Although this year marks Garin Higgins’ fifth season as head football coach, he has been a Hornet for more than 20 years, and he was even a four-year letterman under former Emporia State football coach Larry Kramer.
“(Kramer) taught me about being tough and how to handle adversity,” Higgins said. “I always thought that if you could play for Coach Kramer and make it through four years, I could handle any obstacle in life.”
In his first four seasons as the Hornet’s head coach, Higgins compiled a record of 14-30. He is confident that the team is in the process of reversing the trend.
“It’s truly a blessing to come back home,” Higgins said. “It is a big challenge because expectations are high. We are doing everything in our power, the things we can control, to get the program headed in the right direction.”
When Higgins played football for ESU, he helped lead the 1989 Hornets to a national runner-up finish. He has been a part of four teams that have played for or won national championships as a player, head coach or as a coordinator.
“He is a player’s coach,” said junior quarterback Tyler Eckenrode. “He cares about us as more than just players and helps us to succeed in not only football but life as well.”
His first head coaching position was at Northwestern Oklahoma State University where he amassed a record of 51-9 over five seasons. All five of those seasons, he coached his team to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics playoffs, with two national runner-up finishes.
“I have known all of my life that I wanted to coach football,” Higgins said. “Some people grow up wanting to be firemen or police officers, but I always knew I wanted to coach football.”
Higgins said he grew up in what he calls a “coaching family.”
“My dad coached for 30 years and I was a field rat,” Higgins said. “I followed him around everywhere just trying to be around football.”
The rest of the coaching staff said they are confident in Higgins’ ability to bring back the “winning tradition” of ESU football.
“Coach brings composure,” said defensive line assistant coach and former MIAA all-conference linebacker Nathan Linsey. “He gets the most out of his players (and) he is a hard worker… the players know that if they listen to Coach Higgins that the desired results will come.”
The Hornets will face the Fort Hays State Tigers in the first game of the season at 7 p.m. tonight in Hays.