A major signing in the NFL has led to a job opening in the CSL.
Mike Garoppolo has resigned as the Niles North football coach in order to join his younger brother, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, in California. The resignation was accepted by the Niles Township High Schools District 219 board at a meeting Tuesday.
The 29-year-old Mike Garoppolo was 3-15 in his two seasons in charge of the Vikings . He was a Niles North assistant coach the previous four seasons and was the defensive coordinator on two Vikings teams that reached the playoffs, including the 2015 squad that reached the Class 7A state quarterfinals.
Mike Garoppolo said he decided to relocate after Jimmy Garoppolo signed a contract extension with the 49ers in February that made him the league’s highest-paid player at the time.
Acquired in a trade with the New England Patriots in October 2017, Jimmy Garoppolo went 5-0 in five starts in the Bay Area last fall before signing a five-year $137.5 million deal. Of that, $86.4 million was guaranteed in the first three years.
“(Resigning) was a tough decision. I’d been at Niles North for six years and you build a family and a foundation, and you’re trying to get it moving the right direction,” Mike Garoppolo said.
He continued: “But when Jimmy got the opportunity he got, you have the conversation (about moving out there). For the family, it’s an opportunity that happens once in a lifetime and you just couldn’t pass it up.”
Mike Garoppolo is also a physical education and health teacher at Niles North. He said he will work at the school until the end of the school year.
An Arlington Heights native and a Rolling Meadows graduate, Mike Garoppolo said he’s the only family member committed to joining Jimmy Garoppolo permanently on the West Coast at this point, though others could follow.
Mike Garoppolo said his family, which also includes parents Tony and Denise and brothers Tony (30) and Bill (22), is looking forward to following Jimmy Garoppolo’s career up-close, and being there to offer support.
“Ever since we were growing up, we’ve been a real close family. Once Jimmy had that success in college (at Eastern Illinois) and in the NFL, he’s needed that support, and we’ve been there for him,” said Mike Garoppolo, who played linebacker at Western Illinois. “Though the stakes are higher because he’s starting, we’ll continue to do what we’ve always done — go about supporting him in the same way and not trying to change anything.”
Mike Garoppolo, who said he and his girlfriend are scheduled to move to California in the summer, said there has been talk among the family about helping Jimmy Garoppolo start and run a charity.
Niles North athletic director Brett Bildstein said he was impressed by Mike Garoppolo’s ability to motivate his players despite playing in the Central Suburban South. Four of the league’s six schools made the playoffs in 2017. The Vikings, the smallest school in the league, posted one conference win in Mike Garoppolo’s two seasons.
“(Garoppolo) is a tremendous guy, who has the kids’ best interests at heart. He is a kid at heart and always approaches coaching through a players’ lens,” Bildstein said. “He navigated the move to the CSL South and embraced the challenge. He always got the kids to work hard.”
Bildstein continued: “The CSL South is a beast. But he got the kids to compete and be there on Monday (often after a loss) and ready to work, and that’s impressive.”
Mike Garoppolo had to contend with more than wins and losses in his final season as head coach.
Midway through 2017 season, the football program was suspended for a week by District 219 officials after a possible hazing incident. Though the team forfeited a game against Maine South, the program was reinstated after school officials and police determined no criminal conduct had taken place.
Junior running back/defensive back Myles Davis said he had anticipated Mike Garoppolo possibly leaving his post to join his brother.
“I support him to be with his family and with his brother on his brother’s journey,” said Davis, who lives in Skokie. “We just have to pick up from where he left us. (Mike Garoppolo) connected with the players a lot, we had a good bond with him, he was a good friend and coach. He will be missed in the program. He was part of the brotherhood.”
Bildstein said he is looking for a coach who is “focused on the process” of building a program and getting better.
Mike Garoppolo said his time with the Vikings was memorable.
“Football is about wins and losses, but at the same time, it’s about what you learn, the life lessons, the memories, the relationships you build, seeing the growth of the players,” he said. “It’s about the daily grind, practicing in the sun or the rain, the Saturday morning meetings with coaches and breaking down film.
“The school and the district were great to me. I was a kid right out of college who needed a job, and they got me coaching and teaching, and at 27, (becoming a head coach) was a great opportunity. I thank District 219 for everything they’ve done. I’ll miss it. I’ll come back and visit and Niles North will always have a spot in my heart.”
Dan Shalin is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.