At the beginning of the summer, Evanston football coach Mike Burzawa and two members of his coaching staff, Steve King and Ryan Healy, attended a clinic in Lake Forest.
Burzawa said he wrote down a quote he heard from Bears coach Marc Trestman that day: “What you do for others, lives forever. What you do for yourself, dies with you.”
An emotional Burzawa recalled the quote Monday afternoon as he spoke about King, a man that Burzawa said was defined by his selflessness. King, the Wildkits’ defensive coordinator, died Friday after suffering a massive heart attack while working out at the McGaw YMCA in Evanston. King would have turned 41 on July 27. He leaves behind wife Philina and daughters Payton and Kiana.
Burzawa and King had worked side-by-side since Burzawa took over the Wildkits program in 2008. King began coaching at the school in 2005.
Burzawa described his relationship with King as “like brothers,” while many current and former Wildkits called King a “father figure.” The overwhelming sentiment among those who knew and worked with King is that his passing is a major loss to the football program, the high school community and the entire city of Evanston.
“[King] was one of the most selfless, humble guys I knew,” Burzawa said. “Steve touched so many lives in just under a decade at the high school. He was an unbelievable role model to every one of our players. He’s going to be sorely missed.”
A native of Riviera Beach, Florida, and a four-year letterman as a strong safety at Michigan (1993-96), King’s football knowledge, game-planning and motivational skills were instrumental in Evanston’s recent on-field success, according to Burzawa. The Wildkits have made the Class 8A playoffs in four straight seasons.
Burzawa was quick to point out that King’s X’s and O’s contributions, though significant, were only a small part of why he was so special.
Increased numbers within the football program and improved team-wide academics are part of the legacy left by King, who previously served as an academic advisor to Northwestern student-athletes.
Since November, King’s day job had been as the sports and family manager at the McGaw YMCA. The position allowed him to coordinate recreational programs to benefit Evanston youth. It also gave him proximity to the high school and a flexible schedule, which helped him devote plenty of attention to the football program.
“Steve made one career choice after another that 100 percent revolved around his ability to continue to coach,” Evanston athletic director Chris Livatino said. “[He did this] not just because he liked football, but because he loved kids and wanted to help make them better people.”
Colleagues described King as a disciplinarian, who was a direct, tough coach. However, they said he also was the first one to put his arm around a kid and offer encouragement when walking off the field.
Even though King didn’t always tell kids what they wanted to hear, he garnered plenty of admiration and respect from his players.
Keith Woodson, a 2006 Evanston graduate who is now a part of the Wildkits football coaching staff, said King helped to change his life.
“My senior year was his first year as coach. He pretty much took me under his wing, showed me a lot of attention in and outside football,” said Woodson, who went on to play football at Lakeland (Wisconsin) College and graduated with a degree in exercise science. “I tell a lot of people that if it were not for him, I would not have gone to college, or be the type of person I am or the type of coach I am. He was a father figure. I know he touched a lot of lives.”
Viewing: It will be held from 4-9 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday at A.A. Raynor & Sons, 318 E. 71st St., Chicago.
Memorial Service: It is scheduled for Saturday at First United Methodist Church, 516 Church St., Evanston. Family hour from 10-11 a.m. and funeral at 11 a.m.
Donations: They will be accepted at the memorial service or they can be mailed. Make checks payable to “Steve King Memorial Fund.” Check can be mailed to Steve King Memorial Fund, c/o, First Bank & Trust, 820 Church Street, Evanston, 60201.
Parade: All current and former Evanston football players whose lives were touched by King are invited to march together in his honor in Friday’s Evanston Fourth of July Parade. Participants are asked to gather at 1:15 p.m. at Bent Park.