In a way, things have come full-circle for Brian Griffin.
Griffin was named the interim head football coach at Hinsdale Central on April 8. He is a 2003 graduate of the school and helped lead the Red Devils to the Class 8A state semifinals as a senior. He earned all-conference and all-state accolades that season.
Now, Griffin is a math teacher at his alma mater, and he’s been an assistant football coach there for 11 years. He had been the defensive coordinator for the last three seasons under head coach Dan Hartman, who recently left Hinsdale Central to become the head coach at Lyons.
To say Griffin is excited about leading the football program — even on an interim basis — would surely be an understatement.
“It’s one of those things where it’s something I always wanted to do,” Griffin said. “Once I got here, one of my goals was to go after the head coaching job, and to use that to give back. It was something that was important for me to give back.”
As a Hinsdale Central player, Griffin enjoyed a lot of success. His freshman and sophomore teams went undefeated, and as a junior, the Red Devils won their first playoff game in 15 years. Then, as a senior, his team started out 12-0 before losing a heartbreaker in the state semifinals to Lockport.
Hinsdale Central extended that success during Hartman’s five-year tenure. The Red Devils have reached the playoffs eight years in a row, and Hartman and Griffin became good friends along the way.
That’s why it will seem a little odd when Lyons and Hinsdale Central meet Oct. 25 in Hinsdale.
But even in an interim role, Griffin is planning to carry over what Hartman started. His first order of business is to plan his team’s summer camp, which will start June 17.
Hinsdale Central athletic director Dan Jones noted how special it is to have an alumnus get the chance to lead the program.
“The last time we had a coaching opening, Brian was interested in it, but he and I felt he needed a little more time to get his coaching chops and his experience,” Jones said. “He was Dan Hartman’s right-hand man through his tenure. I think now he’s the right man for the job.”
After high school, Griffin went on to play defensive end for Wheaton College, though he recorded only a handful of tackles. Despite his lack of meaningful playing time, Griffin said being a part of the Thunder was an experience that ultimately prepared him to coach at Hinsdale Central.
The key is to make sure every player has a connection to the program, whether as a starter or in a supporting role.
“The success at Wheaton College was, from No. 1 to No. 99, it was the idea that everyone was as a team,” he said. “We had very good teams all four years. Having gone down that road, it’s important for me to find everyone a role on the team.”
Hartman left Hinsdale Central for Lyons during a time of uncertainty for the football program. The District 86 board of education cut football and many other sports and activities after voters rejected a $166 million budget measure last November. On April 2, those voters passed a $140 million referndum, and the school board immediately reinstated the programs that had been cut.
The up-and-down offseason is yet another reason why Griffin is thrilled to get to work.
“I tried to be positive until you know the outcomes and hope for the best and expect the best, and kind of deal with it if it doesn’t work out,” he said. “All the stuff that has gone on has made for a tense environment. Now that decisions have been made, let’s move on.”
Gregg Voss is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.
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