By John Goolsby, For the Tribune
TRUSSVILLE – Hewitt Head Boys and Girls Track and Field coach Tom Esslinger is heading to Samford University after 20 years as a high school coach and educator.
In Esslinger’s first year at Hewitt, the girls and boys won the 7A State Championship in Indoor Track and Field. Over the last three years, the Huskies have had three runner-up finishes, twenty individual state titles, one individual national title, broken forty-six school records, and had twenty-eight athletes go on to compete at the collegiate level.
The 2021 Trussville City Schools Foundation Coach of the Year Award recipient has had great success as a high school coach and program director. He has produced twenty-two State Championships as a coach, thirty-three Championships as a Program Director, two National Champions, four All-Americans, one hundred and forty Individual State Titles, and eighty-one collegiate athletes.
“I just want to thank all of the students, student-athletes, and co-workers who have impacted my life in such a positive way,” Esslinger said. “As with anything, there have been many ups and downs, mostly ups, but I step away feeling such tremendous gratitude to all of those who changed my life for the better.”
Esslinger continued, “I have spent a good bit of time reflecting on what we have accomplished as a track and field program the last few years. It makes me so thankful to have been a part of such a tremendous program with extraordinary athletes, coaches, parents, and a school system that has given us support every step of the way.”
The 2022 Jackson County Sports Hall of Fame inductee ran at Scottsboro High School for his father, John Esslinger, an AHSAA Hall of Fame member with winning forty-six state championships. The 1998 graduate was an AAU All-American in the decathlon and was All-State multiple times.
Esslinger competed for he University of South Alabama. As a Jaguar, Esslinger was a Sun Belt All-Conference Decathlete in 2001 and 2003. Esslinger graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Political Science.
At South Alabama, Esslinger was awarded the Perseverance Award for Courage and Character in Athletics, received the Most Outstanding Student in Political Science Award, and was selected to the Verizon Academic All-District IV Team for NCAA Track & Field.
After leaving Mobile, Esslinger got his first taste of coaching in the Birmingham area. As a grad student, Esslinger coached at Mountain Brook High School for two years while completing his Master’s in Education at UAB.
Esslinger then moved across town to Homewood High School, where he served as the head track and field coach and track and field and cross country program director from 2005-2020. Under Esslinger, the Patriots program thrived, winning thirty-one state championships, twenty in track and field.
Esslinger earned National Coach of the Year honors in 2017, and he has also been named Alabama Coach of the Year four times. He was a coach for the U.S. Navy at the 2014 Warrior Games.
The move to the collegiate level is bitter sweet for Esslinger, “I will always cherish the extraordinary relationships developed through coaching and teaching.”
Esslinger heads to Samford University, a D1 program that has become a powerhouse in the SoCon under legendary coach Rod Tiffin.
“I can’t wait to be a part of the dynasty Coach Tiffin has built at Samford,” said Esslinger. “Coach Tiffin has always been a role model for me, and I am so excited for the opportunity to learn from him at such a prestigious program.”
Tom lives in Homewood with his wife Amanda, who is the principal at Spain Park High School, and their two sons John and Will.