MADISON - When Shane Griffith took over the Scott High School football program in February, he knew that it was going to take a lot of work to get it to the level that he envisioned when he made the decision to apply for the position.
"In the end, I think that when the players see that you are invested and you are going to be there every day and you aren't going to ask them to do something that you aren't willing to commit to yourself, they make the plunge and are all in," Griffith said.
Strength and conditioning were the theme on this warm Thursday afternoon as groups of inspired Skyhawk gridders participated in weight training and agility drills.
"The first thing we had to get across is that the integrity and character down here is such that it is a good atmosphere for seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders," he said. "Coming here after school Monday through Thursday is something that parents want their kids doing. At first, I observed. I was hired on Monday night and I came in on Tuesday and I was impressed with senior Connor White. He was actually running the offseason program."
Griffith said that raising expectations and getting the players to challenge themselves, coupled with success through the process of players buying into a winning culture, have brought a cumulative desire to improve and be the best that they can be.
Players have done their research on the coach and have talked to him about his record from his first tenure as the school's all-time leader in gridiron wins (98), which ended in 2015 when he stepped away from the position.
Griffith, 47, is a 1990 graduate of Scott High and former quarterback at the school. As a coach, he led the Skyhawks to nine playoff appearances including six in a row. In 2007, a Griffith-led squad made it to the Class AA semifinals.
The coach has lost considerable weight in recent months through a walking regimen and better eating habits and looks like he could take a snap or two himself these days.
"I feel great right now and I feel healthy," he said.
Griffith said the community support and feedback has been positive, and he appreciates all of the support he has received from Skyhawk nation.
"People have told me that it is nice to drive by and see things happening and that they enjoy seeing me here on a Saturday and a Sunday," he said. "I think there is a positive buzz in the air. I think the guys see that it is all about accountability and that I am going to hold myself accountable first."
Griffith is visibly excited as he points out what he likes in each player as they go through an agility drill. It is obvious that he has made some assessments already. Junior-to-be quarterback Michael Clay has packed on 10 to15 pounds of healthy weight and looks to make a comeback after missing late-season games to an injury.
"They've noticed that I chart every lift they make, every single day and then I give them feedback on it the following day," he said. "They like that and it opens the door to holding them accountable. I look at weight lifting as lily fields and potato fields. You've got to dig potatoes."
While the middle school coach runs a weight-lifting program, some sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders are working out with the high school.
"They feel safe," Griffith said. "That is important to me that they feel safe and accepted."
On April 11 at 6:30 p.m., Griffith will hold an eighth-grade walk-on and high school letter of intent event at the school cafeteria. Players will participate in photo opportunities and greet attendees. Spring practice will begin April 23, and April 25 will be spring media day with youth leagues attending and promoting football in the area.
Griffith is excited about the physical attributes of his players, as well.
"There is a lot of length in this room right now," he said. "We've got a lot of long frames right now. It is easier to put weight and strength on a long frame as opposed to a short one. Regardless, we're going to get stronger as a team and we're going to commit to this season and be the best team that we can be. I'm excited, they're excited and I know the community is behind us."
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter