Shortly after the end of the 2013 season for the Johns Hopkins football team, wide receivers coach and former Blue Jays fullback Greg Chimera was called to head coach Jim Margraff’s office and greeted by some startling news about offensive coordinator and associate head coach Dan Swanstrom.
“I just remember coming into the office, and Coach said, ‘Hey, Dan’s leaving [for the University of Pennsylvania]. If you want the job, we have a team meeting in five minutes,’ ” Chimera recalled last Thursday. “I was like, ‘Um, yeah, I want the job.’ It’s crazy for someone to have that trust in me.
“[Margraff] called the plays when I was a player, and I thought it was going to be a situation where we did it together so that I could learn throughout the season. But from the first play of the season, he just didn’t say a word. He just let me run with it.”
Chimera, the offensive coordinator for the past five seasons, will follow in his mentor’s footsteps as he was named the Blue Jays’ interim head coach Wednesday. Chimera, 31, succeeds Margraff, a former Johns Hopkins quarterback who died last Wednesday at age 58 at his home in the Baltimore area after leading the program for 29 years. University officials did not release a cause of death.
A national search for a permanent head coach will begin immediately, the school announced.
Under Chimera’s direction for the past five seasons, the Blue Jays offense has averaged at least 37 points per game. The team also produced at least 500 yards per game in each of the past four years.
This past fall, the Blue Jays set school single-season records with 45.8 points per game and 550.3 yards per game. They established program marks in touchdown passes (39), overall touchdowns (91) and total points scored (641) en route to the school’s first appearance in the semifinals of the NCAA Division III tournament and won a school-record 12 games.
Former quarterback Braden Anderson said last Thursday that he hoped the university would promote either Chimera or defensive coordinator Mickey Rehring to head coach. Chimera and Rehring accepted the American Football Coaches Association Division III National Coach of the Year award on Margraff's behalf Tuesday night at the organization’s annual convention in San Antonio, Texas.
“I loved them both a lot,” said Anderson, who graduated in 2015 and is attending medical school at the University of Maryland at Baltimore. “I think they’re both great coaches. In terms of continuity and good coaches, I think you would be hard pressed to find two better coaches to replace Coach Margraff. It’s never easy, but in terms of continuity, I think that would help.”
Chimera acknowledged the difficulty of replacing Margraff, whose loyalty, humility and graciousness endeared him to players and opponents alike.
“Everyone on our team wanted to play for him and would run through a brick wall for him, and I just think guys are going to be even that more motivated to kind of finish off what he started and keep building that legacy that he built here,” he said. “Of course, it’s going to be hard. I think the day-to-day stuff is going to be harder than the big picture, and there will be little events like the banquet and spring ball where you’re not used to him being there. But I think our guys are just going to use it as motivation to take what he has taught them and build that into their daily lives. And we have a lot of talent coming back. So I think our talent plus our drive to play for Coach is going to put us in a good spot.”