Positive influence

Deb Edwards | Commercial-NewsDanville defensive assistant coach John Fogleman watches players during the team’s preseason scrimmage on Aug. 19 at the Wayland-Young Athletic Complex. Fogleman, who originally came to Danville 50 years ago to be on the staff with Paul Shebby, is 12th season with former player B.J. Luke. Fogleman coaches the inside linebacker for the Vikings

DANVILLE — In today’s society, it seems like the generational gap continues to grow larger everyday.

Young kids don’t always listen to or relate to the older generation and vice versa.

But, every day on the football field at Danville High, linebackers coach John Fogleman is there working with a group of teenagers, helping them achieve their dreams of playing high school football on Friday nights.

This past week, his two proteges, seniors Colton Castongue and Jesse Driver, combined for 31 tackles, including two tackles for a loss and a sack in the Vikings 35-14 victory over the Kankakee Kays.

“Those two have come a long way,’’ Fogleman said. “I can remember back to the sophomore seasons. They really didn’t understand tackling. They really didn’t know how read an offense. They didn’t understand how to escape the blockers or blow up the blockers.

“You watch them today, and all of those things that I didn’t think they would ever be able to do, they did. They are bigger, faster and stronger. It was just a real joy to watch them play.’’

And it’s just the type of transformation that Danville head coach B.J. Luke has seen from coach Fogleman in his 50-plus years of coaching — more than 30 of those coming at Danville High.

“When I came home to take this job, I asked him if he wanted to help me get this thing turned around,’’ Luke said. “I don’t think either one of us thought that we would be here for 12 seasons, but it’s especially nice for me because he is a guy that I really enjoyed playing for in high school. He is a guy that a lot of Danville kids have fond memories of him and his wife, Dotsy.’’

That’s right, even Luke played for Fogleman in the veteran coach’s early years.

“It’s been a ride,’’ said Fogleman, who came to Danville for the first time back in 1967. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of my time here. The kids on the field haven’t changed that much. You always have a few that are a little different, but I look forward to it every year.’’

And most important, the players look forward to playing for him.

“That’s my guy,’’ said Castongue. “Even when I wasn’t a linebacker, I made sure to talk to coach Fogleman, because it was my dream was to play linebacker and he kept encouraging that I could do it.

“We’ve been with him for three years. He’s always had our backs and we are always going to have his.’’

Seriously? A guy that just turned, according to him “75 years young” on Thursday has the complete support of teenagers.

“It’s because he is a great coach,’’ said Driver. “He is one of the best coaches that I’ve ever had to play for. He has shown me how good I could be and he has made me the player that I am today.’’

Both Castongue and Driver singled out one trait that makes Fogleman a great mentor.

“His enthusiasm,’’ according to Driver.

“I could be having a really bad day and not feel like practicing, but here comes coach Fogleman and everything changes,’’ Castongue said. “He is always so upbeat and positive.

“It just motivates you to get better.’’

According to Luke, that’s nothing new.

“I know that when we were kids that we liked being around him for the same reason,’’ Luke said. “He is just good for kids and I’m real fortunate that he joined us 12 years ago.’’

Fogleman said he learned that coaching style from Shebby.

“He rarely got upset about anything,’’ Fogleman said of the former Schlarman and Danville High coach. “When he did, the kids listened to him and they responded. That’s they way that I wanted to coach.’’

Luke believes that being retired has helped.

“He is living the good life,’’ Luke said. “He gets to do what he loves — coach football.’’

Fogleman has no plans on changing that course.

“I’m going to stay here as long as they want me and think that I can help,’’ said Fogleman, who lives part of the year in Danville and part of the year in Florida.

And it’s not just football that Fogleman has taught this group of Vikings.

“When I’m at his age, I want to be like him,’’ Castongue said. “He’s always had high expectations for us, even when others didn’t.

“He believed in us and we want to prove that he was right.’’