Largo, hoping to maintain continuity in its successful football program, hired former standout Marcus Paschal as football coach on Friday.
Paschal, 29, succeeds his high school coach, Rick Rodriguez, who stepped down in December after 15 seasons.
"This was the dream I had," Paschal said of coaching the Packers. "It's what kept me here after I stopped playing football. Even as a kid, this was one of my goals, to come back here and coach after playing in the NFL."
From 2000-01, Paschal was a quarterback and defensive back for Largo. He went on to play for Iowa, becoming the first big recruit under Rodriguez. Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007, Paschal had a five-year NFL career with four different teams.
After leaving professional football, Paschal became as assistant coach with Largo and has been heavily involved in the Ridgecrest community where he grew up, holding football camps in the summer for kids in the area.
"I was even helping out when I was playing in the NFL," Paschal said. "I would come back here and do the conditioning in the offseason with the players for the past six years."
Paschal was among more than 90 who applied for the job. He was the favorite among the players and beat five other finalists who went through a series of interviews over the past two weeks.
"It was a very tough decision because of the great candidates who interviewed," Largo principal Brad Finkbiner said. "Marcus stood out because of his loyalty to the program and because he wants to follow in the footsteps of his high school coach."
Paschal currently teaches physical education at Palm Harbor Middle, but said he is working with administrators at Largo to bring him on campus by next fall.
Paschal will officially meet with the players to get started on offseason conditioning within the next week. The next task will be to fill out his coaching staff. He will have to replace defensive coordinator Jeremy Frioud, who left in December to become the head coach at Northeast.
Paschal inherits a program that has won a record nine straight district titles and returns the core of skill players, including quarterback Donavan Hale and receivers Reggie Campbell and Jonathan Crawford.
Bob Putnam can be reached at [email protected]