When Ethan Atchley graduated from the University of Kentucky with a marketing degree in 2011, he had a job lined up with his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. He decided against taking it, however, so he could pursue his real passion: football.
Three years later, Atchley is the new head coach at Lexington Christian Academy.
Atchley, 24, was defensive backs coach at LCA in 2011 and defensive coordinator in 2012. He held that same coaching position last fall at Lafayette, where he's a business teacher.
"It's a blessing," he said of being the Eagles' head coach at such a young age.
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LCA Athletics Director Kerwin Dees said Atchley impressed the interview committee "with his energy, drive, and leadership skills, and the great relationship he had with the kids and the coaches when he was here."
Dees said he got the same rave reviews about Atchley from Lafayette.
Atchley is from Cleveland where he played football his first semester at Case Western Reserve University.
He transferred to UK after that and focused on getting a marketing degree. He also met his fiancee, Emily Franklin, here. He said her family helped stoke his football fire.
Emily's dad, Mike Franklin, and her uncle, Jim Franklin, played at UK. Their sons (Chris and Chip) were quarterbacks at Paul Laurence Dunbar. Jim is a longtime high school assistant coach in Lexington.
Atchley said those connections helped him land an assistant's job at LCA under Ray Graham in 2011.
Graham was fired after the Eagles went 1-10 last fall. He had a four-year record of 23-27.
Atchley said he learned a lot from Graham.
"The biggest thing I'll take from him is how he developed kids as a whole, not just on the football field, helping them become better persons and better Christians."
He said Lafayette Coach Eric Shaw's best asset was "thinking out of the box and being creative."
Atchley said being young will help him connect with his players.
"It's a good relationship tool," he said. "We listen to the same music, we have similar likes and dislikes, and mostly grew up in the same generation.
"At the same time it'll help me be an effective Christian leader in building young men and helping them develop the work ethic and discipline that you need in football."
Atchley is confident he can get LCA's participation numbers up, too.
"Kids help sell the program more than anything," he said. "If they're excited about being part of the football team, or any team, they'll do what they can to get their buddies out."