Retired NFL player finds true calling
Pete Solverson, owner of Be Safe Driving School in Lake Zurich, teaches a class last week with student Jessica Kwak, 15, of Lake Zurich following along. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media
For more information on Be Safe Driving School visit www.besafedrivingschool.com.
Updated: December 23, 2012 6:15AM
LAKE ZURICH — Thorwald Solverson — better known as Pete —had always been a team player.
So when his wife suggested he open a driving school in Lake Zurich last year, he jumped at the chance. Less than a year later, he opened and began teaching at Be Safe Driving School at 45 S. Old Rand Road.
“I’m not here to compete against the high school; I’m here to give the students alternative options to accommodate their busy schedules,” Solverson said.
As a former football coach and NFL player, Solverson had long been aware that those in sports and extracurricular activities have historically struggled to accommodate their high school’s more limiting driver’s education schedule.
He decided to open Be Safe Driving School within walking distance of Lake Zurich High School to better suit the needs of those students, and has for nearly six months been embedding the phrase “be safe out there” into their subconscious.
“I am more of a coach, in that I’m more up front when I talk to them,” Solverson said. “They’re young adults, and they have responsibilities — and this is a big responsibility.”
Before he was a youth football coach, however, he was a player.
Solverson played football for all four years of college at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and was later drafted to play for the Los Angeles Rams in 1974. His run as the Rams’ offensive tackle ended when he went to play for the World Football League in 1975. When the WFL folded that year, Solverson played with the Washington Redskins until a knee injury ended his pro days for good in 1976.
Solverson grew up in Wisconsin before heading to Iowa and Drake University. He was drafted by the Rams in 1974 and then went to play in Hawaii after being cut from the team. In 1976, he signed with the Washington Redskins. When he blew out his knee, his football career was over.
Prior to his current role, Solverson had spent nearly 20 years managing groups of employees in the mortgage banking business; but the Port Barrington resident and father of five ultimately left in 2011 when he decided he’d be happiest as a coach or teacher.
Solverson and his wife later agreed that opening a driving school would be a fitting move for both themselves and the students in the community who couldn’t take their high school’s driver’s education class, and didn’t want to drive far to get it elsewhere.
Because high school dismissal is typically around 3:15 p.m., Solverson decided to have one of his classes begin at 4 p.m. so that students would have ample time to walk over without having to rush.
Be Safe currently runs two four-week classes, both taught by Solverson: 4 to 6 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Because he adjusts to the overall needs of the students, Solverson said that he’s offered weekend classes that were better-suited for students that were heavily involved in sports, although it required the course to extend beyond 4 weeks.
The now-retired NFL player added that he’d be revamping the schedule after January to better suit the needs of more than one type of busy schedule.