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Worthington names Grimmius as next head football coach

BRIAN KORTHALS/DAILY GLOBE New Trojan head football coach Brad Grimmius stands in the weight room of Worthington high school, where his players will begin a weight-training regimen sometime next week. Grimmius is taking over for head coach Dennis Hale, who recently retired after his 33rd season coaching WHS.

WORTHINGTON -- Three years ago, Spirit Lake head football coach Brad Grimmius came back to his alma-mater Worthington to catch a football game.

A former four-year player for WHS coach Dennis Hale, Grimmius asked if he could watch the contest from the sidelines.

Hale, of course, said yes -- anything for one of his former players.

It was the last time Grimmius would simply be a spectator at Trojan Field.

"Who'd have thought that I'd be back on the same sidelines coaching?" Grimmius mused. "It was an interesting deal."

Two years ago he left Spirit Lake to become a P.E./health teacher at WHS, and Hale's new defensive coordinator.

Now, Grimmius is taking over the head coaching job for for Hale, who retired last season after 33 years at the helm.

"There were plenty of good candidates, but after all the interviews it was obvious Brad was the best candidate," Worthington Athletic Director Mike Traphagen said. "He's enthusiastic, he's an encourager, and most of all he's familiar with the kids and the program."

Things have come full circle for the former Trojan standout.

Grimmius now teaches kids in the classrooms he used to sit in, and coaches players on the fields he used to play on.

"Coming back to my alma mater is a great feeling, especially a school district and a community that's made me the person I am today," he said. "As a person, a teacher and a coach, you want to pass that on to the kids here at school."

Worthington is so special to Grimmius that he gave up a head coaching position at Spirit Lake to become an assistant for Hale -- a move that some might consider a downgrade.

"I didn't want to give up the head coaching position," Grimmius said. "But coming up to work with Coach Hale, that was too good to pass up.

"The hardest thing, to be honest, was telling my players," he recalled. "I can still picture some of those players crying when I told them, 'Hey, I'm done here.' It was the middle of our summer workouts, so some were just plain mad at me."

Relinquishing command to become second in charge took some adjustment.

If it was a step backward, though, then Grimmius has since taken two steps forward.

Now, he's hoping his football team can follow suit.

Grimmius is set on restoring the order in the Southwest Conference, back to the days when the Trojans stood atop the league.

Worthington has won two games each of the past four years, and their last winning season was a 7-5 campaign in 2005.

It's not going to be an overnight transition, Grimmius admitted.

"My goal is within three years that they can say, 'Hey, Trojan football is back,'" he said. "We'll see if we can get it back to when Coach Hale had the program on top."

Like the days back when Grimmius wore the black and red.

Now he's the one calling the shots, but he still carries with him all that he learned from playing and coaching under Hale.

He said he learned two main things from Hale along the way -- how to love the game, and how to handle his athletes.

"He never dictated; he facilitated just by being respected," Grimmius said of his mentor. "Coach Hale never singled a player out in front of everybody. If you goofed up, he talked to you one on one."

That won't change. But will fans notice anything different next year?

"Yeah, you're going to see a difference," Grimmius said, although he stopped short of talking any strategy.

He did say this: "We're going to get back to the Trojan football of old. We're going to come at you and we're going to see that intensity in practice. We're going to be hitting, hitting, and running."

The Trojans are also changing the way they'll be introduced. Instead of being announced separately as an offense or defense, Grimmius wants his players to take the field as a team.

It's part of the coach's effort to revitalize the school's pride in its football program -- not an easy thing these days, with so many different things vying for a high school kid's attention.

Grimmius gives the big three: "People either have a job, a girlfriend, or they want to be a one-sport athlete," he said.

It's the same everywhere -- high school football teams' numbers all around the state are dwindling.

That, above everything else, might be Grimmius's biggest challenge.

"High school football, weather it's in Worthington, Minn., or Dallas, Texas, it's the same thing," he said. "You've got to get out and recruit the hallways."

The same hallways he used to walk as a student -- and he remembers them well.

"It wasn't too long ago that it didn't make a difference where you went Friday night, Trojan football was huge," Grimmius said. "It's the passion. ... I want it to spread like a wildfire. Once we get the fire going, it's going to go."