CHICAGO (CBS) — A retiring southwest suburban teacher and soccer coach was surprised Sunday with round trip tickets to Los Angeles to attend the ESPY Awards in July.
Brian Papa, 63, has been a teacher since 1978, and has taught and coached at Rich Central High School in Olympia Fields, Bloom High School in Chicago Heights, Sandburg High School in Orland Park, and currently at Lincoln-Way East High School in Frankfort.
On Sunday, the PepsiCo Showdown high school soccer tournament and the non-profit Buddy’s HELPERS surprised Papa with two roundtrip tickets to L.A. and two tickets to the ESPY Awards at the Microsoft Theater.
“Shocked mean anything to you? I was totally, totally taken off-guard. I never expected anything like this from anybody,” he told WBBM Newsradio. “I’m speechless.”
According to the Daily Southtown, Papa has more than 700 wins as a coach, making him the most successful high school soccer coach in Southland history. He has a 452-212-36 record as a boys coach and a 336-216-33 record as a girls coach; one of only three coaches in state history to win more than 300 games in both boys and girls soccer.
The tickets were an honor for Papa’s efforts to make a difference both on and off the field. In addition to teaching and coaching, Papa has performed extensive charity work during his 38-year career.
“I hope the community is proud of what I’ve done. It might not have gone in wins and losses, or anything like that – you know, winning state championships – but I think with all the hard work that we do behind the scenes, me and my coaching staff,” he said. “This award, it’s not for me, it’s an award that comes from all of my coaches, and the guys that have been my assistants, because it’s just as much their honor as my honor.”
Papa also thanked all the kids and parents he’s worked with over the years.
“Without kids buying in to what you’re doing, you would never be coaching for that many years. They obviously are appreciative, and they work hard; and then you’ve got your parents’ support. It goes all the way around. Nothing would last this long if you didn’t have any of the things that I’ve mentioned,” he said.
No matter which athletes Papa might meet at the ESPY Awards, he said he expects he’ll be so star-struck, he won’t be able to ask for any autographs, because he’ll be so nervous.