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Coaches Confessions with Gary Griffin

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 11:34 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - A Rockford Lutheran football star takes his talents from the gridiron to the sidelines. Gary Griffin says lessons he learned as a player help him lead the program at east high school.

“What’s relevant to me is that we’re winning every day because our kids show up for school,” Griffin said. “Our kids are doing everything they’re supposed to do in the classroom, the hallways and we’re sending our kids to college.”

At least that is the goal for East High School’s head football coach. Griffin is the current athletic director and loves watching his players move to the next level.

“The biggest win is that guys can see a kid who played eight games in high school is collecting a check on Tuesdays,” Griffin said.

That kid is Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Robert Jones. Years back Griffin told Jones he could make it to the NFL, it’s a place Griffin himself knows a thing or two about.

“I left school early to chase that dream I was in camp with the Saints in 92,” Griffin said. “When I got released by them I came back home and just started playing minor league football.”

Before his big opportunity, Griffin spent time in the 815. He transferred to Lutheran his junior year and says he didn’t pick up a football until the following season.

“I was bigger faster and stronger than everybody else so I had a very very successful high school career,” Griffin said.

Griffin then found a home away from home at Concordia University in Wisconsin.

“My 1990 team is going into the Hall of Fame In October,” Griffin said. “I went into the Hall of Fame there as an individual three or four years ago.”

For the past seven seasons Griffin has led the E-Rabs on the gridiron. He’s racked up more wins than the last three coaches combined. He says success on the field is secondary to any success with his students.

“We want to be able to give kids a path to follow,” Griffin said.

A 24-year coaching career comes with challenges, but Griffin says there are none bigger than the loss of a player.

“You hear it all the time that tomorrow’s not promised those kinds of things and it’s factual but you don’t realize it’s factual until something like that happens to you,” Griffin said.

East’s Mason Hada died in a car crash just days before this season’s opener. Griffin says community support meant a lot, but everyone in red and black misses number 45.

“The outpour for the family and for this young man has been amazing,” Griffin said. “It’s been great and we’re happy to be a part of it but man we’d trade it back for anything.”

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