aug. 1 and then practiced from midnight to 1:30 a.m. Aug. 2. They had a team bonding and video session and then slept from 3 to 10 a.m., when they ate a breakfast prepared by the coaching staff.
Their second practice was then held, followed by a swim cooldown in the afternoon.
"We wanted to make a mark," Quinlan said, "and we thought this would be neat to try. The kids are excited about it and are eager to get at it. We still have the two-a-days, but we sleep in between them, and the kids are excited about the coaches making them breakfast. I don't know if this has been tried before or not, but it's easier to do it now than in the school year."
The Falcons will practice for about three weeks and then open the season Friday, Aug. 19, against West Allis Central, which they defeated in a 27-20 thriller last season. The Woodland Conference opener is Friday, Sept. 2, at Brown Deer.