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BLOOMINGTON — Hud Venerable said Tuesday he is "thrilled" and "honored" to have been chosen to succeed the retiring Doug Atkins as Central Catholic High School's athletic director.

Central made the hiring official Tuesday morning in a news release, with principal Sean Foster saying Venerable's "faith, compassion, work ethic and integrity make him a perfect fit for our Saints family. He will bring a wealth of experience to our school."

A University High School and Illinois Wesleyan graduate, Venerable was head football coach at Normal Community for 14 seasons as part of a Hall of Fame coaching career. He served as athletic director at Lincoln-Way Central in New Lenox for six years before retiring from that post in June 2015.

He and his wife, Darby, returned to Bloomington-Normal to be closer to family.

"I was always hoping at some point there would be an opportunity to work full-time again," Venerable said. "I love working at the high school level and being around that environment with young kids and coaches. It was an easy decision for me to be part of Central Catholic.

"I have so many connections and friends who are alumni from Central or who have coached at Central Catholic. The tradition there is rich and deep."

Venerable, 61, had planned to serve as receivers/special teams coach on Norm Eash's football staff at Illinois Wesleyan. Discussions with Central Catholic began a day after Venerable and the Titans returned June 8 from a trip to Japan for an exhibition game.

"I really had thought my future was back in coaching. I was really excited about working with the receivers and the opportunity Coach Eash had given me," Venerable said. "It was the furthest thing from my mind that I would be given this opportunity to get back into high school athletics."

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Foster said Venerable was selected from a pool of about 50 candidates.

"We had good, quality candidates," Foster said. "Our interview team did a great job in that process. Hud clearly was someone we were excited to have the opportunity to interview and he interviewed really well. We're very happy with the result."

Venerable had a 126-37 record as head coach at NCHS, winning the Class 6A state title in 2006. He was a head coach for 28 years in all, compiling a 219-86 record, and was inducted into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 2008.

“I think it does help (as an A.D.),” Venerable said of his many years in coaching. “The coaches look at somebody who’s been in the trenches like them and understands the ebbs and flows of coaching. They can identify with someone who’s had that opportunity.

“I think that’s hopefully what I can bring to the staff at Central, to be an advocate for those coaches and do anything I can to help them and their programs build and develop the way they want them to. I enjoy being behind the scenes and working with those coaches. The thrill of being an athletic director is seeing all of the programs thriving and building.”

Venerable officially takes over July 1, but said he plans to meet with Atkins in the coming days. Atkins has been the Saints’ A.D. for 11 years, during which time the school has won 17 state trophies and state titles in five sports.

“Doug was nice enough to show me around the building when I visited and was very helpful,” Venerable said. “He answered a lot of questions. I have more questions for him. I just want to try to build on what he’s done.”

Atkins was involved in the selection process and said Central’s success “in the classroom and on the field will continue to grow and thrive under Hud’s guidance.”

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Follow Randy Kindred on Twitter: @pg_kindred

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Sports Editor

Sports editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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