Iconic Glenbard West gridiron leader remembered as tough, respected
William Duchon's legacy at Glenbard West is as certain as the football team he built in the 1970s. Duchon led the Hilltoppers on a seven-year title streak, culminating with a state title 1976.
The beloved coach, who stayed on until 1988 as athletic director at Glenbard West, died on March 4 at the age of 88, but his effect on players and others who knew him lives on.
At Duchon's funeral, for example, one former player remembered a contract Duchon gave the team to sign that said players wouldn't smoke or drink. Since there was no date on the contract, the player decided never to smoke or drink in his life.
That's the kind of respect Duchon earned.
In 1961, after taking over a team that was dealing with a decade of struggles and complacency, Duchon focused on hard-nosed defense and wholehearted effort to turn the Hilltoppers around.
"His concentration on a strong defense advocated the name 'Hitters,' " Joe Carlton, a fan and journalist who wrote a book on the Hilltoppers, said. "He wanted his players never to be out-hustled, never to be out-executed, and to take pride in everything they did.
Duchon prided himself on a gruff exterior that wasn't easily penetrable. He might not have been the easiest person to get to know, keeping his professional plans in focus and his walls up, but that mentality paid off with his players.
"I don’t think the players were his friends," Carlton said. "They respected him and even feared him a little. By doing what he was teaching, and then winning, an era set in and victories fed on each other."
With a firm, old-school system in place and his players believing in the plan, Duchon built a dynasty.
But it wasn't always easy. His initial tough approach was a vast change from the normal Glenbard West culture, which led to some uneasy feelings from some of his players' parents early on. Still, Duchon stuck to the plan, and the wins piled up.
According to Carlton, Brian Diedrich, the team's 1971 captain and an All Stater who played at Illinois, summed it up at Duchon's funeral. He said he and Duchon had been downstate doing “All State things," and when they got home and Duchon was dropping off Diedrich, he said, “I want to tell you something.” Diedrich figured he would finally hear how good it was to have him on the team. But Duchon said, “Did you notice that we didn’t hit any traffic lights on Roosevelt Road?"
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