HOW DID I GET HERE? – Tim Lester


I grew up in a very tight-knit, family town. I think it was (a question) on Jeopardy (once) for having more churches per capita than anywhere else in the world.

We also love our football in Wheaton. Harold “Red” Grange was from Wheaton. He was arguably the best college football player of all time—people called him “The Galloping Ghost.” We all tried to live up to his legacy. Starting in 1988 there was a 22-year stretch when we were in eleven state championships; I was proud to be a part of that.


I played high school football from 1991 to 1994. I was so lucky, mostly because I had John Thorne as a coach. He was the best coach I have ever been around, still to this day. He’s in every hall of fame possible, but he never talked about winning because character and integrity were much more important.

Because I was surrounded by terrific teammates and coaches, a lot of opportunities opened up. I used to dream about where I would play after high school. I wanted to go to the University of Florida, UCLA, Nebraska, or any of the other places that were sending me offers. Everything changed my senior year when I blew my knee out during the second-to-last game of the season. I was so frustrated with the timing that I tricked the trainer into letting me play the final game. That lasted four plays before it happened again and I needed surgery.

A few of schools like Penn State and West Virginia stayed with me through the injury. But I needed to re-evaluate my options, especially when all the Mid-American Conference (MAC) schools that initially thought I wouldn’t be interested started calling me. I realized that I had to change my priorities; I decided to base my decision not on prestige, but on people and environment.