GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Charlie Griffin, whose impact on area football has been felt at the high school, college and pro arena levels, died Thursday after suffering an apparent heart attack during a morning jog. He was 56.
Griffin won 91 games and five conference titles while he was head coach at Western Guilford High School from 1989-2002. The Baltimore, Md., native was athletics director at Western for 12 years and also coached track and field there.
"He really enjoyed the high schools because he was really touching kids' lives and helping them," said Griffin's younger brother, Bruce, who lives in Greensboro.
Charlie Griffin was entering his third season as an assistant football coach at Division III Guilford College. He also taught physical education at Eastern Guilford.
"He was enjoying his current situation," said retired Western Guilford coach Doug Henderson. "He enjoyed being over there (at Guilford) and the players he had."
Griffin coached the Quakers' defensive backs the past two seasons and was set to instruct their defensive line this fall under first-year head coach Kevin Kiesel. Like Griffin, Kiesel is a former graduate assistant at Maryland. Griffin played football at Frostburg State and graduated from the Maryland school in 1970.
He worked as a college assistant from 1975-86, with stops at Mansfield (Pa.) State, Winston-Salem State, Gardner-Webb, Elon and The Citadel. Then he moved to Greensboro to join Henderson's staff at Western Guilford.
"He was looking for a chance to slow down a little bit and, as he called it, get out of the college-coaching rat race," Henderson said. "I was lucky enough to find him and he found us."
Griffin led the Hornets to regional finals in 1994 and 1995. When his program began to struggle in recent years, the losing ate at him. Eventually, he resigned, but remained as AD.
"He was really competitive," said Bruce Griffin, who was a volunteer assistant on his brother's staff for several years. "He felt like that group of kids that we had, he wasn't effective with them. And that bothered him. If he wasn't going to be effective, he wasn't just going to coach to coach."
Jason Gibson played for Charlie Griffin as a member of the Greensboro Prowlers, a now-defunct minor-league arena football team, in 2000 and had stayed in close contact ever since. When Griffin moved to Eastern Guilford, he put in a good word for Gibson, who was hired as the Wildcats' head coach last year.
Gibson now coaches the Raleigh Rebels of the Atlantic Indoor Football League as well. In recent chats with Griffin, they'd talked about coaching arena ball together again if and when Greensboro got another team. Gibson, and many of his assistants, saw Griffin, a 32-year coaching veteran, as an invaluable resource. The man loved to talk football.
"I begged him to please coach my defense," Gibson said. "He was really happy and content at Guilford College."
Griffin also was dedicated to his own physical fitness. He was training for an upcoming half-marathon Thursday morning.
Griffin is survived by his mother, Vera; his wife, Sue; and brother, Bruce.
-Story courtesy of Jeff Carlton of the News and Record.
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