EFFINGHAM — Tony Pullen's first job was in the Shelbyville school district and he's been a staple there for the last 20 years.
Now, the current athletic director and assistant principal at both Shelbyville High School and Moulton Middle School is going home. Pullen has accepted the assistant principal job at Effingham High School, where he graduated from in 1993.
“I wasn’t actively looking to leave Shelbyville,” Pullen said. “It is like Kevin Ross (former Shelbyville superintendent) said when he went to his hometown of Marshall: It was going to take the one position for me to take it, and that was it.”
Pullen, a Lake Land and Eastern Illinois graduate, said he had some friends tell him the Effingham position was opening up and the Effingham Unit 40 school board voted to hire Pullen at its last school board meeting. He takes over July 1.
“I talked with my wife and family,” said Pullen. “My mom still lives in Effingham and has lived there quite a while. So, it was family, professional and personal reasons that I took the job.”
Pullen replaces David Gillean, who will resign from the high school assistant principal position at the end of the current school year.
Pullen's roots in Shelbyville are deep and he did his student teaching in the district before accepting his first job.
“Kenny Schwengel (former principal) called me into his office and offered me the position of a social science teacher,” said Pullen. “I took it and started off as a freshman football coach and junior varsity baseball coach under Bob Herdes for two years.”
Pullen taught for eight years before being named the high school assistant principal and athletic director for the middle school and high school 12 years ago. He was the baseball coach for six years, an assistant football coach for four years as well as the junior high baseball coach.
In baseball Pullen, a former Lake Land player, never had a losing season going 120-57 (.678) from 2003-2008, including back-to-back Class A (in the two-class system) sectional titles in 2005 and 2006 and three straight regional titles (2005-2007), including the 28-3 team in 2006.
"I was fortunate to have some really talented kids," said Pullen.
When asked if Pullen thought he would be at Shelbyville this long he said, “20 years is a long time. I enjoyed every minute of it. My kids graduated from here. I appreciate everything Shelbyville did for me. I worked with wonderful administration and teachers. There are a lot of good families in Shelbyville. I deal with discipline issues and we were fortunate not to have many issues. There are a lot of good kids in Shelbyville.”
One of the things Pullen is most proud of that he did in his tenure was revamp the Shelbyville Hall of Fame, which continues to this day.
“The hall of fame dated back to early 80s and there was nothing before that,” said Pullen. “We developed a hall of fame committee to look at past individuals and what criteria should be to make the hall of fame. We started with Herman Wortman, who graduated in the 1920’s and we had the initial banquet with the revamped hall of fame and had 160 families and each member or family member received a plaque."
The student-athletes are inducted in the fall or winter after graduating depending on their schedules at a football or basketball game and their names and accomplishments go on the touch screen in the hallway just outside of the gym. The list is also available online.
Pullen spent the summer going through yearbooks and scanning photos and talking to the hall of fame members or families of the hall of fame members.
“It wasn’t just me,” said Pullen. “The committee includes retired coaches, community members that have been around Shelbyville athletics. It was a proud moment for me.”
During his 12 years as athletic director he saw the Rams football team reach the Final Four twice (Class 2A in 2016 and 2017), the volleyball team place fourth in state (Class 2A in 2015), the softball team finish second (2011), and the boys cross country team place third in 2012 and second in 2015. Many wrestlers competed at state as well as boys and girls track individuals.
“I enjoyed my relationships with the coaches and student-athletes,” said Pullen. “I have a lot of close friends that I still talk with and I have had 20 years of relationships that will be life-long relationships.”
Mike Monahan's memorable stories from 2019
Contact Mike Monahan at (217)-238-6854. Follow him on Twitter: @monahanmikejgtc
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