There is a certain level of discipline that new Skyline High School football coach George Hawthorne is bringing to the Coyotes’ program, one that stems from his vast experience.
“This program already had great discipline under Coach (Angelo) Paffumi,” Hawthorne said. “We are just bringing a higher level. We are making the kids understand that it takes hard work to win.”
Hawthorne played college football at the University of Iowa from 1987-89 before participating in two training camps with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. He then went on to play for the Arizona Rattlers in 1995.
After his playing career ended, Hawthorne went on to coach at several area high schools and community colleges. His most recent stop was at Chandler High School, where he coached the defensive line and helped lead the Wolves to multiple state titles during his tenure.
During his career as an assistant coach, Hawthorne worked his way to become a captain for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. He retired last year after 25 years of service.
“I like to think my time with the Sheriff’s Office has helped, along with all of the great coaches I have been blessed to coach with,” Hawthorne said. “God has blessed me again with great coaches around me that all have the same goal in mind. That’s why I say ‘we’ in everything when it comes to the program.”
Hawthorne was hired to be the next football coach at Skyline in January after former coach Angelo Paffumi was informed by Skyline’s administration that his contract would not be renewed following the 2018 season. Paffumi’s termination brought protests from several student-athletes and the football program’s booster club.
At one point, students staged a walkout during first-period classes, but returned to school later that day.
Despite the Skyline community’s unrest after Paffumi’s departure, players have begun to buy in to the new culture Hawthorne brought to the program. The overall transition has been smooth.
“It’s been a great transition,” Skyline senior quarterback Blake Roebuck said. “Coach Hawthorne has been really great and all of us are excited to play for him. The culture has changed a lot.”
The 2019 season will be Roebuck’s first year on the field for Skyline after transferring from Mesa High School shortly after the 2018 season began.
Roebuck said when he first joined the Skyline program, he came in soft-spoken to get acquainted with everyone on the team. Since then, however, he has seen himself emerge as a leader of the program.
“I have a lot of leaders and Blake is definitely one of them,” Hawthorne said. “Leadership is something I’ve always possessed and had to work on. He is definitely emerging as one of the main leaders of the program.”
Roebuck credits his improvement both on and off the field to Mike Giovando, a private coach and trainer that runs Elev8 Quarterback Academy, as well as the new workout regimen Hawthorne put in place for the Skyline program.
An avid weightlifter himself, Hawthorne enjoys being involved in his player’s workouts. It’s not uncommon to see him go from station to station to encourage his players or to demonstrate proper form.
“I think the weight room is the building base for success,” Hawthorne said. “If you learn how to work hard there, you can work hard anywhere. Your body is tired, your mind is tired and if kids can learn how to work hard in the weight room the challenges on the field will be miniscule.”
Hawthorne said he’s been pleased so far with how his players have responded to the new offensive and defensive schemes put in place by the coaching staff.
At several 7-on-7 passing tournaments throughout the spring and into the summer, the Coyotes have shown poise against some of the top teams in the 6A and 5A conferences.
They’re a confident bunch that refuses to quit, aspects of their game that Roebuck believes will ultimately lead to success when the 2019 season kicks off in August.
“Even though we aren’t as big or fast as everyone else, we play hard and we are confident,” roebuck said. “We know we can play with anyone in the state.
“I expect us to have a lot of wins.”