It’s a longstanding phrase that stability is a sign of a successful program. The Fulton Steamers are a standing testament to that.
Throughout the five decades that Fulton High School has hosted a football program, there have only been a total of four head coaches. That’s something that current head coach Patrick Lower takes a lot of pride in. So does the program.
“If you come to a game, you still see the same colors, same helmets, same jerseys,” Lower said. “It’s the same, and we like that tradition. We want the tradition of hard nose, four quarters of physical football. We like to hang our hats on that and that’s the style we like to play.
“I’ve been at Fulton for 20 years now, and there are some schools that have had 5, 6, 7 coaches in that amount of time. We’re proud of the fact that we have that tradition and think it’s special.”
It definitely is special. Going back to the beginning, Dale Giesler started things out in 1968 and coached for 14 seasons, leading the 1976 Steamers to be Illinois State 2A State Champions.
Jim Proud took over in 1983 but only for one year. Al Schuitema took the reigns for the next four years before passing the job back to Proud.
Proud took the head coach job in 1989 and led the 1991 team to be the 2A State Champions once again. He stayed in the position for 17 years. That’s when current head coach Patrick Lower took over.
The board at the North end of the field shows the playoff appearances the Steamers have made in that time, and it’s another testament to their success.
“It’s really neat and comforting to know we all had a part in it,” Lower said. “When you look up at that playoff board, that’s one of the reasons we started that — to show the tradition. I’m so proud of the program.”
Part of it definitely is the consistency in play. From year to year, athletes see the same style, the same faces and even the same plays.
Add in anotherelement: each head coach has served on the staff of the one before him. The consistency from year to year over the last 50 years at Fulton High School is unheard of.
“That’s the great thing,” Lower said. “Whether it was 1968 when Dale Giesler took over or now in 2018, we still run somewhat of the same plays. Dale Giesler really brought the wingback counter to Fulton, and we run a modern version of that. Coach Proud ran that a lot and we run it a little different.
“It’s all in the family basically.”
Family is exactly what it is for Lower and his staff. You can tell, even from the sidelines, that the group is close-knit and cohesive.
Lower guesses that they have been together for 15 years of more. That includes coaches Derek Germann, Dave Curley, Jess Hoese and Dan Wilkens.
The school keeps that tradition alive. You know exactly what to expect when you go to a Steamers football game from the excitement in the crowd, the style of play or the steamboat heading down the straightaway after each touchdown.
The entire Steamer community is a tradition in itself.
“We talk about that,” Lower said. “Once you’re with us, you’re with us forever. You’re welcome anytime on our sidelines.”