By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– It’s funny how things work out.
When Jed Leeper came to Salem, Oregon from Missouri in 2014, the Salem Academy football team Varsity Head Coaching job was open to be filled.
Some would say it’s better to sit on something and wait until it feels right. That’s what Leeper did.
He would serve two stints at South Salem, coaching freshman and JV, the latter this past football season. He was the Varsity Defensive Coordinator at Stayton High School and was a Varsity Head Coach at Central Linn for a year in 2017 before the Crusader job opened back up after the departure of Gary Johnson.
“I felt like I would eventually be here. A lot of it was making sure that I was prepared for a situation like this and always trying to work towards it,” said Leeper following his introductory Press Conference Wednesday night. “I knew that I would be a Head Coach and I knew that when I came back to Salem they’ll be a few places that I’ll consider going to.
“The times of applying for jobs out of town are gone. I was done traveling and moving around. I want to be in Salem where I work and feeling a calling to this school in particular. Things happen for a reason I think sometimes and being patient. Sometimes you just have to wait and listen and wait.”
Standing before about two dozen people in the Crusaders Chapel-area that overlooks the High School basketball gym, Leeper spoke for about 90 minutes to the crowd in front of him.
He introduced his assistants, three were in attendance and introduced themselves even. Leeper talked about his components and how he would like to execute them. Those components feature Spiritual Character Foundations, Others Focused, Positive Encouragement, Leadership Development and Increased Work Capacity.
He too talked about his three pillars of Faith, Family and Service and how all of it ties in with his coaching philosophy with the hopes to turn a program that was in the 3A State Championship Game three-years ago with a Senior-heavy squad that year into a playoff contender in his tenure as Head Coach.
“What we see with programs that have a really strong senior class is that sometimes the younger kids or the kids who were sophomores or juniors just don’t know how to work and they’re used to have somebody do it for them. And when those Seniors are gone, ‘Oh man, now I got to step it up. I got to keep it going’ and that’s hard,” starts Leeper. “If you haven’t been put in that situation throughout your High School…freshman, sophomore Junior and when you’re a Senior and it’s your time to lead, it can be difficult.”
The energetic red head admits that it’s going to get some time to get everything rolling, but is up for the challenge at hand. They want to go up-tempo on offense and speed up the game, swarm and punish on defense. Leeper mentioned about having a good block of time side aside for Special Teams, something that the 40-year-old coach holds true to his heart after his playing days in College at Fort Scott Community College and the University of Central Missouri.
And as the journey comes full-circle for Leeper with him and his coaching staff entering their Spring and Summer weights and conditioning programs, the challenge will now be to the kids to bring the energy to start the growth Leeper is looking for.
“We can do all that fancy stuff and offer all these opportunities to work, but if the kids aren’t on board then it probably won’t go how we want it to go. So it’s our jobs as coaches to keep it intense and keep it fresh, fun and meaningful so they know their why then we’ll see if it grows,” said Leeper.
“Big thing right now is that we got a lot of things going on with the Spring Athletic Enhancement which will go into the Summer Athletic Enhancement which is the weight room time that we have and work on the speed and agility. Kids get excited to seeing me more often, seeing our post on Facebook and getting a lot of shares. Seeing those emails going through the school and the big thing is just have the kids excited about what they are doing in the hallways.”