By the time he finished college, Adam Reese had his career path firmly plotted.
But it didn’t take long to get a bit off track — albeit in a satisfying way.
A one-time aspiring baseball coach, Reese was hired Monday as the new head football coach at Franklin Community High School. He joins the Grizzly Cubs after four seasons as the offensive coordinator at Class 4A runner-up Mishawaka, where he carved a reputation as one of the state’s top offensive innovators.
Named Offensive Coordinator of the Year by Indiana Football Digest in 2011, the 35-year-old Reese is charged with reversing the fortunes of a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 1996 — the same year he graduated from Plymouth High School.
A husband, father and high school social studies teacher, Reese — a first-time head football coach — looks forward to getting to work.
“Obviously we want to win football games, but we want these kids to leave the program as not only better football players but as better men,” said Reese, who served eight seasons overall as an assistant at Mishawaka. “We want to work on the whole person, not just the football player.
“But we’d like to win a few football games, too.”
Franklin won only four last season and hasn’t finished above .500 since going 6-3 17 years ago. Although he doesn’t promise quick fixes with regard to wins, Reese is confident they will come sooner rather than later.
During his four seasons directing Mishawaka’s triple-option offense, the Cavemen went 41-12. They averaged 30 points per game last year during the regular season and averaged 34 during the state tournament. They finished 11-4 after losing 56-29 to Cathedral in the state championship game.
Mishawaka enjoyed winning seasons during seven of Reese’s campaigns, the final five of which were under head coach Bart Curtis.
Reese plans to apply the winning lessons he learned under Curtis at Franklin, which finished 4-7 under Brian Harbin last season. Harbin’s contract was not renewed after going 13-28 in years.
“I’ve been in a program that’s been very successful, and I’d like to believe that I made a difference,” Reese said. “But I can tell you for that it happens because of a lot of people’s efforts, all working together in one direction. So I think the biggest thing is to assemble the staff, meet the kids and let them understand that we are in it together.
“We are not going to be successful unless everybody’s moving in that same direction together.”
A three-sport athlete in high school, Reese attended Valparaiso for two years. He played baseball there before transferring to Indiana University-South Bend, where he completed his degree.
His post-college goals were to become a teacher and baseball coach — which he did. He spent one season as the head baseball coach at tiny West Central High School in Francesville, where he also was asked to serve as an assistant football coach to fill a need.
Suddenly, the football bug bit.
Hired the next year as a teacher at Mishawaka, he joined the football staff of then-head coach Jim Aldrich (now the school’s athletics director) and set his sights on becoming a head coach.
Five days ago, his dream became reality when he was selected from a field of about 50 applicants, some of which came from as far away as California and Tennessee.
Franklin athletics director Kip Staggs cited Reese’s winning background, knowledge, drive and vision as the deciding factors for the hire.
Suffice it to say, Reese is delighted for the opportunity. The father of a 3-year-old daughter and a 7-day-old son, he and his wife, Kristy, look forward to making the Franklin community their home.
And he can’t wait for the Franklin community to see next year’s football product.
“I think what you’re going to see is a bunch of kids who play really hard, who are respectful of the game, of themselves, of their opponent, of their coaches, of the officials,” Reese said. “And my vision is that when community members leave the game, regardless of the score of the game, they’re going to be proud that this team wears ‘Franklin’ on their jersey.
“We’re going to work very, very hard; I promise you that.”