Veteran Indianapolis attorney Rob Doyle sees no end of 70-hour workweeks, but now less of that time will be at his law office and more will be on the sidelines at Bishop Chatard High School.
At least that’s the game plan for the Trojans’ new varsity football coach.
“It was difficult and easy,” Doyle said of succeeding longtime coach Vince Lorenzano, who retired after last season. “I did not know if this opportunity would ever arise, but when it did, a lot of soul-searching went on, and a lot of discussions with people I love.”
The tough part was committing himself to cutting back the time he’s put in over the past 32 years building what he called a flourishing insurance defense practice at Due Doyle Fanning & Alderfer LLP. Doyle is adopting “at the very least, a slowdown strategy” at work.
The easy part was the comfortable certainty that it was the right move for himself and his family.
“We have great kids and great families,” Doyle said of Chatard. “I love football and I love coaching. … It was something that was just really hard to pass up.”
Doyle’s no stranger to Chatard football, having coached freshman teams and assisted the varsity for more than a dozen years. “I think continuity is a big thing,” he said. “I am a known quantity to them, they are a known quantity to me.”
Another known quantity: the great expectations that come with Chatard football. The Class 3A program is a powerhouse that’s accustomed to winning, and winning big. The Trojans have racked up nine state titles since 2000. No other Class 3A school has more than two state titles during that time. Chatard will host Circle City Conference rival Brebeuf Jesuit in its season opener Aug. 18.
“Coach Doyle is a very well-liked coach. The players will enjoy playing for him,” said Lorenzano, who coached Chatard to seven of those titles. “He should do very well.”
Preps to pros
Zack Martin and his younger brother Nick are Chatard products now in the National Football League. Zack is a Pro Bowl offensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys, and Nick is a lineman drafted last year by the Houston Texans, but who was sidelined his rookie year with an injury. Both have memories of Doyle being a key presence during their prep football days.
“I know he’s excited and he’s done a nice job bringing in some former players (as assistant coaches) who can really connect with the kids,” said Zack Martin, who himself returned to Chatard recently to drop in on practice. “He’s an extremely bright coach. That’s the first thing that pops out. … He knows what it’s about, how to win, and how to have fun doing it.” Zack, class of 2009, was part of two state championship teams while Doyle was an offensive coordinator.
Doyle’s offensive-minded approach has created a buzz around the program, Zack said.
Nick Martin, class of 2011, was part of a state championship team and still comes around too. Doyle was the freshman coach when Nick entered Chatard, and the younger Martin brother remembers Doyle being an inspiration for him and his teammates on and off the field.
“The first year of high school is where football kind of picks up,” Nick said. “He’s coaching first-year freshman football, and he ends up being a best friend for the rest of your life.
“He’s an intense guy, but he connects well with people,” Nick said. “He coaches you hard, but off the field, you can chat with him.”
Doyle recalled that he could see right away that Zack would be a beast as a lineman, and he remembered that Nick, as a freshman, still hadn’t quite grown into his size-16 shoes. But Doyle knew Nick would. He recognized burgeoning talent, even as he chuckled at the memory of the younger Martin brother — now 6 feet, 4 inches tall and 295 pounds — lobbying to play kicker.
“It’s really fun to see them progress,” Doyle said. “I tell the freshman kids, keep working, keep participating. You never know four years from now what you’re going to look like.”
But making a career in the NFL is the longest of long-shots, even from a program like Chatard. Still, Doyle said he’s proud of the scholarship opportunities many of his players receive from colleges such as DePauw, Wabash, Marian and the University of Indianapolis, where his son, Rob Jr., played.
Doyle names numerous people he once coached who played college ball at those schools and returned to Chatard as assistants. “They all have great jobs, they’re all extremely successful, and they’re volunteering their time to give back,” he said.
He’s grateful to have had great coaches and mentors in his own playing days, and his assistants bring that same positive energy. “You can’t really do this at the varsity level without assistance,” he said.
Running the option
Doyle also has had to count on the assistance of his firm team to figure out a way to effectively split his time between summer football practices and his law practice. A self-described legal grinder and a former quarterback at Andrean High School and DePauw University, he’s had to make calls on which matters to keep himself and which to hand off.
“I can still be involved,” he said, “but I don’t have to work all of it.” He’s cut back, for instance, on the amount of statewide travel, largely for mediations, that had been part of his practice in the past.
Doyle sees little daylight between his dual roles as lawyer and coach.
“It’s all teaching,” he said. “Instructing (clients) of the right way to do things, that’s no different from coaching. It comes down to sharing information with somebody else.”
Due Doyle Fanning & Alderfer partner Mike Huntine said Doyle already has transferred work to him and others, and the firm encouraged Doyle to take on his new position at Chatard.
But having worked with Doyle for 20 of his 30 years of practice, Huntine said, “I kind of doubt he’s going to cut back too much. He spends a lot of time on evenings and weekends devoted to both football and work. … He’s dedicated to making sure things succeed on both ends.”
Balancing a legal career and coaching youth football is a challenge that Dan Askren also is trying to manage. Askren assumed the duties of Fountain County prosecutor after elected officeholder Teryl Martin resigned. Askren also coaches the Attica Junior High School team, and he’s game to see if he still can.
“I’m going to try to do this, and after this season, I might have to make a decision whether I can continue to balance” his new duties as prosecutor with his coaching obligations.
Like Doyle, though, Askren’s heart is in coaching. He played center and was a first-team all-state Class A lineman for his hometown Attica team that reached the sectional championship. Coaching kids ages 12-14, he said, teaches patience and can be a welcome change.
“Some days, you have to deal with things that aren’t that great in a courtroom. It’s nice to go outside and work with kids and be a positive influence on them,” Askren said. “I think the nice correlation between football and life is, things happen very quickly, and they’re not always going to go your way.”
He said football teaches the importance of handling your responsibilities, taking care of your teammates, and being there to pick each other up. Askren’s approach is working: In the last three years, his Red Ramblers have lost just one game — “the last year being the most impressive because we accomplished that feat with only having 12 total team members,” he said.
Doyle downplays his challenges of balancing work with pursuing a passion. Like Askren, he said he’s just trying to give back.
“Lots of lawyers do lots of great things in the community, many more so than me,” he said. “I found something I love to do that I think helps young men. … This is just an extension of what we’re all trying to do, each in our own way.”•