Dan Duff leads the Hixson High School football team in prayer in this 2000 file photo.
Rarely is a coaching search this easy for both sides. When the Hixson High School football job came last month, Dan Duff knew he would pursue it. And once he did, school officials knew it was a perfect fit.
Duff was named the Wildcats coach Friday morning, exactly one month after Jason Fitzgerald resigned after two years in the position. Duff coached Hixson from 1996 to 2001, guiding the Wildcats to the playoffs for the first time in program history in his second year there and reaching the postseason in four of his six seasons.
"In more than 30 years of coaching, the six years I spent at Hixson were easily my favorite," Duff said. "It was the most fun I've had as a coach anywhere, so when the job came open again, I knew I wanted to go back.
"It felt like coming home, honestly. I hated to leave here the first time, but now that I'm back, this is where I'll finish my career."
Duff, who had spent his career coaching in Georgia before his first stint at Hixson, returned to the Peach State to become eligible for retirement there. He's spent the past 12 years coaching at Rockmart and helped that program reach the playoffs seven times.
Duff oversaw one of the biggest upsets in area history in 1998 when Hixson rallied late to knock off perennial state power Cleveland. That season the Wildcats won nine games and their first region title.
"We're very excited to have Dan back here where he accomplished so many great things before," Hixson athletic director Brian Bray said. "Sometimes you just find the right person for the right place at the right time, and that's the case with Coach Duff here.
"He's energized to be back, and the great thing is he knows the community and the school already, so we believe he will pick up right where Coach Fitzgerald left off."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...