Jerry Guse has coached in the Rockford area for more than 20 years. This past summer he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but that hasn't stopped him from staying on the Rockford Lutheran bench, helping his sons Tom and Mark coach the Crusaders.
"He's my dad so it's been a year that's been very difficult," Lutheran head coach Tom Guse said. "But at the same time my dad's just proven to be the winner that he's been by showing these kids by example how to live each day. They're getting a lot of life lessons by the way he carries himself everyday and the attitude he brings to every single day."
"He's fighting just as much as we are, probably even more," Lutheran sophomore Nate Wieting said. "Seeing that from him day in and day out, that has given us a lot of inspiration."
The kids enjoy having the elder statesman in the huddle.
"They love him," Tom Guse said. "They call him Grandpa. Every once in awhile I'll just let him talk. It seems like sometimes they listen to him more than me."
"He's meant a lot," Crusader senior Terance Roby said. "He's shown us that you can conquer anything as long as you try and you work hard at it. You can't let it stop you from doing whatever you want to do."
What the Crusaders want to do is win a 3-A Freeport Sectional title Friday night, which just happens to be Jerry's 66th birthday.
"If we win a Sectional title then I can take my gift back," Tom Guse said. "He'd just rather have a plaque. It would mean a ton. For him it's not about winning. It never has been. It's about these guys having fun. That's what he's preached for 20-plus years of coaching is we're just going to go have fun."
"He's a big inspiration to our team," Lutheran junior Thomas Kopelman said. "Seeing how he is such a trooper and he makes it out to every game really just inspires us to work harder out there knowing that he's going through a lot harder times than us. We shouldn't be complaining about soreness or anything. We should be able to push ourselves just like he does."
The Crusaders believe they can push themselves all the way to state. And they also believe in coach Jerry Guse.
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