Bruce Gifford strolled into Riverview head football coach Dan O'Regan's office one day this spring to discuss the upcoming season.
Gifford, the Sharks' defensive coordinator, said he and O'Regan talked about the Bloomingdale head coaching position, which had just been filled by Riverview assistant Jason Stokes.
Gifford applied for the Bulls' job that Stokes got.
"Basically, (O'Regan) told me to keep my head up and that something would come available," Gifford said. "He said he had a few years left in him and if I stuck around, I would have a good shot at being the next in line (at Riverview)."
That opportunity came a lot sooner than anyone expected.
Gifford took the reins at Riverview when O'Regan abruptly resigned last month just before the spring jamboree.
"It came as a total shock to everyone around here," Gifford said. "We had no idea at all he would leave."
O'Regan went 32-20 at Riverview, including leading the Sharks to their lone district title in 2005. That year's team went 10-2 and reached the second round of the 6A state playoffs.
"He has done a lot for this school and this program," said Gifford, who is entering his third season with the Sharks. "But we're excited for this fall because I think he left the program in good shape."
Gifford, 45, has never been a head coach. That said, he has 25 years of experience coaching various sports.
"I coached part time while I worked for the state," Gifford said. "I took early retirement so I could teach and get a head coaching position someday."
Gifford's lengthy list of assistant coaching includes stints at Durant and Tallahassee's Godby and Florida high schools.
In addition to football, Gifford has also coached baseball and softball.
"I think, regardless of sport, my philosophy has been that when the kids leave me, they are better people than before they got here," Gifford said. "I want to produce good citizens for this community."
That may sound like "coach speak" but coming from a man who worked for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, it resonates a little differently.
"For some of these kids, I may be one of the only male role models they have in their lives," Gifford said. "I take that responsibility very, very seriously. If I can even help just one guy, then I've done something good."
Other than a new head coach, Riverview will also have a slightly different look heading into this year. The Sharks ran the double wing-T under O'Regan, but Gifford said that old-school offensive formation will give way to more of an I-formation look this season.
"We will spread it out more," he said. "We won't be a spread offense, but we've added some things. Most of our blocking schemes will stay the same and the kids did a real good job adjusting to it toward the end of the spring."
A graduate of Brandon High, Gifford said he can't wait to get things going in an area where he grew up. How deep are his roots in the area? Gifford and his wife — whom he met in the second grade — celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary this year.
"I'm a Brandon boy," he said. "This is a place I feel comfortable in and a place I love. I feel blessed to have this opportunity."