WOODSTOCK – As a linebacker at Marian Central, Darren Fortin called the defensive plays on the Hurricanes’ first of four Class 2A state championship teams in 1983.
Over the past 30 years, Fortin has coached every segment and at every level of Marian’s programs under head coaches Steve Patton, Dave Proffitt, Ed Brucker and Mike Maloney.
There was only one spot Fortin had not held … the top spot.
That changed Friday afternoon when Fortin was named the Hurricanes’ new varsity football head coach. Players, assistant coaches and several teachers gathered at Marian’s Landers Pavilion while superintendent Vito DeFrisco introduced athletic director Curtis Price, who in turn introduced Fortin as coach.
“It’s the only position I haven’t held here in 30 years,” Fortin said. “So maybe it was due. I’ve learned from everyone, college coaches, coaches I worked with here. I’m looking forward to learning from you guys, and I’ll expect a lot of input from you guys.”
Fortin said he hopes to pass on some of the life lessons legendary Marian coach Don Penza taught his players. Penza took the Hurricanes to state titles in 1983, 1986 and 1987. He died in spring 1989, but the Hurricanes won their fourth state championship that season under Patton, who had been Penza’s assistant.
Maloney, who coached for four seasons, announced he was resigning before the Hurricanes’ final game last season. Marian was 3-6 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Some Marian alumni and supporters expressed frustration that the hiring process took almost four months. Sources close to the school said that two Marian alumni, Dirk Stanger and Tom Kruse, took themselves out of consideration for the job.
Fortin, 53, is a popular choice for his strong Marian ties and knowledge of the program.
“He’s been loyal to Marian Central,” Price said. “As long as I’ve been involved with Marian Central, he’s the one constant in our football program. It’s long overdue. He earned his stripes, and it’s his time. Everything worked out perfectly for Darren and for us. It’s great having someone here who played out on that field and walked the hallways here.”
The players were excited about the choice for their new coach. Fortin had worked the past three seasons as a varsity assistant and running backs coach.
“He’s been around here a long time. He knows a lot about the game of football,” junior running back Luke Rogers said. “He’s been a mentor to me ever since freshman year. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. He has a way of relating to kids that I haven’t seen in other coaches. It definitely helps with teaching and bringing me up to the next level.”
Offensive lineman Jayden Thiergood said the players thought Fortin might be the choice.
“I love how he pushes us to be our best at whatever we do,” Thiergood said. “He’s someone I look up to and always thought I could talk to, during practice, after practice, during film sessions. We have a great relationship.”
Fortin graduated from Marian in 1984 and played at Villanova as longsnapper and backup linebacker. He works as sales manager for Ozinga Ready Mix Concrete.
One of Fortin’s coaching philosophies will be something he picked up from Penza. Under Penza, the Hurricanes’ quarterbacks called the offensive plays, and the defensive captains called the defense. While Fortin might not go that far, he said he wanted players to have input.
“[Penza] taught us how to be men, how to make our own decisions,” Fortin told the players. “When we get together and make a game plan, everyone’s going to have a say-so. You’re going to set your own goals. We will make sure you get every support you need to reach or surpass those goals. My job is to push you past those goals.”