Eric Jantzi, left, and head coach Rob Valenti will be coaching the Springville-Griffith Institute Griffs this football season.
SPRINGVILLE—It’s easy to see the football pedigree in Eric Jantzi by looking at some of the hardware on his hand.
A large, red stone ring glows on one finger from a state championship at North Tonawanda, on another finger, a maroone stone ring appears from a state championship at Orchard Park.
Jantzi will be bringing those rings to Springville this fall.
Jantzi has been approved to become a varsity football assistant coach at Springville-Griffith Institute. The decision became official at the S-GI board of education meeting on June 10. Jantzi, a 1987 graduate of Springville, comes back to his hometown as one of the top coaches in Western New York to work under head coach Rob Valenti.
“I don’t think words can describe my personal excitement,” said Valenti, who is entering his first season as head coach, “I’m most excited about what this means for our athletes, what it means for our school district, what is means for our community and what it means for our alumni. This is a big bold move that I think a lot of people are going to be excited about. We’ve really positioned ourselves to re-establish an elite caliber program here at Springville.”
Jantzi, who has 20 years of coaching experience under his belt, was unanimously approved by the board of education. He went 86-23 in an 11-year run as the head coach at North Tonawanda, including leading the Lumberjacks to a 13-0 season and Niagara County’s first state championship in 2009. North Tonawanda won eight Class AA North titles, two Section VI titles and made four trips to Ralph Wilson Stadium in his tenure. Jantzi left NT in 2010, as he seeked time to be closer to his family.
Jantzi, an Orchard Park resident, went on to be a volunteer on the Orchard Park football staff from 2011 until last fall. In 2011, Jantzi and Orchard Park won a state championship. The following season, Orchard Park lost in the state championship game. In his three years at Orchard Park, the Quakers went 30-5, including two Section VI titles and two trips to the Carrier Dome.
So, why Springville?
“I think there’s a lot of upside here,” Jantzi said. “I would like to get Springville back to the point where year in, year out we’re pretty successful...to take a 53 mile drive down [to Springville] from school, obviously it being my hometown played a big part. If it wasn’t my alma mater, I wouldn’t be there next year.”
Jantzi was named first team All-WNY in 1986. His senior campaign saw him lead Springville with 104 tackles, including a career-high 24 against Clarence at Ralph Wilson Stadium (formerly Rich Stadium). Also as a senior, Jantzi was a Connolly Cup finalist, an award given to the most outstanding football player in WNY. Jantzi, a hard-nosed, 6-foot-3, 235-pound linebacker, was a gamer according to longtime Springville football coach, Mick Nugent.
“He was kind of a low key kid, he didn’t get real excited but when it came time to play, he played hard,” Nugent said. “He had a lot of great athletic ability and he played hard. I followed his teams at North Tonawanda and I followed his state championship team to the Carrier Dome. His teams are very disciplined and [he] does a great job.”
After playing four years at Bucknell University, Jantzi spent one year as an assistant coach at Summerville High School in South Carolina, working under coaching icon John McKissick. McKissick is the all-time winningest football coach in the United States, with 613 wins to his name and 10 state championships in 63 seasons.
Jantzi has been a biology teacher at North Tonawanda since 1995 and spent three years as NT’s offensive coordinator before starting an 11-year tenure as head coach of the football team. Jantzi will be Springville’s offensive coordinator and will continue to run the triple-option, the offensive system that Springville has run since 2010. Jantzi ran triple-option at North Tonawanda and averaged 34 points per game over his 11 years. During NT’s state championship season, they outscored their opponents 481 to 113.
“You can get away with not being as talented as other teams and beating them,” Jantzi said. “Year in and year out at NT, we were beating teams that had kids that played or still play in the NFL. Obviously those teams were more talented than us. But we exposed them running option. It really set the stage for our defense because we held onto the ball so much. It made us better in all facets of the game.”
Jantzi has accomplished just about as much as a coach possibly can. However, he’s not living in the past, he’s looking forward to a fresh start and a new chapter at his alma mater.
“I’m looking forward to some new relationships, working with new coaches, reaching out and meeting people and reacquainting with old friends. All that good stuff.” Jantzi said.
Valenti likes the idea of having Jantzi in his corner.
“Hopefully we can get him a purple stone ring to go with his set.” Valenti said.