APPLETON, Wis. — An enduring friendship helped bring Phil Grams to the Lawrence University football coaching staff, and it now has given him a big role in the future of the Vikings.
Grams has been named the offensive coordinator for the Vikings, and he replaces Mark Speckman, his long-time friend and collaborator in the “Fly” offense. Speckman announced in December he was leaving Appleton to be the assistant head coach at the University of California Davis, a Football Championship Subdivision program.
“Phil has a great passion for the game, for the Fly offense and for our team,” Lawrence coach Rob McCarthy said. “He’s a great fit for what we’re doing here, and the direction we want to go. Phil’s expertise in the Fly offense keeps the continuity for the players, and they are excited about that.”
Grams joined the Lawrence staff in 2016 as the running backs coach. He had come to Appleton earlier in the year to work a football clinic with Speckman, and McCarthy broached the subject of joining the Lawrence staff.
“We had the Fly clinic here last spring, and it seemed like a good opportunity,” Grams said. “Then Rob asked me about coaching here. When my wife and I were on the airplane flying back, we said, ‘There’s no way we’re moving to Wisconsin,’ but things just worked out.”
Grams’ wife, Sandy, also joined the staff at Lawrence and works in the Annual Giving office. Their youngest son, Matt, attends Appleton North High School. When Speckman left for UC Davis, Grams was eager for the chance to begin calling the plays for the Vikings.
“I was practically in tears when Rob offered me the (offensive coordinator) job. This is where we want to be,” Grams said. “We love the family atmosphere Coach McCarthy has created with the team and with the football coaches’ families.”
A native of Rockford, Ill., Grams had been living in Sacramento, Calif., for more than 25 years. He amassed an impressive record as a high school head coach and assistant coach in the Golden State.
While running the Fly offense as the head coach at Capital Christian High School in Sacramento, Grams compiled a record of 48-11, including a 22-0 mark in league play. Grams’ teams won four Golden Empire League championships and captured a San Joaquin Section title.
Grams won 2012, 2013 and 2015 Golden Empire League Coach of the Year honors and was the 2014 Max Preps Small School Coach of the Year in Northern California.
Grams also spent 10 years at Granite Bay (Calif.) High School. While at Granite Bay, Grams worked with current Lawrence offensive line coach Mike Lynch as the Grizzlies ran the Fly offense. Grams’ record as an assistant coach is 100-19.
Grams’ ties to California also provide a seamless transition in terms of recruiting. He will concentrate his recruiting efforts on the West Coast, the area for which Speckman was responsible.
“Phil has the California connection with his ties to the West Coast,” McCarthy said. “That will continue to be a strong recruiting area for us.”
Grams is eager to see what lies ahead for a team that posted a 2016 record of 3-7, a two-win improvement over the previous season.
“I am so happy, super pleased to be able to continue what we’ve started here,” Grams said. “It’s an exciting opportunity to be the one calling the offense with this great group of young men.”