They wouldn't trade it for anything For several area assistant football coaches, the hustle and bustle of the practice field is nothing compared to what they find at their full-time jobs.(Sports Extra)
Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
October 12, 2001 | Bush, JoeByline: Joe Bush Daily Herald Sports Writer
Sean Drendel, Greg Jacobson and Jim Bonebrake are commodities traders and high school football assistant coaches.
Daily, they thrive among pushing and shoving, shouting and maneuvering, noise and action, planned strategy and adjusting on the fly, and above all, competition.
Then they flee to the suburbs in time for football practice and some tranquility.
There's anything but on the trading floors of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where mostly men battle for attention in highly charged buying and selling binges.
"It's a peaceful atmosphere," Drendel says of coaching. "You'd like to think it's gonna make your life easier. Jacobson has no stress."
Lately, Drendel's side job has caused him as much grief as his time at the Merc. Drendel is Naperville North's defensive coordinator, and the Huskies have lost three straight games.
Jacobson, meanwhile, teaches wide receivers at Naperville Central, top-ranked and undefeated.
He is hardly without anxiety, however. Jacobson is a three-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department whose West Side district has seen more than 50 homicides this year.
Here's Jacobson's schedule: He's done patrolling at 7:30 a.m., then heads to the Merc until around noon, gets a couple hours of sleep, gets to Naperville for 3:30 p.m. practice, heads back to the city about 6 p.m. and sleeps from 7 p.m. until 10, when he heads to work for his 11 p.m. shift start.
Jacobson, who is a freelance trader, especially appreciates his time with the Redskins as an oasis from not only hustle and bustle, but also from the cutthroat impersonality of the pit and the streets.
"It's a good balance," he says. "I think a lot of times there's nothing really socially redeeming in trading.
"It's time to clear your head. On the way (to Naperville), I'm thinking about football. On the way home, I'm thinking about court."
Bonebrake coaches linebackers, punters and kickers at Geneva, where Darren Stahulak guides the offensive line. Stahulak, too, is a trader, though he isn't subject to the adverse conditions on the floor.
Stahulak knows about life down there, though, and he knows that handling its chaos is one of the main reasons so many traders coach football.
Besides the four in this story, there are traders/prep football coaches at Loyola, St. Rita, Mt. Carmel, Notre Dame, New Trier and Hubbard, just to cite the schools Jacobson, Drendel, Stahulak and Bonebrake could come up with off the top of their heads.
"There are a number of ex-athletes (at the Merc), especially in the pits," Stahulak says. "It sometimes gets physical in there. It's definitely to your advantage to be big."
If not big, then at least competitive, with a fire that should charge across the border of intensity.
"No. 1, you need to be loud," says the 6-foot-1, 255-pound Bonebrake, who played linebacker at the University of Chicago and works in the wonderfully named live cattle pit. "No. 2, you need to be visible. Being wide, there's fewer people close to you."
Drendel and Jacobson are each around 6-foot, 200 pounds. Drendel was a standout at Naperville North and Eastern Illinois University, and Jacobson was a backup quarterback for Gordon Tech's 1980 Class 6A title team and coached for 16 years at Gordon Tech and St. Patrick.
Drendel's boss downtown was a wide receiver at Northwestern; a colleague played basketball at the University of Milwaukee- Wisconsin, while another pitched at Benedictine University.
The pits are just another male-dominated area in which lifelong athletes and coaches are comfortable. Bonebrake, who also hires and trains traders for his company, says former athletes are drawn to the scene by more than potential riches.
"Every day there's a game going on," he says. "They keep score with money."
Just check out Drendel's descriptions of his "office":
"At times it's about as cave-mannish as can be."... "It's a dog- eat-dog world down there."... "You've got to have your game-face on."
Bonebrake again: "I'm a competitor. I'm trying to put food on the table for my family and send my kids to college. It's personal."
If it seems as though this ambience would inspire the flying off of a lid or two, with traders coming to blows, it's true. It's also expensive and uncommon, with a $50,000 fine levied by the Merc for fighting.
"No matter how crazy it is, it's still a workplace," Drendel says.
When there's down time at the Merc, you can imagine that much of the talk turns to sports. Stahulak had some fun with Drendel in 1995 when, while Stahulak was coaching at Wheaton North, the Falcons beat Naperville North with a hook-and-ladder play.
Stahulak, a reserve center on the Northern Illinois University squad that played in the 1983 California Bowl, got a kick out of flashing a hook-and-ladder sign at Drendel across the floor.
"He's gotta bring that up, doesn't he?" Drendel says.
There's good-natured, locker-room banter and, with so many assistant coaches around, there's also learning.
"It's a wealth of info," Stahulak says.
There was too much info and yet not enough on Sept. 11 and the days immediately afterward.
As a symbol of capitalism, the Merc is no regular office building, and amid the chaos of Sept. 11, its inhabitants were on edge.
"We had to keep trading," Drendel says of Sept. 11. "To keep what America's built on. We felt like we're running risks to even be there."
They also felt the loss of life differently than most others this far from the East Coast.
"We all know people who knew people, people who were talking to people when the planes hit," Stahulak says.
None of the subjects of this story knew anyone who died at the World Trade Center, though Bonebrake might if he chooses to investigate the matter.
His company had an office on the 85th floor of the first tower. Everyone from the firm escaped, though the last person wasn't accounted for for two days.
"I can't believe that I won't have known some people from the University of Chicago," Bonebrake says. "I haven't looked at all the lists. To be honest, I'm not in a real hurry to find out."
They all have to deal with the aftereffects of the attacks and the current cautious climate: armed guards, IDs to enter the building, searches.
It's this kind of aura, as well as the madness of the pits, that makes the camaraderie of coaching so welcome. People give and people appreciate and people relate.
"When I walk into both jobs, it's like, 'How'd you guys do?' " Jacobson says. "High school football, especially in the Chicagoland area, everyone knows somebody."
Most of all, the traders, like any coach who isn't doing it for the money, love the game and helping kids.
"There's some great kids out there," Drendel says. "I enjoy helping them and giving back to a community I love."
Says Jacobson: "(The players) know what I'm doing. They know that I might be draggin' one day, and they'll have to pick it up a bit. I get as much from them as they get from me."