Kyle Lindsay left Bishop Luers High School a dozen years ago with no plans of looking back, let alone coming back.
Forget the fact his father was the most successful prep football coach in Fort Wayne history or that Kyle had spent his life on the field. Forget Lindsay's leadership background as a quarterback. He was on to bigger and better things, and being a high school football coach wasn't on his radar.
“I walked out of the building after finishing my physics final my senior year and felt so relieved,” Lindsay said. “I'll never be in a high school classroom again.”
Lindsay went to the University of Dayton, played baseball, explored sports management and physical therapy, and realized his calling.
He would go back to high school, and back to his old high school. He would indeed coach prep football. He would walk on a path that fate likely set for him the first time he followed his dad to the practice field.
“I knew I wanted to stay part of the game, and it took about a year sifting through different career paths to realize, I don't just want to be part of the game,” Lindsay said. “I want to make a direct impact on the game through coaching. And I love teaching now.”
Lindsay, 30, teaches history and physical education and this year takes over as the head football coach at Bishop Luers, a position loaded with expectations and pressure. There are, after all, 11 state championship trophies in the building, with nine of those teams coached by his father, Matt Lindsay.
“That's pressure that I can't control,” Kyle Lindsay said. “What I can control is how I handle it and not just myself, but how our staff handles it. We're preparing this team to go out on Friday nights, preparing them to get on the field. Expectations are always there. They were there when I was here 12 years ago. It's nothing personally I can't handle. It's how the kids handle it that's most important.”
This will be Lindsay's seventh season on the staff after spending the last four as the team's offensive coordinator.
In truth, Kyle Lindsay was groomed by his father for this role the last six years. Yet the smooth transition from father to son that was once anticipated by many didn't come to pass.
Matt Lindsay was fired by the school during the season last September for what the Fort Wayne-South Bend Catholic Diocese labeled a “violation of our ethical standards and policies.” He was not charged with any crimes after a police investigation.
Kyle Lindsay coached one game in his father's absence before the official firing, and then former Luers coach Steve Keefer took over as interim head coach.
Keefer led the team to its fourth straight Class 2A state title. Kyle Lindsay stayed on the staff with Keefer and applied for the head coaching job at season's end. As tough as it was to see his father leave the program involuntarily, Kyle's loyalty and affection for the school remained.
“Even amongst everything that went on last fall, I told our administration I was committed,” Kyle Lindsay said. “I wasn't going anywhere. There were rumblings I might go here or there, but I grew up here. This is part of what helped mold me to be who I am. No way could I pack up and leave.”
For Lindsay, there was also a deeper reason for staying at Luers.
“We teach our kids how to handle adversity, and I wanted to be a living example of how to handle it,” he said. “I wanted to stick it out and, if given the opportunity, I wanted to take over.”
Luers principal Mary Keefer said the school interviewed a number of candidates and were impressed by Lindsay's commitment to the students as well as his rapport with students and the coaching staff.
“He played here, and tradition is big at our school,” Keefer said. “He knows how we do things and he knows the right way to do it, and he's not afraid to ask for help. It's a good fit so far.”
Keefer said the fact Lindsay's father was the coach for nearly three decades was not a factor, nor were the circumstances ending Matt Lindsay's tenure.
“I think you have to separate the two,” Keefer said. “It would not have been fair to Kyle otherwise. Kyle was chosen on his own merit.”
Kyle Lindsay takes over a situation that outsiders would find daunting. Luers graduated almost every key player from last season, including Jaylon Smith, now a freshman at the University of Notre Dame.
Yet because of Luers' success at the state level, the team moves up to Class 3A in the playoffs this season under the IHSAA's success rule. Lindsay likely inherits a lesser team but will face tougher competition in the postseason. He sees it as a challenge worth embracing, especially since Luers has never won a state title at 3A even when it spent a few seasons in that class because of enrollment numbers.
“We're excited, quite frankly,” Lindsay said. “We probably would have competed very well in that 3A class the last few years. I think we're where we should be and our kids and staff are equally excited. They want to be the first team to win a state title in 3A.”
Lindsay returns most of the Luers coaching staff from a year ago. Keefer chose to return to his role as a freshman team coach, and he has more players out than ever before. Lindsay will continue to call the offensive plays, with Clancy Shank above the press box as “co-offensive coordinator.” Matt Millhouse will be the defensive coordinator with longtime Luers coach Lew Goodwin as his right-hand man. Other than returning quarterback Quinn Cook, who is battling sophomore Noah Wezensky for the starting job, very few experienced players return. Luers has some emerging talent, of course, in returning running back JyQuel Jemison, among others.
Lindsay has encountered some of the usual behind-the-scenes coaching issues that coordinators don't deal with – physical forms needed, players arriving late for practice or having academic issues to resolve – but his roots at Luers give him a natural advantage.
“In terms of game-planning, calling plays and game management, such as when to call timeouts and that stuff, I've really handled it the last four years,” Lindsay said. “When Steve took over last year, the game management was on him. In terms of calling plays, the mindset last year – and anybody who played us knew it – was to pound it at you. As long as we stayed within the parameters of the game plan, I could call my game.”
Lindsay smiles at the idea of the expectations he knows are out there. Fans expect titles. The media expects titles. The Luers community expects titles. Lindsay still bounces ideas and questions off his father, who told him the first day of official practice is always the day with the biggest headaches. There's a legacy of winning to carry on, one that makes Luers either the best or toughest job in Fort Wayne, or maybe both.
“I guess you could consider it tough if you're an outsider, because of the expectations,” Lindsay said. “In all honesty, I think it's the best job in Fort Wayne. I just remember growing up around here, being 4 or 5 years old running around during two-a-days. Now I'm doing it with a whistle around my neck. In that regard, it's the best.”