This winter, Pinson Valley offensive coordinator Dillon Griggs told his wife, Morgan, if the Russell County head coaching position opened up again he would apply for it.
Less than a week later, the job was posted, leading Griggs on a pursuit that culminated with his hiring earlier this week.
Griggs was approved as the Warriors’ new head coach by the Russell County School Board on Tuesday. Griggs replaces Mark Rose, who resigned after two seasons as head coach.
The Warriors forfeited their first four games of the 2020 season while Rose put football on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic. He eventually stepped aside and assistant Brandon Hall led the team in their final five games, all of which were losses.
The opportunity to take over is a meaningful one for Griggs, who is now a head coach for the first time. He and his family return to the east Alabama area after Griggs’ previous stints as an assistant coach at Central-Phenix City and Prattville.
“For me personally, it’s just really a dream come true,” Griggs said. “When you get in this business, the goal first and foremost is always to change lives, but the second thing is to have the opportunity to take it to the highest level. I do believe this job is that kind of job if you change some things and give it all you got. Obviously when I had the chance at that opportunity, it was a no-brainer for me.”
The 32-year-old Griggs has quickly worked his way up the coaching ranks and has been a part of several successful programs in the process.
Griggs began his coaching career as a student assistant at Troy under head coach Larry Blakeney from 2010-13 before brief stints at Gardendale and Samford led him to Prattville, where he was the inside wide receivers coach from 2014-15.
Griggs served on a staff that helped the Lions reach the Class 7A championship game during his first season.
After the 2015 season, Central-Phenix City head coach Jamey DuBose — who coincidentally was Morgan’s driver’s education teacher at Prattville — hired Griggs as the Red Devils’ tight ends/fullbacks coach. He came to Central without a coaching stipend or a desk space — DuBose kindly made room for Griggs in his office — and stayed on staff for three years, including the 2018 season in which the Red Devils went 14-0 and won the Class 7A state title.
Griggs also served as Central’s junior varsity offensive coordinator during the 2018 season.
Griggs left Central to become the offensive coordinator for former Central assistant Cody Flournoy at Jackson in 2019. During Griggs’ lone season on staff, the Aggies won eight games — two of which were later forfeited — and reached the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs.
Griggs’ short stint as a Samford analyst early in his career introduced him to Sam Shade, who hired Griggs as Pinson Valley’s offensive coordinator prior to the 2020 season.
Despite Griggs and the staff taking over during a pandemic-affected offseason and revamping the offense considerably, the Indians went 12-2 and captured the Class 6A state championship. Pinson Valley’s offense averaged 32 points per game in Griggs’ lone season as offensive coordinator.
Through his various stops, Griggs said his biggest takeaway from the head coaches he worked with was how they interacted with the people who were a part of their programs.
“It’s how you treat people and the understanding that, yeah, you might be the head coach, but that doesn’t mean you rule with an iron first,” Griggs said. “You have to learn how to lead, guide and motivate people so that they feel invested and they feel like they want to be a part of it not because they have to but because they want to.”
Griggs understands the dynamics of the county thanks to his time at Central, and he knows there’s talent in the area that has often left to play elsewhere. His goal is to change that and to make Russell County, which hasn’t made the playoffs in eight years and hasn’t had a winning season since 1998, a place the hometown talent wants to be a part of.
Griggs said he sees Russell County as being on a foundational level, and he’s eager to step in to build onto that foundation. He believes based on his conversations with Russell County superintendent Brenda Coley and the rest of the school board that there is a commitment to investing in the program, and he’s ready to step up and push for the facilities, apparel contracts and equipment necessary to make the Warriors stand out.
Griggs understands it will take plenty of work to build Russell County into a contender, but he is embracing the challenge of putting the Warriors back on the map in east Alabama.
“I can’t sit here and guarantee you wins right now, but I can tell you we’re going to throw the book at this thing,” Griggs said. “I’m here to give these kids opportunities that they’ve never had in areas that they haven’t even thought about yet. More importantly, I just want to tell them to come join the program. If you’re playing, get ready because things are changing; if you’re not playing, come join because things are changing.
“We are going to build this program to be something that those boys and this community are going to be proud of. I can guarantee it.”