For years, Dave Henigan could be spotted in the Ryan football fieldhouse.
He can be found on the team portraits hanging on the walls, his brief stint as Ryan’s offensive coordinator cemented in pictures from the Raiders’ rise to one of the state’s best football programs.
Ten years after he left the program, Henigan will have a few more personal items in the Ryan fieldhouse.
Henigan was unanimously approved as Ryan’s head football coach and athletic coordinator at Tuesday night’s Denton ISD school board meeting. Henigan becomes the fourth head coach in Ryan school history.
“Denton Ryan’s a special place,” Henigan said. “I’ve been a Ryan Raider since I stepped foot on campus, and I never really lost my love for that place. I just feel very, very fortunate to be the guy to get handed that torch.”
Henigan was previously the head coach at Grapevine for five years, and the head coach at Corsicana for five years before that. In 10 years, he has a career record of 56-52.
Henigan takes over for Joey Florence, who was the head coach at Ryan for 14 years and compiled a record of 152-37 at the school and won two state championships. Florence was named the Denton ISD athletic director in January.
Henigan, 43, was the offensive coordinator for the Raiders when they defeated Brenham in the 2002 Class 4A Division II state championship game. He was also the offensive coordinator the next year when Ryan lost in the 2003 4A Division II state title game to La Marque in triple overtime.
Florence said five of the six finalists that interviewed before a hiring committee for the job have served as assistant coaches at Ryan. Florence said the district had the opportunity to hire a lot of different people, but it was in Ryan’s best interest to hire somebody familiar with the program.
“We want someone who understands it, who’s been there,” Florence said. “Obviously we want someone to come in and put their own stamp on it. We’ve been very successful for the last 14 years.
“We just didn’t feel like blowing it up and starting over was the direction we wanted to go. We felt like we should hire someone who has been part of the Raider nation before.”
Henigan went 35-21 at Corsicana before he was reassigned in 2009. He took over at Grapevine that year and inherited a 13-game losing streak. The Mustangs reached the 5A playoffs in Henigan’s first season.
Over the past two years, Grapevine has won four games as one of the smallest schools in the state’s biggest classification. The Mustangs will be in Class 5A (formerly Class 4A) from 2014-16.
Colleyville Heritage head coach Mike Fuller said Henigan’s teams were well-coached and competed well. Fuller also added that sometimes, the best fit for a particular school doesn’t have to be somebody that went 16-0 the previous season.
“The job he did his first year there was amazing,” Fuller said. “They’ve struggled a little bit the last couple of years for various reasons, but sometimes a great coach can have a couple of down years. There’s a lot of other factors going into success on a football field.”
Henigan graduated high school from Fountain Valley (Calif.) and went on to be a quarterback at the University of the Pacific for four years. He threw for 3,220 yards, 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
Following his graduation from Pacific, he was a graduate assistant at Pittsburgh, the wide receivers coach at SMU and tight ends coach at Mississippi.
He was an assistant coach at Allen and Highland Park before joining the staff at Ryan. Fuller was forced to create a new defensive package to combat Henigan’s offense at Grapevine.
“I remember there was one year he had a really good receiver,” Fuller said. “He was their best offensive player, and he did as good a job with him as I’ve ever seen with moving him around and getting him wide open, even though every defense knew that’s what he was trying to do.”
Florence said his former assistant and good friend will have to live up to what has been created at Ryan over the last 14 years.
“The biggest challenge is that the expectations at Ryan High School are very high,” Florence said. “You gotta continue the success that we’ve had. I think that’s the biggest challenge. We expect to win every time we get on the football field.”
Florence and Fuller both stressed that Henigan has a heart for kids. Florence said the character Henigan will bring to the program is what the district wanted, and Henigan will be a good role model and mentor for kids.
The former Ryan assistant is ready to move into his new office and carry on the tradition that’s been handed down to him.
“I’m champing at the bit,” Henigan said. “The standard at Ryan is championships, and so we’re already sitting here in mid-February. There’s no time to waste. I’m ready to go.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.