BELOIT - Ted Soenksen is not only excited about having the opportunity to head his first football program, he's also glad it's in a place he knows very well.
As a Lake Forest College player, assistant coach and offensive coordinator, Soenksen has often matched up against the Beloit College Buccaneers.
As of Thursday, he became one. The College named Soenksen its 29th head football coach. His hiring was announced Athletic Director Tim Schmiechen and he will begin his duties on Monday.
"I'm looking forward to putting my stamp on a program as a head coach," Soenksen said. "A lot of coaches dream of that. I've been a coach since 2006 and it's been an exciting, crazy career to this point. I'm excited to get to the pinnacle where everything falls on you, both the good and the bad. Beloit and I seem to be a great fit. As a player and a coach, I've witnessed Beloit have success and solid teams and I believe we definitely have the opportunity to be there again."
The 2006 graduate of Lake Forest spent six seasons on the Forests' staff, the past four as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. He was named the associated head coach last season.
"We're very excited to have Coach Soenksen become our head football coach," said Schmiechen. "His success as an athlete, recruiter, and coach make him an outstanding addition to our department and extremely well suited to lead a program toward future success."
Soenksen knows a little about what it's like bringing a program to life. The Foresters were struggling, but recently have flourished.
"In 2014, Beloit beat Lake Forest and ended up with a 3-7 record," Soenksen said. "Lake Forest ended up 4-6. From that point, the teams have gone in different directions. But Beloit has had a lot of close losses. I know they were only 1-9 last fall, but there were at last four other games they were only a few bounces of the ball away from getting to the .500 mark. That's the hump we'll have to get over. The main goal right away will be to have our kids enjoy playing football and develop chemistry. We won't worry about the end result early on. We can't get caught up with that instead of the journey. We just need to work at improving every day and eventually that will pay off."
Soenksen's high-powered offense set the Lake Forest program record for yards per game in 2017 and scoring average in 2016. His offense has led to numerous Forester team and individual records as well as individual accolades.
"A lot of that had to do with our recruiting success," Soenksen said. "You're only as good as your players. I was a much better coordinator in 2017 when I had the conference player of the year at running back than a year later. You still have to find those players."
Soenksen has experience coaching tight ends, coordinating the run game, is certified in strength and conditioning and has also served as a recruiting coordinator. Previously, he had coaching experience at Limestone College, Briar Cliff University, Central Methodist University and MacMurray College.
"I was our primary recruiter in the Chicagoland area," he said. "We were a national recruiter and I'm sure Beloit will be to, but we really going to focus on our own backyard, Wisconsin and Illinois and basically a 200-mile radius. The key is finding the right fit of kid for Beloit. It's going to be a challenge finding guys who can handle the academic rigor Beloit offers and also be top quality football players."
He said maintaining the current roster will be key as well.
'As much as recruiting is important and I want to get on that, I want the 30 or so players we have coming back to buy into being a part of this team," he said. "The past two months could not have been easy on the players not having a head coach."
As a player, Soenksen was a four-year letterwinner and a two-year starter. One of his best friends, Dave Maggio, was a starting defensive back for the Bucs.
Soenksen went on to receive his Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Lake Forest in 2006 and Master of Education from Central Methodist in 2009,.
"I'm from the (Chicago) suburbs and my family still lives there," he said. "My dad lives in Vernon Hills. My sister lives in Grayslake. I'm not moving across the country. I enjoyed my interviews in Beloit and the people who have oversight at the college are people I feel I can work with and have a similar vision as to where Beloit is at and where they can get to. I didn't believe there were any unrealistic expectations on either side."
Soenksen said he also has to put a coaching staff together.
"There aren't a lot of coaches left from the old staff," he said. "I hope to work with Jeremy (Warren). He's an outstanding local coach who has insights to recruiting the area. Coach Canty is definitely someone I'm looking forward to working with, too. He has done the bulk of the recruiting the past two months."
Soenksen's family includes his wife Clare and 6-month-old son Teddy IV.
"This is an opportunity I could not pass up, to become a head coach of a school with a deep, rich tradition with a lot of winning in its history," he said. "The recent history has been a little rough, but I don't think that is going to continue if we work together as a football staff and recruit the right kind of guys who are a good fit for this school who'll be here four years and will go on to become successful graduates."