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PREP FOOTBALL: 'Shared vision' brings Hecklinski to become Goshen's next football coach

Jan. 4—GOSHEN — The RedHawks look to have found their next head football coach.

After Goshen Community Schools announced Wednesday afternoon that Joseph Hecklinski would become the next head football coach at Goshen High School pending an approval from the school board at the upcoming Monday meeting, the northern Indiana native echoed his appreciation for this next path of his.

"My wife Sarah and I are from that area and have pretty deep roots in northern Indiana, so I'm excited to get back up there and be closer to family," Hecklinski said Thursday. "It's really a dream scenario with Goshen."

Talking about the positives of being able to spend more time with family and moving back to a familiar area, Hecklinski also sees a light shining on what Goshen football can be restored to.

"I think there is a great setup to be successful even though they haven't been necessarily in the past," Hecklinski said, giving credit to athletic director Jim Pickard and Superintendent Jim DuBois for making Goshen look like "such an appealing place."

"They have a great group of administrators that share the same vision as I have to be successful," he said.

That vision is what made Goshen seem like a perfect match for the coach with 10-years of college experience.

Hecklinski talks about growing up around coaches. His cousin coached at the collegiate level and his uncle spent years coaching basketball at Anderson before retiring at Mishawaka. Hecklinski himself coached at Marian University after his playing career with the Knights, which saw him lead them to a NAIA title in 2012.

Following his playing career, Hecklinski made stops at Manchester (2014), Marian (2015-16), Butler (2017-18) and Ball State (2019-2023). His time in Muncie involved him wearing several hats, coaching quarterbacks, running backs and being the sole recruiting coordinator this past season.

That process included signing current Goshen senior and offensive lineman for the RedHawks Ryan Eldridge to head down for the 2024 season. While recruiting Eldridge, Hecklinski said he "got a taste" of the RedHawks program.

"For nine months, you're recruiting, so you're going to schools and you get to see a lot of different ways that schools are set up, programs are set up, the way of communication between administration and coaching are and you kind of go through it and see a lot of good and a lot of bad ways or different ways," Hecklinski said about what he saw at different schools the Cardinals recruited at compared to what he saw at Goshen. "You could see that there is a great set up there to be successful and that there are a lot of people who want to see football be good and are committed to doing that and that was what set it apart for me."

CATCHING EARLY ATTENTION

Hecklinski isn't unfamiliar with Goshen's situation. Small numbers at a sizeable high school is something he's witnessed in his recruiting trips to other schools. An advantage he has with being a college football recruiter is seeing what works, and doesn't seem to work. Then, he can bring the necessary tools to the table for a turnaround of the program.

"We're going to be out, we're going to be visible and we're going to be a source of pride," Hecklinski said about his team. "It'll be a source of pride for the community that this is their school, and it's their football team as much as anybody's."

Part of the process starts at the younger levels of football. For a culture and program to change, the roots of it all is what Hecklinski is hoping to leave a good impression on.

"I can remember being in fifth and sixth grade and knowing the high school coach was at our football game on Sundays meant a lot, Hecklinski said. "Seeing him talk to each of the teams and just grab a guy after a play and say 'good job' to him after the game, that meant a lot to me. It means something to go to a grade school and read or do something with your jersey on. That gets kids excited."

"To a third grader, fourth grader, fifth grader... those are celebrities to those kids, so being out and being visible will do a great job in getting the kids out," he said.

Goshen hasn't had a winning season in the last seven years. Coaches have come in and departed without much change to the overall record. Fielding freshman and junior varsity teams hasn't been a cakewalk either. Good middle school numbers though are an encouraging sign, but with open enrollment and other factors, keeping those numbers up into the high school level is a central focus.

"It's no different in college where recruiting is the lifeblood and the next group is the youth program, and the numbers are good," Hecklinski said. "So that's a great sign, so now it's our job to have the right people in place and the right vision of how we're going to coach the youth and what the goal of youth football is. We can't lose them before they get here."

Hecklinski describes himself as an "enthusiastic and positive coach" and hopes getting his players excited to be on the team will help that same feeling "permeate throughout the school." He says that this offseason will be about finding out who the best players are and what they can do well and building the team around that.

"Will it be overnight? No," Hecklinski said. "But if we do things the right way, we'll see the progress that we want to over time."

Reach Matt Lucas at 574-533-2151, ext. 240325, or at matt.lucas@goshennews.com.