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Burlington Central coach Brian Melvin heads to Judson University as assistant

Burlington Central Head Coach Brian Melvin directs his team during a practice at Prairie Knolls Middle School in Elgin in 2018.

As a kid growing up in Elgin, Brian Melvin dreamed about his hometown having a college football team.

Judson University just completed its first season in NAIA football and Melvin, the head coach at Burlington Central for the past six seasons, will now be a part of college football in Elgin.

Melvin told his Rockets players on Tuesday he was resigning to take a position at Judson as associate head coach and director of football operations.

Melvin’s Burlington Central teams were 18-32 in his six years, although the last three came in the Fox Valley Conference, where the Rockets (enrollment of 1,209) are the smallest school by a wide margin. Prairie Ridge (1,338) was the next-smallest this year, while most are several hundred larger than Burlington.

“All my life, all I ever wanted was for Elgin to have a college football team,” Melvin said. “They do now and I feel so passionately about the sports history of Elgin that I just couldn’t pass this up. It’s literally all I’ve wanted since I’ve been a kid.

“As a kid I would sit outside and listen to the PA announcer at Memorial Stadium and act like I was an Elgin Maroon. I ended up going to Larkin. My first coaching job was at Elgin. I have to do this. It was such a hard decision.”

Melvin took the Rockets to 3-6 seasons in each of their last two full seasons in the FVC. They were 1-4 in the 2021 abbreviated spring season.

Still, in one of the state’s best conferences – the FVC sent four teams to playoff quarterfinals last season and Cary-Grove won the Class 6A state title – Burlington Central competed.

Melvin tweeted his picture and a statement on Tuesday after talking with the team. He will stay at Burlington Central as a counselor. He thanked the administration, the board of education, the custodial staff, parents, boosters, players and staff. He felt like he is leaving the program in good shape.

“I will be proudest that I’m leaving this program with 110 kids,” Melvin said. “I’d average 50 or 60 a year. We’d just keep pounding the pavement, my coaching staff built this great relationship with our feeder program. It took some time, but we got on the same page.

“All of a sudden, in the summer, we have four levels of football and 110 kids in the program and not enough helmets. We were scrambling at the end of the summer trying to get helmets. That was just crazy, crazy, crazy.”

Melvin said that Burlington’s fast-growing district could mean it is not the smallest team in the FVC much longer.

Judson announced it would start a football team in 2018. Head coach Dan Paplaczyk took the Eagles to a 4-7 season last fall.

“I wanted to stay, but this opportunity arose,” Melvin said. “My job is to come in and help them build their culture. That’s what they asked me to do. That’s what I’m really good at. I’m hoping it translates to the college world. I’m very humbled.”