Pioneer hires new head football coach


Rachel Lewis

Griggs is poised to turn around the Pioneer football program this upcoming season in the fall.

Earlier this month, Pioneer High School announced former professional football player Calvin Griggs would take over as the new head football coach.

Pioneer athletic director Eve Claar is excited. “He’s a motivator,” she said. “I hope he is going to bring enthusiasm and interest. He cares about using the football program as a way to build young men.”

The hiring comes after a rough season that saw the Pioneers finish 1-8, the only win being a Skyline forfeit. Adding to the troubles, former head coach Jimmy Williams was suspended midseason, and resigned amid players’ concerns about his effect on their physical and emotional health.

Claar says Griggs will bring a welcome change to the program. “He brings a strong knowledge of the game,” she said. “My goal is that our kids are going to be treated with dignity and respect and that we’re going to get the very most of the talent that we have.”

Griggs says he intends to meet those goals, focusing on the well-being of his players. “I’m a player’s coach,” he said.

So far, Pioneer’s players are encouraged by Griggs. “He’s a good leader, and he knows what he’s talking about,” said junior center Nick Boylan.

Griggs certainly brings experience to the position. As a two-time Junior College All-American, he received a scholarship to play football at Washington State University. After a brief free agent stint with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, Griggs spent several years playing professionally in Canada. Since then, he has held a number of high school head coaching positions in Oregon, winning three conference titles and being named district Coach of the Year in 2019. 

Although his most recent stop at Westland John Glenn was less successful (4-12 over two seasons), Griggs attributes the struggles to the pandemic. Now, Griggs is ready to be at Pioneer. “I had the opportunity to come and visit the school and talk to some of the players and the coaches, and it just felt like the place that I would like to be and turn this program around.”

As Pioneer’s head coach, Griggs is already working on rebuilding. “He’s been meeting with kids, working on the coaching staff, setting summer schedules and camps, and more,” Claar said.

Griggs says the player meetings are crucial to the program’s turnaround. “It’s about getting the kids to buy in and believe in themselves,” he said. “It’s getting them to rise above, and separate themselves from all of the negative things that are stopping them from being great.”

He acknowledged that the turnaround will be a difficult process given the program’s recent difficulties. “I don’t care about the last coach or ten years ago, all I care about is now, and how to make our players better and the program better,” he said.

Boylan thinks Griggs will get the team back to success. “He has the ability to take us back to where we were when we were winning a lot of games,” he said.

Looking back at his other projects, Griggs sees a lot of potential in Pioneer. “Being a former player and a coach for many years, I know talent when I see talent, and we have talent here,” he said. “A lot of schools I have coached before, we just had a handful of guys. Coming here, I see so much potential.”

Griggs will coach his first game at Pioneer on Friday, Aug. 26 at Anchor Bay.