The lights inside the Tivy field house flicker around 4:55 a.m. on Tuesday morning, slowly stirring to life.
Once again, Austin Galifaro is the first person to turn on the building’s lights, ready to begin another day with a grueling workout.
It’s been almost 11 years since the Antlers’ safeties coach finished his college football career at TCU, but he still hasn’t lost the physique of a Division-I receiver — probably because he has arrives at the field house at 5 a.m. almost every morning, exercising for two hours until Tivy’s football players appear for their 7:25 a.m. athletic period. (Defensive coordinator Jeremy Hickman also arrives before Tivy’s athletic period to workout with Galifaro)
These early morning workouts have become the stuff of legend inside Tivy’s football program, with coaches and players constantly raving about Galifaro’s work ethic. The workouts may seem trivial, but they have become an integral part of Tivy football, a major reason why the Antlers have gone 21-5 in the last two years. Galifaro, affectionately referred to as Coach G by his players, doesn’t just arrive early to his job every day; he encourages his players to do the same, urging them to do any extra work they can to improve.
It’s a main reason why of Tivy’s veteran players work out before their athletic period, why many of them will continue performing early-morning workouts during summer vacation, and why they enter the fall as front runners to win the District 26-5At title. If their coaches can push themselves to be in the best shape possible, they can as well.
“Honestly, he is the biggest role model for everyone here,” senior safety Race Risinger said. “Everyone knows that coach G is the first one here every single day … because he always has the best parking spot. He inspires everyone around him to be the best they can be and work hard. We’ve been told that we aren’t the biggest, baddest bunch of guys, but we beat all these teams because we work so hard. And we learn that work ethic from our coaches who show us what true hard work looks like.”
But where did Galifaro acquire this work ethic? For starters, playing at TCU in the Gary Patterson-era helped him realize what it takes to consistently win at a high level.
But ultimately, it was his father who introduced him to the virtues of hard work.
Mike Galifaro served in the Air Force for 33 years, working as a master military training instructor when Austin was a kid. He admits his military experience influenced his parenting style.
“I spent 14 years as a drill sergeant and you don’t do that without bringing some of it home,” Mike said. “It’s not like I did dormitory inspections on his room, but he learned that if you want good things, you have to work for them. I think that helped him in everything he did — from sports to academics.”
It certainly helped him land a spot on the Horned Frogs’ roster. Mike was in Mississippi when he received a call from Austin, who was then in his second year at TCU.
“I am on the basketball team,” Austin informed his dad over the phone.
“Well, That’s great!” Mike replied. “Intramurals are good.”
“No, I’m actually on the school team.”
Mike was understandably puzzled; his son didn’t even play basketball in high school. But Austin wasn’t lying, he had joined the TCU women’s basketball team’s practice squad, scrimmaging against the Lady Horned Frogs in practices. He figured this was his best chance of landing on the football staff’s radar.
It turned out to be the right move. The women’s basketball coaches gushed about Austin’s work ethic to the football coaches, which earned him an audition to walk on the football team.
Austin made the most of his time at TCU, playing with several future NFL players, including current Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. He even earned a scholarship during his senior season.
His offensive coaches helped him master different schemes that offenses can use on the field. Patterson showed him how to act off the field, always paying the closest attention to details.
“That guy is making millions of dollars, but he will stop to pick up a little piece of trash, even if it’s a gum wrapper on the floor,” Austin said. “To him, anything that involves football at TCU is his house. He will pick up the littlest piece of trash, whether he is on the field, his office, walking around campus.”
Naturally, studying Patterson and his habits groomed Austin for his stint at Tivy. After coaching in Jasper for several seasons, Austin joined the Antlers’ staff in 2016, immediately thriving in his new job. He’s built close relationships with his players, coaching multiple defensive standouts (Preston Dimery, Ryan Robertson, Nathaniel Seibert and Jack Qualls) during his Tivy tenure. He teases his players, often telling the lanky Risinger that he looks like a giraffe (Risinger considers this to be a compliment). And he’s a good teacher, helping his safeties decipher different offensive schemes and route combinations during games. He scours practice film late at night, sometimes working 17 hours in a day during the season, searching for ways to help his safeties improve.
“He’s a huge asset to me, our kids and our program,” Hickman said. “He’s been a great attribute for us because our safeties are guys who have to make a lot of adjustments and there’s a lot of thinking involving the safety position. … It takes a very good coach to coach safeties for us. Coach G is very good, one of the best coaches I have been around defensively when it comes to secondary work and understanding the game.”
Hickman believes Austin has a bright coaching future ahead of him, but for now, Coach G is helping run Tivy’s SAC camp, inspiring his players to continuing working hard until the fall, just like he’s done since he arrived at Tivy.
And here’s the best part about the upcoming season: Mike will help lead Tivy’s junior ROTC program in the fall, meaning he and Austin’s mom, Cheryl Galifaro, will attend every 2019 Tivy football game
In other words, Mike and Cheryl will watch their son pass on the same lessons that they taught him as a child.
“To be able to watch your own child make such an impact, I just couldn’t feel more blessed about the situation,” Cheryl said. “I am proud of him, and his father is as well.”