Griffin takes the helm of the Marlin football program

Daniel Griffin, the new head football coach at Destin Middle School, says the weight room plays a big part in the football program. “The two kind of go hand in hand … I use each of them to get to the goals and physical toughness,” Griffin said.

Two years ago he came onboard as a PE and weight lifting coach at Destin Middle School, then last year he stepped into the athletic director position. This year Daniel Griffin will tackle the job of head football coach.

And Griffin and Okaloosa County football go way back.

“I’m a product of this county,” said the 41-year-old Griffin. He graduated from Fort Walton Beach High in 1992.

“My claim to fame other than us winning the state championship was I lined up as running back behind Danny Wuerffel all season,” Griffin said.

After high school, Griffin got a full-ride scholarship to play football at Troy University where he played five years.

He came back to Okaloosa County where he did a two-year stint of coaching defensive linemen and running backs at Choctawhatchee High School.

“Then I went back to Troy as a graduate assistant for football for two years,” he said, before coming back home to Fort Walton Beach High where he spent 11 years as the strength and conditioning coach as well as running back coach for the Vikings.

In 2010, Griffin went to Wright Elementary and got his educational leadership degree at the same time.

“I felt I wanted to go into administration and I may still want to on down the road. But for now, we’re going to explore coaching,” he said.

So after a four-year layoff from the gridiron, Griffin is excited to be back on the sidelines.

“It’s one of those things you don’t know how much you miss it, until you are out of it,” he said.

Last year his appetite got wet when he worked as an assistant football coach at Destin Middle.

“I have a passion for these kids and want to get involved with this program and see what all we can do with it,” he said

And so far things are looking good.

“I’m very very pleased with the progress we’ve made,” Griffin said.

The Marlins have been at it since June 21.

“I’m very pleased with the effort and the attendance has been outstanding for the summer program,” he said.

Destin has had 28 players consistently show up for practice.

“It’s smaller numbers than I’d like, but I will say the 28 we have are out there for the right reasons. And they have earned the right to be out there this year,” he said.

Griffin has a few goals he’d like to accomplish this year.

“First and foremost is to become more competitive in the league,” he said.

“As I’ve told the kids, I’m not promising that we’re going to win every game, but our goal is to become more competitive.”

And to do that, “We need to be fundamentally sound.”

In addition to learning the fundamentals of lining up correctly and how to tackle, Griffin is stressing toughness, both mentally and physically.

He said there were days during the summer where they didn’t even take a football on the field. “We worked on tackling, blocking and tried to get tougher as a whole,” Griffin said.

“If we’ll just develop a mental toughness and become more competitive and learn the basic fundamentals of the game this year, I think they will feel, regardless of the record, confident in our season.”

The Marlins kick off their season at 6 p.m Aug. 11 at home against the Lewis Falcons. The middle school jamboree is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 20 at Fort Walton Beach High School.