It was not too long ago when life dealt Gavin Breyfogle a bad hand.
Having already suffered through the passing of his father, the former Winamac High standout defensive lineman was now faced with the prospect of not being able to play the game he loved any more.
"I had just lost my dad (Brad on October 21, 2017) and was on my fourth wrist surgery when I was told I would not get cleared to play football (at St. Norbert College) again because of my wrist," Breyfogle said. "I decided it would be best for me to move back closer to home and come up with a plan to finish schooling while I began life."
The decision to leave De Pere, Wisconsin and relocate to Lafayette, Indiana in January 2019 paid off as he managed to overcome these adversities and get a new lease on life.
After spending last year working with the defensive lineman for defending Class 1A state champion Lafayette Central Catholic, Breyfogle was recently named the Knights' defensive coordinator at the ripe age of 21 years old.
"I had just moved back to Lafayette from Wisconsin and knew that I could not take a year away from football," Breyfogle recalled. "I emailed (LCC head coach) Brian Nay and asked if they had needed anyone to coach the defensive line. I had an interview with him and the defensive coordinator at the time and got added to the staff. It was a perfect fit for me and was a smooth transition from playing to coaching because of the group of people I was blessed enough to work with."
Among those having a big impact was former Winamac and Indiana Football Hall of Fame coach Tim Roth.
"I have always been aground a great group of coaches throughout my football career," explained Breyfogle. "I think seeing the impact that my high school coaches left on me and the guidance I turned to them with when my dad passed away was what showed me this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. They used football as a tool to prepare me for the battles I would face as I grew up and it made me want to return the favor with another generation."
The fact he is only a couple of years older than the players he will be instructing is no big deal for Breyfogle, who is finishing his history degree online through Indiana Wesleyan University.
"It is never really anything that I have thought about in terms of leadership," said Breyfogle, who also serves as a substitute teacher at LCC. "I have made jokes about being close to their age, but I do not think it has an impact on my leadership skills or how they react to me. The kids at LCC have been very mature about it and have always treated me with nothing but respect."
After having his doubts initially, Nay now realizes he made the right choice to lead the defensive charge.
"I have to tell you, I was initially skeptical about whether or not Gavin was ready to be a coordinator because I was too fixated on his age," explained Nay, who enters his third year at the controls. "The fact is, as a coach, Gavin is well beyond his age. As a player, Gavin worked extremely hard to master his craft. He has continued to do that as a coach as well. He is extremely sharp schematically, but understands that it's not always X's and O's, it's Jimmy's and Joe's. He has not only fully bought into the Central Catholic football culture. He has enhanced it with his coaching style and commitment to our players and staff.
"Simply put, our players love Coach Breyfogle and play extremely hard for him. We hope to have him on staff for a long, long time."
Upon completion of his college degree, Gavin has aspirations to continue coaching and teaching at LCC.
However, his main focus right now is getting his troops ready for the season opener against Northwestern on September 4.
"We are going to let the kids go out there and play fast and physical." Breyfogle said. "Our kids love the game of football and when they are out there playing their game and having fun, things tend to go well for us. Coach Nay talks about it a lot where we need to control what we can control. We may not be the strongest or fastest team, but we can control being the toughest. That is what we are trying to accomplish each day, get one percent better and one percent tougher.
"I just want our team to reach its max potential as a football team. It happened last year and the results were a state title. If we can become the best collective unit that our potential will allow, good results will follow."
The future definitely seems to be looking bright right now for Gavin.