Lakeridge High School selects Elvis Akpla as Pacers' new head football coach
Former pro, college player has been an assistant for the past two years and coached the freshman team
Elvis Akpla has been selected as the new head football coach at Lakeridge High School, the school district announced Wednesday.
Akpla, who has been with the program the past two seasons, was the coach of the freshman team and an assistant on the varsity team, where he coached wide receivers. Akpla, 26, also is an educational assistant in Lakeridge's special education department.
The Pacers' new coach is an outstanding all-around athlete. He moved to Portland from Senegal with his mother when he was 8 years old and grew up playing basketball and soccer.
While attending Lincoln High School in Portland, Akpla excelled at track, winning state championships with the Cardinals in both the long jump and the triple jump. Prior to his junior year, Akpla was persuaded to join the football team, where he became an all-state wide receiver.
Akpla ran track and was on the football team for two years at the University of Oregon before transferring to Montana State University. During his tenure with the Bobcats, he set school records for receiving yards and was named to the 2011 All-Big Sky Conference first team.
After his college career he graduated with a degree in cellular biology and neuroscience Akpla signed as an undrafted free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles. He also played professionally in the Canadian Football League as a wide receiver for the British Columbia Lions.
In applying for the Lakeridge job, he listed Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, Montana State University head coach Rob Ash and Kansas City Chiefs assistant head coach David Culley among his references.
He's a passionate man and someone of high integrity," said Lakeridge Principal Jennifer Schiele, who was on the hiring committee. "He's a communicator and a true problem solver.
When news of Akpla's selection hit social media Wednesday, the Lakeridge community reacted with excitement and words of praise. Jennifer Carter Pahl, the owner of Twist Yoga in Lake Oswego, called the choice of Akpla wonderful news.
Our son has taken some camps with Elvis," Pahl said, "and we have been incredibly impressed with his coaching style, knowledge and encouragement.
Added Lakeridge parent Shelly Figueroa, "Terrific news! The Pacers are in great hands!"
Schiele said the hiring process took a number of weeks and that there was a deep and talented pool of applicants. Akpla immediately made a strong impression at Lakeridge with his involvement and commitment to the school, she said.
Since I got here, I've just loved the players, and I want to give them the opportunity to succeed and give them life skills, Akpla told The Review on Wednesday.
He has also been heavily involved with video projects at the school and is currently putting together a documentary about this year's boys basketball team.
When we made the announcement to the players in the morning, they gave him a standing ovation," Schiele said. "He bleeds Pacer blue.
As the head football coach, Akpla said he is committed to continuing to restore Lakeridge's reputation following a volatile and highly publicized season two years ago, when the Pacers were fined and placed on four years' probation by the Oregon School Activities Association for a rash of personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Players' conduct on and off the field improved last season after school and district officials created a stricter code-of-conduct contract and instituted other changes.
The Pacers have been known for their fast-paced and explosive offense for years, and Akpla ran the same system with his freshman team, which finished the season 8-1 and went unbeaten in the Three Rivers League.
I want to maximize the strengths of our players and to be solid in all phases of the game, Akpla said.
To help sustain the success of the program, Akpla said he is committed to building and being involved with the youth program to bolster the team's numbers.
I want to make sure the high school has a strong impact at the youth level and I know there are some players who haven't been out for football the past few years that hopefully will come back, Akpla said.
Akpla said he will begin rounding out his staff following spring break and will also implement the team's offseason workout regimen. As of Wednesday morning, he said he had not yet talked with coaches from last year's team, including offensive coordinator Chad Carlson, who coached Akpla at Lincoln High.