What’s all the Buz about?

Head+football+coach+Craig+Buzea+talks+to+his+players+during+a+break+in+the+action.+

Gary Middendorf

Head football coach Craig Buzea talks to his players during a break in the action.

Langston McHenry, Editor-in-chief

They warned him not to take the job.

He was a State championship runner up and three time Coach of the Year in Indiana. Why would he take the risk of demolishing his reputation?

They underestimated head coach Craig Buzea’s love for a challenge.

“It was one of those things that people didn’t see being turned around, but I was intrigued by football in Illinois and decided I wanted one more challenge before I got out of coaching,” head football coach Craig Buzea said.

After coming off a 1-8 season in 2009, the Vikings were in a search for a coach that could change the face of the program. They found that in Buzea.

“I consider Coach Buzea one of the best coaches in the area,” Daily Southtown Columnist Pat Disabato said. “People often forget how dismal H-F was when he took over. I don’t believe the roster had 50 players. There was little excitement and school spirit was lacking.”

After one year under his leadership, Buzea coached the Vikings to a 10-3 season, which ended in a one touchdown loss in the semifinals to Mt. Carmel.

Although the team fell short of a State championship, Buzea said he was proud of what the team was able to accomplish during his first year. He also said one of his favorite memories while coaching came during his first season.

“We were about to play Marian Catholic for the first game of the season,” Buzea said. “We ended up winning, after losing to them the past year. It helped show that if you put in the work, you can be successful, and it helped a lot of the guys buy into the message I was sending.”

Putting in work is something that Buzea is very familiar with. According to Buzea, he only gets five hours of sleep a day during the season.

“After a game on Friday [coaches] usually get out of here until about 11,” Buzea said. “I usually don’t get to bed until I watch the game, so I might be up until four or five o’clock in the morning, get an hours worth of sleep, take a shower, and then head back up to H-F for practice at eight.”

This work ethic is something that head offensive lineman coach Thomas Cicero admires about Buzea.

“He works so hard to put the team in a position to experience success.  He not only guides the team, but he serves as a huge role model for these kids,” Cicero said.

However, Buzea said head coaches get too much credit for team’s success. Buzea said that he is lucky to have the supporting staff that he has.

“All in all, our assistant coaches are definitely the unsung heroes in our program. They go unnoticed the most, but certainly deserve the most credit of all. I owe any and all success we have had to them and I am grateful for all their time and efforts,” Buzea said. “They all put in a minimum of 40 additional hours during the week outside of their day job, making it at a minimum 80 hour work week. The lifeblood of our program is the relationships that our assistant coaches build with their players in their designated position groups.”

Former quarterback Bryce Gray said he agrees with Buzea that the relationships that coaches build with players is very important. Gray sat under Buzea’s leadership as Buzea coaches the quarterback position.

“He left a big impact on my life. I learned a lot from him throughout our time together,” Gray said. “One of the biggest things I learned was to work harder than you’ve ever worked for something you want.”

The work ethic that Buzea instills in all of his players has helped many of his players receive athletic scholarships to play at the next level.

Many seniors from last year’s team have moved on to play football at the collegiate level such as Desmond Bland, Deante and Devante Harley-Hampton, and Kendric Pryor.

Buzea smiles vividly when talking about watching his former players grow and mature.

“The bonds that you form with the players, and seeing them come back after graduating and seeing the men they’ve become is what does it for me. Even the guys who might not go on to play football, and might go into the workforce,” Buze said.

He jokingly admits to tuning in to Wisconsin’s football games, as Pryor is currently a wide receiver there.

“Wisconsin is a good team,” Buzea said. “Of course I’m kind of biased with Kendric going there.”

However Buzea is quick to admit that he doesn’t fully agree with the College Football Committee on the best four teams and believes there should be some change in the system.

“I just wish they would decide what they want. Do they want the best four teams that are playing now, or the best teams based on a certain criteria? I would want to see them go to eight teams in the playoffs because then there aren’t any questions and no one gets left out.”

While Buzea is an expert at playoffs, making the playoffs every season as a coach at H-F, he says he is not worried about championships when it comes to his career, but acknowledges he is hunting for one.

“That’s not going to validate my career,” Buzea said. “When I sit here and put game plans together, it’s all about giving our guys a positive experience. Would I like to win a State championship? Of course. I’ve been there twice, I understand how it is, but 99 percent of coaches don’t ever get to that point. It’s going to be the relationships that we build and positive input we put in our guys lives that validate my career for me.”