High School Sports

Longtime football coaches Fairhart, Clegg join forces at Gig Harbor

First-year Gig Harbor coach George Fairhart talks to his team during his first practice with them on Wednesday.
First-year Gig Harbor coach George Fairhart talks to his team during his first practice with them on Wednesday. Jon Manley

New Gig Harbor High School football coach George Fairhart has plenty of coaching experience, having been the head coach at Eatonville High School for 24 years.

Maybe he felt like it wasn’t quite enough experience.

So he added longtime Wilson High School coach Don Clegg to the Tides’ staff as the defensive backs coach. Clegg coached the Rams for 29 seasons.

Suffice it to say, that’s quite a few years of coaching experience between the two.

“Sometimes it feels like a coaching clinic,” Fairhart said. “It’s fun to have discussions with him. We have a certain way of getting things done. It’s great to have Don’s input on all parts of football.”

Clegg had been battling some health issues during his final seasons at Wilson.

“My energy level hasn’t been quite as strong as it needs to be,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean I still don’t have a passion for the game and competing.”

Fairhart approached Clegg about the position during the National Football Foundation banquet in Tacoma last spring. Clegg came out to a few practices and then committed.

“I’ve lived in Gig Harbor for 28 years,” Clegg said. “I’m in the process of kind of retiring, gradually. I still wanted something to do. My wife passed away recently, so football gives me something to look forward to. It’s been my passion for 48 years.”

Clegg compiled a 167-123 record at Wilson and five of his players went on to play in the NFL – including Desmond, Isaiah and Marcus Trufant.

“How many (defensive backs) has Don coached that have gone on to Division-I schools,” Fairhart said. “Obviously, the Trufants, but there’s been several others. I think he’s probably got a dozen D-I corners. It’s not just because they’re great talents, which they were, it’s because they were well coached by Don. He’s very passionate about DB’s, very knowledgeable and connected to a lot of people who know a lot about defensive backs play.”

As for Gig Harbor, Fairhart and his staff are still implementing a lot of new schemes. Fairhart is replacing Aaron Chantler, who resigned as the Tides’ coach in February and is now the offensive coordinator at Auburn High School, coaching under his father-in-law, Gordy Elliott.

Fairhart had an opportunity to get the team up to speed during spring practices and feels good about where things stand heading into the season.

“During spring ball, we really worked on closing the gap,” Fairhart said. “Because we were installing a new offense, new defense, new special teams, we felt like we were behind. I’m pretty confident in where we’re at right now. I think we’re ready to move forward and I think we’ll be competitive.”