July 21, 2012 Updated: July 3, 2013 at 9:32 am
Dean Huffman is now a certified bus driver, just one more hat to go with those of science teacher, fundraiser, weight trainer, football coach and non-stop promoter.
The start of football practice for Huffman’s new team — Sierra — and everyone else in the state is more than three weeks away, but you can’t blame Huffman for being a bit fatigued already.
“I’ve never worked so hard in my life,” Huffman said. “I’ve always worked hard, but this is different.”
His day Tuesday, for example, started with a 6 a.m. appointment to get a bus license so he could take the team to an upcoming camp at CSU-Pueblo. That was followed by summer school and practice that took him through the evening.
And this is the offseason.
Huffman isn’t complaining. Last year he was fired as Vista Ridge’s football coach days before the start of the season for reasons he still can’t fully grasp (the official line from the school was a change in philosophy).
“They just didn’t like me,” said Huffman, who had guided the Wolves to the 3A semifinals in 2010 during the schools’ inaugural varsity season.
Huffman landed a midseason job as a line coach at Palmer and was hired by Sierra in March. Since then, he’s been thrust into the same whirlwind as the area’s other new coaches — maybe even more so, given the mess left from a season that saw the Stallions go through three coaches during an 0-10 season.
The players have instantly bought into Huffman’s way of thinking and are ready for continuity as they prepare to play under their fifth coach in a matter of three years.
“One week we would run the spread, the next we would run jumbo; every coach had his own way of running things,” running back/defensive back Traveion Paillitte said.
“It’s great, it’s like opening a new pack and biting into a fresh piece of gum,” lineman Michael Granados.
Huffman had the rare advantage of starting at Skyview Middle School and working up into the high school with the first senior class at Vista Ridge. He knows he can’t lay a similar foundation in a matter of months at Sierra, but it’s not stopping him from trying. He is working the kids, between weights, camps, voluntary practices and seven-on-seven scrimmages up to six days a week. He’s combed the district’s charter schools to bring in additional talent and he’s done all he can to lure young students into the program.
“It’s been brutal, there’s no question about it,” Huffman said. “There’s a lot of stuff. It just doesn’t happen in a second. But I think we’re going to be ready. We’re going to be a threat. I doubt if anybody is outworking us.”
Huffman is also starting with a fresh coaching staff, as he has no one on staff from his days at Vista Ridge. His top lieutenant is Andrew Grigsby, who had followed ex-Palmer coach Doug Miolen from Georgia (Miolen resigned after the season and has since moved to Texas).
Grigsby’s primary focus will be on the defensive line, while Huffman will focus on his expertise of coaching the offensive line. So they are wisely building the program from the inside out.
And that brings us to Huffman’s most natural side, and one that has taken no time to transfer to Sierra. It’s that of showman and promoter... a bit like the high school football version of Don King.
“This is my Samoan Army,” Huffman said, bringing a group of massive lineman out on display. He then brought out several other players, showing them off and talking them up like it was his turn at show-and-tell. Among those he proudly praised was Ashley Micensky, a girl who is holding her own as a defensive back on the junior varsity.
The past year certainly hasn’t gone as Huffman planned, but it seems to be working out just fine.
“Look what I got into — speed, size ... we’re going to be all right,” he said.