CARY – In the months leading up to the high school football season, Cary-Grove coach Brad Seaburg seemed to push all the right buttons.
Seaburg adopted an idea to meet individually with every one of his 24 senior players to talk about life, their college plans and then football. He put some new spins on predecessor Bruce Kay’s program with C-G’s Huddle Groups, in which seniors draft players for their offseason teams that competed in weight-room attendance, academics and other various contests, even a 3-point shooting contest in basketball.
The most notable move Seaburg made in the offseason was asking senior-to-be Kyle Norberg to play offense as well as defense. Norberg, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound linebacker, was drawing NCAA Division I interest from several schools and Seaburg figured an athlete of Norberg’s caliber should be maximized. C-G normally platoons its players, but Seaburg remembered that Alex Kube, who helped train Norberg at Elite 7 in Barrington, was one of the few former Trojans who used to play both ways.
All Norberg did was rush for 2,218 yards and 27 touchdowns, while helping the Trojans to reach the IHSA Class 6A state championship game. C-G lost to Crete-Monee, 33-26, in the state title game, but finished 13-1 and dominated area teams in the regular season.
“He made a good decision,” Norberg said. “He saw something in me that I didn’t see, and I was able to exploit that on offense as well as on defense, and help the team both ways.”
Although C-G came up just short of its second state championship in four years, Seaburg did almost everything right. The Trojans’ closest regular-season game was a 14-point win against Crystal Lake South and they battled through injuries to key offensive starters quarterback Quinn Baker, running back Ryan Mahoney and guard Michael Gomez.
C-G’s outstanding run to the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division and state championship game earned Seaburg, in only his second year as the Trojans’ head man, the honor of Northwest Herald Football Coach of the Year, selected by the sports staff with input from area coaches.
Huntley’s John Hart, who took the Red Raiders from 2-7 to 6-4, also received strong consideration from the staff and area coaches. Woodstock North’s Jeff Schroeder and Crystal Lake Central’s Matt Fralick also were mentioned as candidates.
Seaburg got the idea for the 1-on-1 meetings from a clinic where Wheaton Warrenville South coach Ron Muhtich spoke. Seaburg shared his plan with his wife Dorothy, who suggested Sunday and Monday nights. With preparation and meeting time, at each player’s home with his family, Seaburg estimates the meetings took about 72 hours.
“It was a really pro-active approach to get a feel for what each player was thinking,” Seaburg said. “There was a lot of planning that went into it. The intent was pretty much the same, to get a feel for what they were feeling and ask them who are the leaders on the team. In their house, they are a little more comfortable instead of doing it at school.”
Often, Seaburg talked for more than an hour without mentioning much football. The meetings made a favorable impression.
“To me, it showed me about how much he cares about us as players and as people,” Baker said. “Obviously, it was taking a ton of time away from his family. He talked a lot about college and had a lot of information for us.”
The Huddle Groups made for some spirited competition in the weight room, but in other areas as well. Seaburg remembers Norberg on the floor, cheering on one of his freshman teammates in a push-up contest.
“The Huddle Groups have been around, but they were a little different with coach Seaburg,” Norberg said. “The draft was really fun. We drafted teams and the seniors wore fancy clothes, like the NFL draft and took it really seriously. Those things really brought us together so that we can work with everybody.”
Seaburg thought it fostered leadership characteristics with his seniors. He also said being at a school with great continuity on its coaching staff played a big part.
“We have a tremendous staff,” Seaburg said. “There are so many guys who have been at Cary-Grove so long. We’ve been fortunate to have so many guys right in our building. That’s huge, you can’t run a program on your own.”