Nick Chiodo file action photo

Senior quarterback Nick Chiodo (10) runs the ball against Central Catholic in U High's 57-14 win over the Saints in 2003. Chiodo is in his first year as an assistant coach at Central.

Pantagraph file photo

A dry erase board on the wall of Nick Chiodo's apartment read, "Central at Pontiac, 7 days."

That Chiodo was counting down to a football game was not news. That the game scrawled in black letters referred to Central Catholic — with University High nowhere to be found — was headline worthy stuff.

Chiodo never imagined such a thing growing up.

"Never say never," he said, smiling.

The last two weeks have taught him that. Now 31, Chiodo is the newest member of the Central Catholic coaching staff. He considers it "a blessing" and is fully embracing the opportunity.

Still, it's Central Catholic and he's a Chiodo.

He comes from the First Family of U High football. His grandfather, Frank Chiodo, was U High's longtime head coach and is in the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

His father, Tom, and uncles, Hal and Mark, played at U High. So did he and his brothers, Jake and Vinny.

Yet, when Central held its preseason scrimmage Friday night, there was a sizable contingent of Chiodos in the home stands at Bill Hundman Memorial Field. They were there to support the Chiodo on the Saints sidelines.

Just writing that sentence seems odd.

"I was getting ready (Friday) at the gym when my older brother (Jake) showed up," Chiodo said. "I had the Saints stuff on and he said, 'I'm going to be at the game, but I'm not going to lie, this is pretty weird.' "

Chiodo landed on Central coach Mike Moews' staff as a result of what both termed "perfect timing."

Moews learned on Aug. 3 that Jimmy Flynn, who coached with the Saints last year, would be unable to return because of his graduate school commitments at Illinois State. The same day, Chiodo contacted new Central athletic director Hud Venerable, a U High grad, to congratulate him on getting the job.

In the course of their conversation, Chiodo told Venerable he was looking to get back into coaching after being away for a few years. It led to a text message from Venerable to Moews, then a meeting between Moews and Chiodo.

"The next day they called me and I was a Saint," Chiodo said. 

There's another awkward sentence.

Turns out Nick is not the first Chiodo to coach at Central. Hal Chiodo, who went on to a Hall of Fame coaching career, coached the Saints' sophomore team for a year in the late 1970s.

One of his players was freshman Mike Moews.

"So I'm not the official bloodline breaker," Nick said.

That didn't make pulling on a Saints shirt for the first time any easier for Chiodo, who as a senior quarterback in 2003 led U High to its most lopsided win ever over Central, 57-14.

At a coaches meeting on Aug. 6, the day before practice began, he was given a Saints shirt.

"To be honest when I put it on, my gut was saying, 'Hey, I don't think we're supposed to be doing this,'" Chiodo said.

Not to worry. So far, it's been a great fit.

Chiodo is the offensive coordinator for the freshman team and the special teams coordinator for the varsity.  

"He's doing a great job," Moews said. "He gives us a young, fresh, new perspective, which is great. We can always use that. He's related real well with our kids."

Off the field, Chiodo is in a fast-track online program working toward a degree in sports management. His goal is to "pursue my dream of getting into college football coaching."

For now, he is soaking up all he can at Central with his grandfather's blessing. His first call upon being hired by Moews was to Frank Chiodo.

"He was extremely proud and happy for me," Nick said. "He talked to me about how that's how uncle Hal got started. He said there couldn't be a better place for me.

"It really has been a blessing. The coaches are great. We all speak football fluently. You can see that the winning tradition they have is a reflection of their knowledge and passion for the game. I've learned so much already. I couldn't ask for better guys to learn from."

The countdown begins in earnest now with the season opener coming Friday at Pontiac. The dry erase board will be updated accordingly. The Chiodo in Saints' blue and gold will see to that.

Yep. This will take some getting used to.

Follow Randy Kindred on Twitter: @pg_kindred

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Sports Editor

Sports Editor for The Pantagraph.

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