By David Fong
Regional Sports Editor
TROY — Dan Gress never got too far ahead of himself.
“To be honest, I think I knew deep down my final dream was to be a head coach,” Gress said. “But it wasn’t something I thought about all the time. When I first came to Troy as the defensive line coach, I had never coached or played d-line before. But my goal was to become the best defensive line coach in the state of Ohio. That was my entire focus.
“When I became special teams coordinator, I made it my goal to become the best special teams coordinator in the state of Ohio. I was preparing myself, hopefully, to one day become the best defensive coordinator in the state of Ohio. But things happened, and I guess I skipped a step.”
Gress skipped all the way to the top job, as Troy High School announced Thursday evening that Gress — Troy’s defensive line coach and special teams coordinator since 2015 — has been named the program’s next head coach. He replaces Matt Burgbacher, Troy’s coach since 2015. Burgbacher left Troy to become the head football coach at Tippecanoe High School, his alma mater.
Troy High School Athletic Director David Palmer said, “We are very excited to have Dan as our next head football coach at Troy High School. His level of preparation, enthusiasm and planning for this position made him the right fit for our football program.”
Gress said he could barely contain his excitement when he found out he had been selected for the job.
“Obviously I could not be more excited,” he said. “I was actually in my car when (Troy High School principal David) Dilbone called to tell me, and that was probably a good thing, because it caused me to be a little more under control, since I was driving. The No. 1 thing is, it’s an honor. To be able to lead a football program like Troy at a school like Troy in a community like Troy, with the kids we have, is the biggest honor. I’m ready to start working tonight.”
Gress is a 2009 graduate of Northmont High School. Last fall, he was inducted in Northmont’s athletic hall of fame. He went on to play linebacker at Kent State University, graduating in 20013. After one year as a freshman assistant coach at Northmont, he was hired to coach Troy’s defensive line in 2015. He later had special teams coordinator added to his duties for the Trojans.
“We know that Dan is passionate about building relationships with all students and will have a positive impact on our school community. He understands and values the importance of being an excellent teacher and coach.” said Dilbone.
Gress said he hopes his familiarity with the kids and the program will make this transition a smooth one. The past three seasons, Troy has won three-straight Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division titles and been to the playoffs three times. Gress has coached a pair of All-Ohio defensive lineman in Joah Schricker and Sam Jackson.
“I think it’s a big advantage, knowing what our strengths are and what our weaknesses are, the areas in which we need to improve,” he said. “We are going to work on those things. The last thing we are going to do is still complacent. We can’t do that if we want to take things to the next level.”
His first order of business will be meeting with each player in the program individually, Gress said. There will be a team meeting for all players at 8:30 a.m. Monday in the Troy High School auditorium.
“It’s still about the players,” Gress said. “They are my No. 1 priority. I want to meet with each and every single player individually. It’s not enough to just have a 15-minute meeting where I’m introduced to all of the players at once. I want to meet with every kid individually and share with them my vision and have an in-depth conversation with them about keeping the winning culture we have built here.”
Following that, Gress said, he will look to fill any coaching vacancies on his staff. He said he’d like to retain as much of the current staff as possible.
“Step two is completing my coaching staff,” he said. “I haven’t been sitting on my hands through this process. I did the necessary reaching out to people in case I got this job. We’re not going to be scrambling. But I’ve also said this plenty of times — I truly believe we have the best coaching staff in the state of Ohio. If you compare our resumes and knowledge, I think they stack up with any staff in the state. And No. 2, our coaches have a love for Troy; that’s why they’re here for the kids. The staff all loves Troy. They love the school, the community and the kids.”
Gress and his wife, Hannah, have a daughter, Clara, who is about to turn 2.
“She’s going to be the red-headed spitfire going crazy in the stands on Friday nights,” Gress said of his daughter.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong