A Coaching Legend at a Crossroads Due to School Closure

By Derek Smith, FNF Coaches Contributor

John Herrington, Michigan’s winningest high school football coach, won’t have a team to lead next season. After nearly a half century, Harrison High (Mich.) is closing its doors forever, leaving Herrington unsure of his future.

Herrington was hired in 1970 to become the first football coach at Harrison when it opened, and he’s been the only person to occupy that position since.

He’s helped Harrison become one of the most successful programs in the state, winning 13 titles (1981-82, 1988-89, 1991, 1993-94, 1997-99, 2000-01 and 2010), a Michigan record, and grooming dozens of college players including Drew Stanton, who played at Michigan State and has been on five different NFL rosters, and Devin Funchess (Michigan, Carolina Panthers).

“I guess more than the wins, the accomplishment is just to be able to coach that long,” Herrington said. “Every year I had great assistants and great players and it was so much fun.”

As the Hawks approach their final season as a team, Herrington says it’s business as usual.

“We’re trying to make it as normal as possible,” Herrington said. “I don’t see much of a change. Kids are pretty resilient.”

There are several legacy events planned for the fall to recognize the achievements of the program, a reunion for all alumni will be held after the season, and a few former rivals have agreed to schedule and play the Hawks one more time.

Herrington isn’t sure what he’s going to be doing next fall but he does have a couple of options – volunteer if one of his current assistants gets a head coaching job or return to his alma mater, Central Michigan University, in a public relations role with the football team.

“I’ve got two possibilities and hopefully I’ll do something but I just don’t know what,” he said.


Q&A with Coach Herrington

How important is strength and conditioning to the development of a football player?

“It’s tremendously important. To keep you away from injuries and able to compete at a high level, you have to have strength and conditioning. That’s why we have year-round weightlifting. I think it’s vitally important. It’s also a good time in the offseason for kids to bond.”

How has strength and conditioning changed over the years? 

“When we started out, we had one universal gym. Then we went to a few Nautilus machines. Finally we got a good sized weight room and we started purchasing free weights. We started concentrating on the core lifts, power clean, dead lift, bench and squat. Kids have also joined gyms and gotten personal trainers. They’re bigger, stronger and faster.”


The John Herrington Profile

Team: Harrison High in Farmington Hills, Michigan

Years as Head Coach: 56 in 2018

State Championships: 13

Coaching record: 435-106-1

Profession: Head football coach, former history teacher, former head baseball coach

Family: son, Layne, and daughter, Lisa.

Accomplishments: Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, Michigan Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Michigan Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame

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