When he graduated from McKendree University in 2011, Byron Gettis didn’t hesitate to hop on an opportunity to be an assistant football coach at O’Fallon High School.
Now, seven years later, Gettis has another opportunity at OTHS.
The athletic director at Cahokia High School for the past two years, Gettis officially was hired as the new Panthers head varsity football, coach, taking over for Brandon Joggerst, who resigned in January.
Joggerst led the Panthers to a 67-54 record and seven IHSA playoff appearances in 12 years as head coach.
“It’s been a long journey. But I’m grateful for the opportunity to be back at O’Fallon High School,” Gettis said. “I have wanted the chance to be a head coach and with what is going on right now with football and the state, this seemed like the right time.”
The 1998 graduate of Cahokia High School made the rounds at O’Fallon on Friday, meeting with Principal Rich Bickel and Athletic Director Todd Moeller.
Moeller said Gettis will do a great job.
“I’m so excited for Coach Gettis. He’s a tremendous leader and he’s going to do a great job with this program,” Moeller said. “I’m excited for the community to get him in here working with our kids. I just couldn’t be more pleased.
“We had a number of great candidates who applied for the position. Coach Gettis was clearly the right man for this job.”
Fourth new head coach in the metro-east
Gettis, 39, is the fourth new head football coach hired in the metro-east since the 2018 season ended in November. He will join Mike Harrison (Belleville East), Bryan Edgar (Belleville West) and Orlando Gooden (Granite City) among those who will make their debuts when the new season begins August.
While Joggerst and his coaching staff enjoyed plenty of success at OFallon, the past two years have been a struggle for the Panthers.
“Every football program has its ups and downs. That’s just part of being a high school football coach,” Gettis said. “Brandon and his staff did a great job. I’m not looking to come in and reinvent the wheel here. The coaches have laid a sound foundation here in the past.
“I’m just looking to come in and add to it. We’ve just got to get to work. I’m looking forward to the challenge of working with these young men. Football is just part of it. We’re going to do what we can to help them become successful in life.”
Gettis and Gooden were teammates at Cahokia High School where they played for Rob Eden.
“Two Cahokia High School graduates being named head coaches in the same week? That’s not bad. We’re good friends and we coached together at Cahokia,” Gettis said. “He will do a good job and I’m very happy for him as I’m sure he is for me.”
From football, to MLB, and back to football
Gettis journey to being a head football coach has been a long one. An all-state quarterback and all-state baseball player, Gettis opted to play baseball after graduating in 1998. Drafted by the Kansas City Royals, Gettis spent eight years in professional baseball, including a three month stint with the Royals in 2004 when he batted .179 in 39 games.
He retired from baseball in 2006 and played one year of college football at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where he played for Jerry Kill, and three more years at McKendree, where he played for Carl Poelker.
Gettis also was an assistant for four years at Lindenwood University-Belleville under coach Jeff Fisher. Most recently, Gettis was an assistant at Cahokia. The Comanches reached the quarterfinal round of the Class 5A playoffs this past season where they lost to Hillcrest.
“I’ve had a lot of great people in my life and Coach Kill and Coach Poelker are two of them. They taught me so much,” Gettis said. “Actually though my mom was my first coach. She coached my baseball team when I was little.
“One of the first things she told me me was to always work hard and give my best. If I did that, I could achieve anything. Words to live by.”