RACINE — Bryan Shredl was delighted that Danny Hernandez, his friend and former Carthage College teammate, was named coach of the Park High School football team. But there was a caveat.
“I’m happy to see this, but it kind of makes me sad,” said Shredl, Case’s football coach the last three seasons. “I’ve been trying to get him over to Case for years. Now we’ve got our work cut out for us, that’s for sure.”
Hernandez, a 30-year-old Waukegan, Ill., native, will replace Andy Siegel, Park’s coach the last two seasons who stepped down earlier this month. The 2005 Kenosha St. Joseph graduate served as Siegal’s defensive coordinator in 2016 and ‘17.
Park Athletic Director Joe Miller said there were three applicants for the position, but added, “There were others that reached out after the deadline.”
Hernandez will try to continue the challenge of turning around Park’s sagging football fortunes. A program that won WIAA Division 1 state championships in 1988 and 2005 and produced future NFL players Brent Moss, Kevin Barry and Johnny Clay has gone just 4-51 since the start of the 2012 season.
For Hernandez, that challenge doesn’t start when the season starts Aug. 24 against Racine Lutheran at Horlick Field. It starts immediately.
“It’s about getting this group and core players to believe that we can win, we can grow, and that the way to do that is a day-by-day process,” Hernandez said. “You don’t win games in August or October. You win them on cold afternoons in February.”
Plenty of credentials
Hernandez certainly has the credentials to earn the respect of his players. As a running back and linebacker for St. Joseph during the 2004 and ‘05 seasons, he earned All-Lakeshore Conference and All-Region 6 honors.
“He was a really good high school athlete,” said former coach Bob Freund, who led St. Joseph to a 27-7 record and three playoff appearances during Hernandez’s time as a starter. “He was a very skilled and talented kid, he loved to play the game and he had a lot of energy. And he was very coachable, worked very hard at it and wanted to be successful.”
Dan Miller was a first-year coach at St. Catherine’s in 2004 when Hernandez was a senior at St. Joseph. When St. Joseph beat St. Catherine’s 43-27 at Horlick Field Oct. 20, 2004, Hernandez broke a bone in his left leg, but that’s not why Miller remembers him.
“I remember him having a very good game against us,” Miller said. “He’s a tough kid and a good competitor.”
Hernandez went on to play for the late Tim Rucks at Carthage, where he started as a linebacker from 2006-08. He served as one of the Red Men’s captains as a sophomore and junior and started with Shredl, an offensive guard, as a junior and senior during the 2008 and ‘09 seasons.
“He’s very, very passionate about football,” said Concordia University coach Greg Etter, who was Carthage’s defensive coordinator during Hernandez’s time with the Red Men. “The way he approached film work, the way he approached practice ... he loved being on the field and he loved being vocal.
“Guys like him are few and far between.”
Becoming a coach
After graduating from Carthage in 2009 with a degree in broad field social science, Hernandez returned to St. Joseph as a teacher and coach starting with the 2009-10 school year. Hernandez taught history, coached “every position under the sun” on the football team, he said, and was the freshman basketball coach for seven years and coached sprinters and relays in track.
When Dennis Thompson stepped down as Park’s coach in 2016, Hernandez was one of the finalists to replace him. Siegal named Hernandez as his defensive coordinator after being hired as head coach.
Hernandez also joined Park’s teaching faculty as a social studies and world history instructor in 2016.
Joe Miller believes Hernandez possesses all the qualities it takes to succeed as Park’s coach.
“We chose Danny because of his passion for kids, his passion for education and his passion for football,” Miller said. “At the end of the day, Danny is a great teacher and he’s a great coach.”