BLOOMINGTON — Initially, Joe Walters decided to pass late last week on the opportunity to apply for Central Catholic High School’s head football coaching job.
With the first day of practice fast approaching on Aug. 6, Walters said, “I didn’t think I could do it with the (short) notice, so I wasn’t going to be applying.” He informed Saints principal Sean Foster and athletic director Hud Venerable of his decision.
“A short time after that, I felt bad and that I had made a mistake,” Walters said. “I felt like this is what God called me to do. I felt like I was made to be a coach and called to be a faith-based coach.”
Thus, Walters called an audible and got back in touch with Foster and Venerable. On Monday morning, the school announced Walters has been hired to replace Mike Moews, who resigned last week after five seasons at the helm and more than 30 years in the program as a player, assistant coach, defensive coordinator and head coach.
Walters was head coach at Bloomington the past two seasons, going 9-9. He resigned in November, citing a desire to return to faith-based coaching, and joined Central Catholic’s basketball staff as an assistant coach. He was serving as a Saints assistant football coach prior to Moews’ departure.
Walters came to Bloomington after six years as head football coach at Peoria Notre Dame, where his teams were 42-23 and reached the playoffs five times.
“We’re excited for coach Walters to build on the tradition and success of our football program,” Foster said. “Every day we challenge our students, faculty and staff to aspire to be Saints. Coach Walters brings the same level of enthusiasm for his faith as he does for the sports he coaches.”
Venerable said Walters “has a proven track record as a leader of young men and building a football program.”
“Having spent eight years in the Big 12 Conference coaching at the (Class) 5A, 6A, 7A level, we’re excited about what he can bring to Central Catholic,” Venerable added. “It’s all about building relationships right now with kids, senior leaders, kids coming into our program, the parents, the families. Joe has a lot of experience doing that.”
Walters said he “fell in love with Central Catholic” during the basketball season, which culminated with the Saints finishing third in the Class 2A State Tournament.
While that season ran long because of the postseason success, time is short heading into football season.
Walters said his goal is to make the transition “seamless” for the players.
“I think we can do that as long as I don’t push any of the burden over to them,” he said. “I had to think through it all because I knew it would be a rough couple of weeks (prior to the first practice).
“I’ll have to put in the time and effort. The normal time that coaches are taking a break (next week), I’ll be working 20 hours a day to get us ready. We get about 12 to 14 days to prepare. We’ll do the best we can for sure.”
Among Walters’ tasks will be assembling a coaching staff. He said he has a list of potential assistants from his time at Bloomington and those at Central Catholic, as well as others in the area.
“I’ll be calling those guys and seeing who still wants to do it,” Walters said.
Walters, part-owner and general manager of Reinhart Grounds Maintenance in Bloomington, takes over a program that went 39-14 under Moews. The Saints won the inaugural Illini Prairie Conference championship last season.
“Basically Joe has to build two teams. He has to build his team of players and his coaching team,” Venerable said. “Those things can come together very quickly. One advantage of being a smaller school is we don’t have 150 players. We have dedicated kids who are passionate about the game and will be very excited to move forward now that we have Joe in place.
“It’s not like we need a staff of 15 coaches. We’re looking for guys who are committed and dedicated. It will come together fast.”