The landscape of Liberty football changed in a matter of 30 minutes last week when the Lions head coach and a promising young player announced they are leaving the program.
Liberty Head coach and athletic director Ryan Partridge informed this publication that he was stepping down from his positions at the school to become the new linebackers coach at Ferris State University, a powerhouse Division 2 school located in Big Rapids, Michigan.
Around the same time, sophomore quarterback Jaden Rashada — who holds offers from Auburn and Cal — posted on Twitter that he was transferring to national juggernaut IMG Academy in Florida.
For Partridge, the 35-year-old Pleasanton native, it was an easy decision to make. Being a college coach has been a dream of his.
“I had the same goal as my team,” said Partridge. “They want to go to college and play football. I wanted to coach in college.”
Former Liberty defensive coordinator Brian Reel said he expects Partridge to flourish in Michigan.
“Definitely not ‘stepping down,’ more like ‘stepping up’ to the next phase in his and family’s lives and no doubt in my mind he will excel,” Reel said.
In his three-year-tenure at Liberty, Partridge accomplished a lot.
He lost his first game with the Lions versus Vacaville, even after putting up 750 offensive yards. He was worried the rest of the season was going to turn out that way.
And then, the Lions went on a roar.
They only lost one game the rest of the season and took home the team’s first ever North Coast Section Division 1 championship.
The following year, Liberty beat Pittsburg, winning the league title and ending the season with a state championship victory over Sierra Canyon in Southern California.
“A state championship at that time being a young head coach, you don’t think the road is even available,” said Partridge. “Once I stepped on campus, the kids were listening to what I was saying, and the talent that was on the field, I thought we could make something special.”
For Partridge, his move to the college ranks involved being at the right place at the right time. Although his resume helped him a lot too.
Just before the country shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Partridge was able to attend one more coaching clinic in Reno, where he ran into Ferris State head coach Tony Annese — who has the best winning percentage in all of college football.
Partridge’s line of work stood out enough for him that a couple of weeks later he was offered the linebackers coach position at Ferris State.
“My goal is to be a well respected college coach by my colleagues,” Partridge said. “Our team goal is to win a national championship.”
As Partridge gets ready to start the new chapter of his life in Michigan, he reminisces on the great memories he’s made at Liberty.
“The biggest thing I’m going to miss is the kids,” said Partridge. “The day-to-day interaction and relationships I built with the athletes is the hardest thing to leave.”
But while his job was to help his players reach the next level, he learned a lot at Liberty.
“The value of relationships can not only change people’s lives,” said Partridge. “Deep connections with players can win you football games. It overlooks anything, the scheme or fundamentals. The most important thing is relationships.”
Former BVAL defensive MVP Nicky Einess said Partridge is special.
“He left a big impact on me because of our relationship.” Einess said. “He gelled our team into a family, and we all played like brothers because of it.”
The head coach position at Liberty has been posted on Edjoin.com, but according to Partridge one of the best candidates for the job is already in the program, in defensive coordinator Matt Hoefs. Hoefs has experience at the head coach level with programs such as Dublin and Arroyo (San Lorenzo). He also worked as a PE teacher in the Antioch Unified School District.
Partridge’s announcement came just less than half an hour after sophomore quarterback Rashada announced he’s leaving the program as well.
“It was no hard feeling at all leaving Liberty, I just had to do what’s best for me,” Rashada said. “I look at my opportunities and know God doesn’t put me in these situations for no reason, I want to develop as much as I can to be the best player I can in college, and there’s no place in the country that’s better for that then IMG.”