EL PASO — Luke Drone weighed his options frequently as a standout quarterback at Illinois State. When he did the same in regard to the head football coaching position at El Paso-Gridley High School, Drone liked what he saw.
The feeling was mutual.
EPG principal Brian Quam announced Wednesday the school has hired Drone as head coach. The former Redbird signal-caller also will teach high school physical education. Formal approval is expected Monday at the regular board of education meeting.
Drone is in his seventh year as a physical education teacher at Cornerstone Christian Academy in Bloomington, where he also serves as junior varsity basketball coach. He has had stints as an assistant football coach at Bloomington High School and his alma mater, Mount Carmel.
He was quarterbacks coach at BHS in 2016 and offensive coordinator in 2017 under then-head coach Joe Walters.
“I think I knew eventually I wanted to go down that path (becoming a head coach),” Drone said. “This opportunity presented itself and from everything I’ve heard around the community and from people I know, they have a great football tradition.
"It seems like a great opportunity to go in and try to continue on what has been built there. It seemed like a great fit on both ends."
Drone succeeds Stephen Rigsby, who was 37-32 in seven seasons with four playoff appearances, including a trip to the Class 2A quarterfinals in 2017. The Titans were 3-6 this past season.
“We are excited for Coach Drone to begin work as our new football coach and building relationships with our students, staff and community," Quam said. "He is going to be a great fit instructionally and through his leadership on the football field.”
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At Illinois State, Drone threw for 8,123 yards and 61 touchdowns from 2004-07, both No. 3 on ISU's career lists. His 60.9 career completion percentage is second-best in Redbird history and his 8,391 yards of total offense rank third.
Drone was the first-team all-Gateway Conference quarterback in 2006.
In his season as offensive coordinator at BHS, the Purple Raiders ran an up-tempo, pass-oriented offense that produced 34.7 points per game.
What will he run at EPG?
“I’m going to go in and just coach the kids,” Drone said. “I’ll see what kind of kids we have and try to play to our strengths. If we have a kid who can throw it, we’ll utilize his strengths. If we have more of a running team, we’ll utilize that. I’ll meet with the team and assess the team and work from there.”
Drone, 34, is an ISU graduate who signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Buffalo Bills in 2008. He played arena football for five years before accepting the job at Cornerstone Christian. He also has worked with Throw it Deep QB/WR Training Academy, which trains NFL, college and junior high/high school quarterbacks and receivers.
He came to Illinois State in 2003 and played baseball for one year before switching to football. He starred in both sports at Mount Carmel High School and said, “I’m a big multi-sport guy.”
“I think it’s great when kids play multiple sports,” Drone said. “I think it helps them become better athletes in their main sport.”