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While the bright lights as a football player are over for Makana Garrigan, the former Casa Grande Gaucous standout, is continuing his football career on the University of Nevada, Reno coaching staff.

Garrigan went to Reno to continue his football career after graduating from Casa in 2011, but a nagging injury cut his career short.

As a hard-hitting safety, Garrigan's physical play led to nerve damage in his neck that shot down to his right shoulder. He practiced with the team in the fall, but doctors would not allow him to play any longer.

Freshman year of college was one of the first years of Garrigan's life that football was not involved. After the spring, he decided football had to find a way back into his life.

"I went to safeties coach, Mike Bradeson, and told him how passionate about football I am and how I wanted to one day be a coach," Garrigan said.

Bradeson believed in Garrigan and found a role for him.

In his sophomore year, Garrigan was back to being a part of Nevada's football program. He started doing little jobs, such as organizing files, but Garrigan was learning more and more each day.

The transition to coaching kept football in his life, but Garrigan still missed his playing days.

"My first day at practice was really hard, because I knew I could compete with those guys no matter how big or fast they were," Garrigan said.

Competing with anyone has always been Garrigan's mindset, and it showed in the production he had on the Gauchos football team. In three varsity seasons, Garrigan excelled on both sides of the ball, scoring 22 touchdowns and collecting 18 interceptions.

After last season, every coach, except Bradeson and two others were fired from Nevada's coaching staff. Garrigan had to meet new coaches and hope they would let him expand his role on the team.

"When the new coaches heard that I had already been around for one year, they wanted to give me way more responsibilities, and I was really excited for the upcoming season," Garrigan said.

Garrigan's new role has him in position for a bright future. He is already breaking down film of opposing teams and Nevada's practices. This season he will travel with the team and signal plays for the defense from the sidelines.

In the spring, Nevada has three spring games and Garrigan was thrown into his bigger role in the first scrimmage. He was sent to the coach's box to break down every angle of the game.

"Hearing five different coaches in your headset was pretty crazy," Garrigan said. "The first couple of series were pretty hard, but then I got in a groove and I loved it."

Nevada plays its first game against UCLA and Garrigan will travel to the Rose Bowl for his first experience as a coach. He will also travel to powerhouse schools, Florida State and Boise State.

Garrigan is one of the first people in the coaches office, arriving around 6:30 or 7 a.m. so he can get a start on film or practice.

On days he has classes, Garrigan is usually on campus working with the football team or in class until 9 p.m.

Coaching at Nevada has also helped Garrigan academically. The coaches have already offered him a graduate assistant position after he graduates. The position will allow Garrigan to get his masters degree paid for by Nevada. Garrigan set his eyes on graduation with the position in his future, and he earned a 3.5 GPA during the spring.

"We have a great new coaching staff so I try to listen to everything right now.

"My goal is to graduate and be a graduate assistant at Nevada. Hopefully one day I get a bigger position," Garrigan said.

Big hits and snatching interceptions may be a thing of the past for Garrigan, but football is back in his life and a young start to a coaching career has him on track for a big future.

"I wake up grateful every morning that football is still in my life," Garrigan said.