CHAMPAIGN — Adrian Perez never imagined himself becoming a high school athletic director, and his career path to this point didn't really suggest the possibility.
The 1998 Fenton graduate and former Illinois Wesleyan football player previously served as manager of two group homes for adults with developmental disabilities, basketball coach at Cornerstone Christian Academy in Sycamore and most recently, program services director at Champaign's Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club.
"I enjoyed my time coaching," Perez said. "I thought that's what I was going to do."
But when Judah Christian hired Perez's wife, Danielle, as its director of admissions in June 2017, Adrian learned a great deal about the Tribe's administrative staff.
He liked what he heard and saw, too. So when Judah's athletic director position opened up earlier this year, Perez gave serious consideration to applying.
"I really thought about it, prayed about it, talked with my wife a lot about it," Perez said. "(I liked) their missions and their values and just being able to be a part of that team, and being able to cultivate and create an environment where our kids can learn from a Christian perspective."
Turns out, Tribe officials liked what they saw in Perez as well.
They've tabbed him as Judah's new AD, taking over for Paul Schotz following Schotz's four years of athletics leadership.
"I'm super excited," Perez said. "I'm excited for this opportunity to be a part of Judah and what (superintendent) Mike (Chitty) is leading us to doing and what we're trying to accomplish."
Perez has jumped into a busy time in Judah sports history.
The Tribe is preparing for its first-ever football season within the new Eight-Man League, as well as its inaugural wrestling campaign.
Additionally, funding is being secured for a larger campus closer to the institution's Field of Dreams, an athletic facility in southwest Champaign about six miles from Judah's present location along Prospect Avenue.
"(I want to give kids) an opportunity to grow, to be able to create an experience for our kids," Perez said. "(I want our kids) to be able to develop character, and their identity is not in a sport, but in Christ."
Perez's own athletic background exists not only in football, but also in basketball and track.
This is fitting, considering Tribe boys' hoops captured its first-ever regional title earlier this year, and recent Judah graduate Laura Krasa won a Class 1A state championship in the 3,200-meter run as well.
Some of Perez's first efforts as AD have gone toward working with football coach Nate Albaugh as the Tribe tries to rise in the prep football ranks.
"Being able to be out there cheering on our team, encouraging them through this transition (is important)," Perez said. "(We hope) to be able to create a culture where ... we grow to a point where we can play 11-man football."
Danielle Perez has moved on from Judah to an on-air personality spot with Champaign's WBGL radio.
The couple's daughter and son — fourth-grader Isabella and second-grader Sammy — still count themselves among the Tribe family.
That last word is a critical one to Adrian Perez. It sealed the deal for him when pondering whether or not this was a job he truly pined for.
"Just seeing the joy that (Judah officials) have to serve our youth — as a parent, from the outside looking in, you don't have those opportunities to always see that," he said. "But to see it on a daily basis, to see the energy and the work that everybody puts in to provide a quality education for our kids ... is just great."