QUINCY -- The news didn't take the Quincy Notre Dame football players by surprise, but that doesn't mean it wasn't any less disappointing.
About 8:30 a.m. Friday, 30 minutes before Bill Connell announced publicly he was resigning after 26 years as the QND football coach, he gathered his players to deliver the news personally.
"It wasn't a huge shock," junior lineman Jonny Bottorff said. "We all knew when Jackson (Connell, a senior linebacker and Bill Connell's son) graduated, it could happen. He's been here so long and done so much for so many kids.
"It's hard to see him go, but you have to look toward the future. I know they'll find the right guy to replace him. I have full faith in that."
Connell's resignation had been widely speculated since the Raiders' season ended Oct. 27 with a Class 4A first-round playoff loss at Highland, but the 49-year-old coach mulled over his decision while his son weighed his college options.
Jackson Connell committed to play at Quincy University two weeks ago, and his father's decision soon followed.
When he walked into the QND library Friday morning to talk about his decision, the room was filled with players, current and former assistant coaches, parents and boosters who showed their appreciation for a coach who changed the culture of QND football.
Connell compiled a record of 186-91 in 26 seasons while leading the Raiders to the playoffs 21 times, including a stretch of 13 consecutive years from 2003-2015.
"It was great playing for him," said Bottorff, a 6-foot-4, 290-pounder who is receiving NCAA Division I recruiting interest and will anchor the offensive line next season. "There's not a day he doesn't bring energy to practice. There's not a day he's not ready. He's always there. He's always on time.
"He's always there on game day. It's always routine. He's probably the most consistent person in the world I will ever meet. He always had us ready, and that's something I will never forget about him."
It won't be easy to forget him. Connell will remain as the school's athletic director and dean of students and made it clear he wasn't retiring.
It opens the door for a return to coaching once his children are done with college athletics. His 20-year-old daughter, Shelby, is a sophomore at John Wood Community College and will be making her decision where to continue her basketball career soon.
For now, he wants to hunt, fish and be a family man as much as possible.
The reaction to that on social media was overwhelmingly positive and grateful. Coaches from around the area expressed their appreciation on social media.
"He is a fierce competitor and great leader. He leaves a great legacy," wrote Quincy High School coach Rick Little.
Bowling Green coach Kevin Krietemeyer wrote, "You have been instrumental to growth in our area!"
College coaches chimed in as well.
"The countless lives you touched will be forever grateful," Culver-Stockton College coach Tom Sallay wrote.
The most telling sign of Connell's impact was the reaction from his former players.
"He taught me and hundreds of others about football and life. I will miss his bellowing screams across the field on Friday nights," wrote Ryan Wiemelt, a QND graduate and assistant coach at QHS.
Jack Cornell, an assistant coach at C-SC, a former NFL player and a QND graduate wrote, "A lot of players and families owe a great debt of gratitude to Coach Connell and what he has done for Quincy Notre Dame. Coach, thank you so much for everything you have done for all of us and for everything you will continue to do."