Harvard picks former Kewanee coach Brad Swanson as its new coach

Hornets finished 0-9 last season

Harvard football coach Brad Swanson.

Brad Swanson took over as Kewanee’s football coach in 2019, and his Boilermakers teams went 22-13 with two Class 4A playoff appearances in four seasons that he ran the program.

Swanson hopes he can bring similar success to Harvard, where his hiring was announced last week. Swanson will teach P.E. and be head football coach, taking over for Sean Saylor, who resigned after nine seasons with the Hornets.

“Harvard needs a little juice, a new face, to kind of get things rolling. I’m still young and energized.”

—  Brad Swanson, Harvard football coach

“I had some success at Kewanee. I energized the kids, the school and the community,” Swanson said. “Harvard needs a little juice, a new face, to kind of get things rolling. I’m still young and energized.”

Swanson’s wife, Bridgette, grew up in Morton Grove and attended Resurrection. The Swansons have three children: son Patrick (8) and daughters Casey (6) and Grace (4). They wanted to move closer to Bridgette’s family, so Swanson applied for the Harvard job. Bridgette is looking for an elementary teaching job.

Swanson met with the Hornets last week and had their first workout together Monday morning. Most of Saylor’s staff will stay on with Swanson.

“We’re making the transition. We’ve had a couple meetings, I haven’t talked too much X’s and O’s type of stuff, but that’s coming up shortly,” Swanson said. “I’m real excited to get started. We had a nice turnout [Monday]. They all worked hard, it was a good session. We’re getting that ball rolling.”

Swanson, 38, played football at Toulon Stark County and Monmouth College, where he was a defensive lineman. He got his first job at Galesburg High School, where he was an assistant football coach and head softball coach.

Kewanee made the playoff quarterfinals in 2019 (7-4) and 2021 (9-2) under Swanson’s guidance.

Saylor took over Harvard’s program in 2014 after longtime coach Tim Haak, an Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Famer, retired. Haak was 173-108 in 28 seasons.

Saylor’s teams were 15-63 in nine seasons. His best teams were in 2015 (3-6) and 2019 (4-5). The Hornets were 0-9 last season and struggled offensively, scoring 69 total points.

“It’s a big task, and I’m excited to tackle it,” Swanson said.