Michael Wynn, respected college and high school coach, dies at 67

Chicago Tribune
The late Michael Wynn was a college and high school football coach and later a popular dean in Evanston.

Michael Wynn, a star football player at Evanston Township High School during the mid-1960s, played defensive end at the University of Nebraska and was drafted in the eighth round of the 1970 NFL draft by the Oakland Raiders.

Injuries derailed his dreams of an NFL career before it really got started. He remained active in football, though, working on the coaching staff at several colleges before returning to Evanston Township High School, where he was a teacher, a coach and a popular dean.

"He was a strong, gentle giant of a man, who had a powerful impact on the lives of so many of us," said Evanston Township athletic director Chris Livatino, who played on a school team coached by Mr. Wynn. "He was an inspiration through his own example. He wasn't afraid to show us how much he cared or do the tough things necessary because he expected more of us, and that was a powerful message for kids our age."

Mr. Wynn, 67, who retired in 2003, died of congestive heart disease Wednesday, Dec. 10, at Evanston Hospital.

"Mike taught me more in those four short years than some people learn in a lifetime," Livatino said. "He showed me how to live a good life, no matter what the challenges I faced."

In 1987, Mr. Wynn and his wife Marcia's fourth-grade son, Justin, drowned in a swimming pool. The couple started a nonprofit with the sole purpose of instilling in young people the virtues they felt their late son embodied — citizenship, leadership and sportsmanship.

In the decades that followed, the Justin Wynn Leadership Academy has touched the lives of hundreds of Evanston schoolchildren.

"They wanted to honor Justin, while at the same time help children his age realize their own potential," said Mr. Wynn's daughter Kelli Wynn-Smith.

Born and raised in Evanston, Mr. Wynn was the youngest of six children. An outstanding athlete, he lettered in football, basketball and track at Evanston Township, where he was the state champion in discus and earned a scholarship to play football at Nebraska

"I knew he had something special from the moment we met," said college roommate Louis Cooper Jr. "It was the way he carried himself, his leadership skills, and the compassion and kindness he had toward everyone. People who knew him wanted to be like Mike."

Mr. Wynn was a member of the football coaching staff at Northwestern University, Purdue University, University of Minnesota and the University of Missouri, before returning to Evanston in 1985 and joining the faculty at Evanston Township. He retired in 2003 and moved with his wife to Florida, where the couple lived until 2009, when they returned to Evanston.

His wife died in 2011.

Mr. Wynn is also survived by two other daughters, Laura and Riian; two sisters, Rosalie Watson and Anna Leatherwood; three brothers, Karl Muhammad, Zenus and Melvin; and five grandchildren.

Services were held.

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