MOUNT CARMEL -- When Kyle Buss moved away nearly two hours to attend Eastern Illinois University, he was leaving behind a city that he's only ever known and a tremendous amount of childhood memories.
Growing up as a three-sport athlete, Buss starred on the Mount Carmel football, baseball and basketball teams and was highly successful on each of the three. On the football team Buss was an All-State quarterback for a team that reached the 2007 IHSA Class 4A State Semifinal prior to a 35-34 nail-biter loss to Bloomington Central. A late Saints score in the waning seconds propelled Central Catholic past the Aces, leaving the Aces with a bitter taste in their mouth, thinking of what could have been and just one-point separating them from a trip to Champaign, Ill.
His teams accomplished four regional championships between baseball and basketball, but Buss deems the memory of the fabled state semifinal football game as his fondest in his illustrious Mount Carmel sporting career -- though he wishes it could have ended differently.
"Playing wise, it was awesome to play in the semifinals of a football game," Buss recalled. "We were one-point away from a state championship [appearance], so kind of good but also something I wish I could change too I guess."
After his high school sporting career concluded, graduation soon followed. As aforementioned, Buss ventured into the unknown -- a place unfamiliar to him -- but a place he'd be spending his next four years.
DEPARTING EASTERN ILLINOIS
Buss departed Charleston, Ill. after four years, graduating from Eastern Illinois with a Bachelor's in Physical Education and a minor in health.
For Buss, there wasn't much doubt about where his next chapter would be. He'd return to the place he formerly called home, Mount Carmel.
"The plan was always to come back here," Buss said. "I love the town so much, I love how close knit the community seems to be. At that time my brother was having kids so I was having new nephews. I kind of wanted to be around them, help bring them up and be around them a bunch. Right out of college the plan was to always come back here and find a fit for me in the teaching or a coaching role somewhere."
As he returned to Mount Carmel in 2012, Buss was seeking opportunities to get into teaching, and was eventually offered a position as a P.E. and health teacher at Allendale Elementary School -- a position he'd retain for the next seven years prior to being offered the same position in Mount Carmel.
"I loved it up in Allendale, it's awesome up there," Buss spoke of the Allendale community. "Great faculty, great staff, great kids, things like that. This spring, when we decided that I'd interview for one of the Mount Carmel jobs, we kind of knew then that I could get it, could not get it."
He was initially hired as a P.E. teacher and health teacher for Mount Carmel Elementary, though Buss is being shifted to the high school in some logistical personnel moves. Buss said the administration needs him the most at the high school at the moment.
HIS COMPETITIVE FIRE
Growing up in a household full of competitors, it's no wonder where Buss gets his competitive spirit from. Buss grew up with a host of other athletes and coaches, his mom, Kelly Buss, his dad, Tim Buss, his older brother, Tyler Buss, as well as his sister Tyra Buss. His success as an athlete can likely be somewhat attributed to his competitive fire.
"When we were all living together it was hard to have a day go by without doing something competitive," Buss said. "Whether it was basketball down in the basement, baseball, football out in the front yard, board games, card games, you name it. Anything we played we wanted to win.
He'd like to label himself as the fiercest competitor in the Buss household, but he thinks Tyra may have surpassed him in recent years. Tyra went on to star at Indiana University on the women's basketball team, becoming the Hoosiers' all-time leading scorer.
"I'd say myself, but I think Tyra has come a long way in that," Buss spoke of his sister. "She's always been competitive, but now even more so, if she loses she'll say ok, we got to play again until she wins. So it'll be something where you keep doing something until you get a taste of victory I guess. That's just something that's been instilled into us by our parents, wanting to be competitors and succeed at whatever it is we're doing."
As competitive as he is, a move to coaching after leaving Eastern Illinois seemed like a match made in heaven for Buss. As a quarterback in high school, many of the necessary skills needed in coaching were already exemplified.
"I was always wanted to coach and as soon as I got out of college I was just trying to find [something]," Buss recalled. "Tyler was the head coach here so that was easy, he needed some help so I wanted to help out there. Nick Hart was a good family friend of ours at Gibson Southern and he wanted some help, he had just gotten his job at Gibson Southern right when I got out of school, so they both called and asked. I figured if I was going to be at the school and be a physical education teacher, I think a good perk of that would be to help out on the athletics side of that as well."
He began his coaching career at Gibson Southern, residing as the defensive coordinator for the Titans football team. He also joined his brother, Tyler's coaching staff with the Mount Carmel High School boys basketball team -- among many more coaching ventures to come.
"That was one of the main reasons I wanted to do it," Buss added. "I've been coaching or playing sports since I was like three-years-old. It's just been something I've always done. . . . coaching is just one of my passions."
Buss would eventually shift over to Mount Carmel's football team for the same position, and would add head coach duties for the Mount Carmel High School softball team in 2016. Buss has already had tremendous success as the head coach of the Lady Aces, having led the program to its first regional championship since 2005 this past season.
