AUBURN, Ala. (WIAT) – Football has been a life-long passion for Wesley McGriff. The Auburn first-year secondary coach has been leading young players for more than twenty-five years, with stops at Vanderbilt and the NFL’s New Orleans Saints dotting his impressive resume. Before football, however, McGriff made a much deeper commitment: to his country. McGriff was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army in 1990 and served in the Army Reserves until 2001. “There’s no greater institution or organization that can help shape and mold a young man,” McGriff said of the U.S. military. Life in the service was all McGriff knew growing up. His father served in the Army and his three older brothers served in the Navy. “When you live in the military culture and a military family, that’s what you know.”
His time on the battlefield provided lessons he would later use in a different arena, the gridiron. “It taught me to strategize knowing I have an enemy, if you will, which is the offense — which is trying to gain, whether it’s points or it’s yardage,” he explained. “It taught you to pay attention to detail.” While those lessons were transferrable from one profession to the next, the rigors of war also gave him a real-world perspective that he passes on to his players. “The reason that he [McGriff] has so much fun on the field and during game days is this isn’t hard. When you’re in war and you’re doing the military, that’s hard,” said senior defensive back Joshua Holsey. McGriff echoed that sentiment with an example of just how harsh the contrast is between the two. “In the military if you make a mistep it can cost somebody their life; in college you make a mistep, you’re going to punt or you’re off the field,” McGriff pointed out.
McGriff holds the same gratitude and peace with his decision to serve that is shared with veterans across the country. Just like many that transition to civilian jobs after their tours of duty, the man that’s leading a rejuvenated Auburn pass defense that’s made big plays in back-to-back weeks credits his success to his service. “I think going into the military made me a better football coach,” the Tiger veteran stated. “It was a blessing.”