MIKE NIETO: Lenti is more than a football coach

2011-09-17T22:00:00Z 2011-09-18T04:25:05Z MIKE NIETO: Lenti is more than a football coachBy Mike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
September 17, 2011 10:00 pm  • 

You take a step back and look at Frank Lenti winning 307 games and realize what an accomplishment that is.

He did it in a little more than 27 seasons and with nine state titles.

"When I became head coach, I just wanted to enhance what Bill Barz did," Lenti said after he won his 300th last October. "He had built a good program."

He certainly has enhanced the Mount Carmel football program and then some. I am sure he is already preparing for Brother Rice, Friday's opponent in the Catholic League Blue opener.

He has also enhanced Mount Carmel. It is more than just a great football program, and academically it is a top school. Because of the success of the football program, it has brought alumni together and they now send their sons to 64th and Dante to become men.

Alumni talk with pride about their school and its storied football program, but they know there is more to Mount Carmel than football.

Lenti, the son of South Side working class parents, Frank and the late Rose, also realizes there is more to life than football.

It is a vehicle to teach. All the good coaches know this and maybe that is why they have achieved what they have in various athletic arenas.

Lenti loves Mount Carmel and he doesn't just speak those words. If you have been fortunate enough to know him, you can see it in him. When students come to an open house, whether or not they intend to play football, they all want to meet Coach Frank.

In his office, he has pictures of his former players, but not NFL pictures. They are photos of them in their respective college uniforms, whether it be Notre Dame, Michigan, Nebraska or Illinois.

"My goal is not to get them into the NFL, but to get them into college so they can finish their education," he has said many times. "That's great if they can play in the NFL, but I want them to get a degree because you cannot play pro ball forever."

Ironically, Lenti did not play varsity football, but was captain of the baseball team. He did play club football at Loyola University. Frank and Rose Lenti's six children all went on to careers in education.

Lenti's success stories are not just Donovan McNabb or Simeon Rice. They are the Carmel alums who may not have been great football players, but were on the team and are now bankers on LaSalle Street or Chicago policemen or firemen.

Several are doctors or have had successful careers as electricians and contractors. A few are back at Mount Carmel and on his staff.

Lenti has had an influence on a lot of people, including me. You spend a lot of time with coaches during the school year and like so many, Lenti comes home and returns calls to media though after a long day, I am sure he would rather relax.

But he always has time for people. The best conversations I have had with Lenti are not about football. When things may not be going smoothly, I think back to something Coach Frank may have told me -- and it gets you through the tough times.

Thanks, coach.

This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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