He laughed when asked to name a sport his enjoys coaching the most, adding that he'd have to say softball to be politically correct, but enjoys all three that he coaches.
As defensive coordinator for the Aces football team you can see Buss's fiery competitive spirit in action. He's animated on the sideline, showing tremendous passion for the game, his players, and doing whatever he can to help push the Aces to an outcome in their favor.
"I just think the best way to play football is to be flying around and be having a good time, chest bumping your buddies after you make a good play and things like that," Buss spoke of his football coaching style. "I think I just try to bring as much energy -- I can't be on the field obviously -- but just to bring as much energy as I can to our players so that they realize hey, if you're going to be out there and you're not having fun doing what you're doing, why are we even playing? I think a lot of it is just trying to bring energy and have as much fun as we can while we're playing."
AN EXCITING FUTURE
On May 13, Tyler Buss was announced as the new assistant principal by the Mount Carmel High School School Board, leaving his previous post as athletic director to follow in his father's footsteps 30 years after his dad previously held the same position.
Buss commented that it's been pretty awesome how accepting the community has been to his family since his mom and dad picked up the bags and moved their family to Mount Carmel from Wisconsin around 35 years ago. Now, his family is a main fixture into Mount Carmel culture.
At first though, it was an unknown whether or not Tyler would maintain his AD duties, or if the position would be renounced and a search would follow -- ultimately the latter followed.
As the school board and school hierarchy opened the position for interviews, Buss applied for the position, hoping to follow in Tyler's footsteps. After weighing through several candidates and interviewing each, they donned Buss as the candidate to fill the position.
"When Tyler got the assistant principal job, I didn't know if that would actually open up the athletic director job or if he'd still do that, so there was a little bit of reshuffling of the administration and things like that," Buss said. "I didn't exactly know how it'd go down, but like I said, just being a coach and being around sports and athletics my whole life, that was just something I've always wanted to do. So I put my name in the hat and I'm thankful Mr. Newkirk, Mr. Bleyer and the school board decided that I'd be a good candidate for it. I can't wait to get started and do as good of a job as I can."
Buss felt he nailed the interview process for it, which consisted of a variety of hypothetical scenarios involving past situations which athletic directors have been in. With his lengthy sporting background, those were relatively easy to identify and come up with a solution. He does recognize there'll likely still be an adjustment period as the new athletic director, donning the responsibilities such as scheduling officials, being the communication method for game cancellations, postponements and more.
"I'm sure it'll be a little bit of an adjustment," Buss said. "With Tyler being the old AD, we'll have plenty of time to sit around and talk about the ins and outs, the dos and dont's so to speak. The athletic secretary Karin Kelsey does a great job, so she'll help me ease into the role, but Tyler already has some officials for next year and things like that, it's not like it's a complete blank slate. I'll come in and adjust some things that need adjusted and fill some things that need filled, but hopefully with the help of Karin and Tyler, it'll be a smooth transition."
He said he hasn't communicated with Tyler Buss for any advice yet on the new role, though those conversations will likely come as the school year nears.
All the while he's set to assume a new position as a teacher at the high school and as the athletic director, Kyle Buss has been in the process of planning for a wedding with his now wife, Paige Simpson.
Simpson went to USI, but attended Fairfield High School, at which she competed against Buss's younger sister, Tyra, in basketball. Buss met her one night, sent her a Facebook message and the rest was history.
It was an extremely busy time for him, trying to plan a wedding while maintaining his coaching duties throughout the year, but he said Simpson has been incredibly supportive and has done the majority of the work planning the wedding. For that, he's incredibly grateful.
"With the wedding coming up there was just a lot of changes going on," Buss spoke of the changes. "My fiancee had just changed her job, she was working different hours, there was a lot of change going on all the while we're still trying to plan a wedding. My fiancee, Paige, she's done 99 percent of the wedding planning, she's been running from Evansville and back everyday for work and still planning a wedding. She's done a great job of getting that stuff done while I'm still doing some coaching and things like that on the side. It's definitely been very busy and come Saturday I'm just glad that half of that will be over."
The pair tied the knot on Saturday (June 29) in Evansville, relieving at least some pressure off the pair, who are experiencing incredible change.
Despite his incredible passion for coaching and athletics, he knows he'll likely have to relinquish some of his coaching duties in the future as he begins his own family, adding that he's been trying to coach as much as he can prior to having to give it up.
"She has no problem with me being gone as much as I am with football, basketball, softball and now some supervision as the athletic director. I know I'm not going to be around as much as she probably wants and whenever we start having to have some kids I'm probably going to have to cut back on some of my coaching experiences," Buss laughed. "I'm trying to get as much coaching as I can now before I get pulled back a little bit."
For now though, amidst a variety of change, it's certainly an exciting time to be Kyle Buss.