Jerrod Ackley

New Blackfoot head football coach Jerrod Ackley poses with his family and the Texas state championship trophy he won as an assistant coach at Cedar Park High School in Cedar Park, Texas, in 2015.

After a nation-spanning coaching career, returning to Idaho is a homecoming for Blackfoot’s new football coach.

Jerrod Ackley, who played at American Falls High School and started his coaching career under Gino Mariani at Pocatello High, was announced as the new head man at Blackfoot late last week.

He replaces longtime Blackfoot head coach Stan Buck, who retired this winter after leading the Broncos to four 4A state titles and four state runner-up finishes, including a second-place finish in 2019.

“Obviously, Blackfoot has a great football tradition,” Ackley said. “Coach Buck has done just a phenomenal job of building a state powerhouse program. ... I think it’s just a really good situation to come into a football-hungry community, and obviously there’s a lot of talent in Blackfoot.”

Ackley, who was previously the head coach at Soda Springs in the early 2000s, has spent most of his recent coaching career in Florida and Texas.

He went from Soda Springs to an assistant job in Florida, moved back to Idaho for one year as a video coordinator at Idaho State, and then was back in Florida, where he wound up as the head coach at Immokalee High School near Fort Myers in the southern part of the state.

Ackley stayed at Immokalee for three years, narrowly missing a 5A state championship in his final year — his team lost the title game 21-20, scoring a potential game-tying touchdown on the final play before a bad snap on the extra point.

After a year at another high school in Florida, Ackley and his family moved to Texas, where he coached middle school football in Lake Travis and then won a state title as an assistant at Cedar Park High School.

”Florida is a long way from Idaho, and then Texas, I don’t know,” Ackley said. “I guess we’ve always looked at life as an adventure, as a journey, just to have some really great experiences and obviously, in the coaching world, coaching in Florida and Texas were just really, really cool experiences.”

When his youngest son was born a few years ago, Ackley stepped away from coaching to focus on his family, so the Blackfoot job is not only a return to Idaho, but a return to the profession.

”I’m really excited to be a head coach again,” Ackley said. “About 50% of my teaching career, I was a head football coach, so I’m excited to be able to call all the shots now again.”

The move back to Idaho, where both Ackley and his wife are from, was also driven by family ties. With the family living in Florida and Texas, their three sons were only able to see relatives once or twice or year.

When Ackley’s father-in-law got sick earlier this spring, the couple reconsidered their priorities.

”We really started to think about our parents being older and, again, missing that family time,” Ackley said. “We eventually just decided, my wife and I, that maybe we should take a closer look at the Blackfoot job. ... It’ll be really good to have family around and be able to have my sons see their grandparents and cousins on a daily or weekly basis compared to seeing them once a year, twice a year.”

On the football side, Ackley is replacing a legend in Buck, who was the head coach at Blackfoot for 28 years and built the Broncos into a perennial playoff team and title contender.

The Broncos lose some talent from their 11-2 state runner-up team a year ago, but return all-state running back Teegan Thomas, who ran for over 1,800 yards.

”The thing about high school football is, every year’s a brand new team, no matter what the last team was like,” Ackley said. “I very much respect coach Buck and respect what they’ve had going on in the program. He certainly is someone that set a high bar in Blackfoot. ... We’re going to move it in a little bit different direction than they were, but he’s already built a great foundation to continue to build a great football program there.”