Gateway: Sports

After 23 years as a head coach, Fairfield embracing assistant role at Peninsula

Peninsula High passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jim Fairfield spent 23 years as the head coach of Fountain Hills High School in Arizona. He moved to Gig Harbor to spend more time with his grandchildren.
Peninsula High passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jim Fairfield spent 23 years as the head coach of Fountain Hills High School in Arizona. He moved to Gig Harbor to spend more time with his grandchildren. jbessex@gateline.com

Jim Fairfield has seen it all. The 55-year-old transplant from Fountain Hills, Arizona has played high school football, wrestled, played college football, had a brief stint in professional football and was the head coach of the Fountain Hills High School football team for 23 years.

Now, he just wants settle down.

Fairfield is the new passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Peninsula High School, a lesser role than he’s accustomed to. But he’s perfectly content with having less responsibility.

Fairfield moved to Gig Harbor last year with his wife, Paige, to be closer to his son, Brandon, and his grandkids, Kenneth and Paige.

Fairfield, who just celebrated his 30th anniversary with his wife, let her make the decision on what their next move would be.

We made a decision that once I was able to retire, that she could pick where she wanted to move.

Jim Fairfield, Peninsula football assistant coach

“We made a decision that once I was able to retire, that she could pick where she wanted to move,” Fairfield said.

She chose Gig Harbor, and Fairfield couldn’t be happier, spending four or five days per week taking care of his grandkids.

“They’re 5 and 7 (years old) right now,” Fairfield said. “That’s a perfect age for them. They want to be around grandpa.”

PLAYING DAYS

Fairfield grew up in Scottsdale and played football and wrestled at Saguaro High School. His skills as a wide receiver earned him a scholarship to play at Washington State University in 1979, where Fairfield played under coach Jim Walden during his freshman season.

But after two of the Cougars’ tight ends went down with injuries, the WSU coaching staff asked Fairfield to play tight end. He wasn’t a big fan and ended up transferring after the end of his freshman season.

“After delegation with my father and my agent, we decided it wasn’t a good fit so I ended up going back to Scottsdale,” Fairfield said.

Fairfield finished his career at Chadron State in Nebraska before signing a two-year contract with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League after a tryout. But his professional career never got off the ground.

“My agent called me about two weeks before the season started and said, ‘The coach that was there just took a job in the NFL. All the guys that had new contracts, they’re all on waivers,’” Fairfield said.

At the time, Fairfield was working out and staying in shape at Saguaro High. Bob Keller, Saguaro’s football coach at the time, told him he had an opening on his staff.

“I tried it and kept working out and staying in shape,” Fairfield said. “I loved coaching and teaching. That was the end of my football career.”

FOUNTAIN HILLS

After seven years as an assistant at Saguaro, Fairfield accepted the head coaching position at Fountain Hills High School, a smaller school just outside of Scottsdale. Fountain Hills High was just opening its doors, and Fairfield became the school’s first head football coach. He remained there in that position for 23 years.

Fairfield said he has too many fond memories to count, but pointed to one game in particular as a highlight. In 2013, a group of superintendents in Arizona decided students were missing too much school due to travel time to and from competitions. So the Arizona Interscholastic Association decided to group the schools based on proximity, rather than classification.

“Paradise Valley High School, they were the state champions a division above us,” Fairfield said. “We ended up knocking them off. They were ranked No. 2 in the state. It was a high-scoring game. We came back and won. Those kinds of games give you chills.”

The school-grouping experiment, which was presented as a two-year trial run, failed miserably and was scrapped after only one year.

LIFE IN PURDY

Peninsula coach and athletic director Ross Filkins searched far and wide for a candidate to step into the assistant coaching role for the Seahawks football program, posting the job listing to various national football sites.

And after all the searching, the best candidate just fell into his lap.

Being able to get someone with (Fairfield’s) experience and getting a high-character person, it was just a gift.

Ross Filkins, Peninsula head football coach

“Being able to get someone with (Fairfield’s) experience and getting a high-character person, it was just a gift,” Filkins said.

Integrity is something Fairfield mentioned several times while speaking about Filkins and his staff. While certain high school football programs have been in the news for the wrong reasons, Fairfield said he appreciated the way Filkins ran his program.

“Everything he does is above board,” Fairfield said. “He’s honest. Integrity and principles are huge with him and they are with me. We kind of hit it off right there; this is where it has to be. Everyone is up front. If you see something wrong, you say something.”

Peninsula is doing something a bit unique with its offense — Fairfield will be the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach, while Mauritz Winquist will serve as the running game coordinator.

“We were trying find a way to utilize everyone’s talents the best way we could,” Filkins said. “He had experience in Arizona with the passing game we were interested into molding our offense into. Our offensive coordinator, Mauritz Winquist, has been working with our running game so long. There’s a lot of staffs that are using multiples coordinators. It kind of shares that workload.”

Filkins has been impressed with what Fairfield has brought to the table, from watching over the quarterback competition to working with the receivers.

“He’s just got a great eye for it,” Filkins said. “He’s really calm, sets a really good tone and establishes a good culture. With his playing background and coaching background, being able to draw on, it’s a deep well of experience. He’s a very hard worker, intelligent. He crosses every ‘t’ and dots every ‘i.’ He’ll get the most out of every single kid he coaches.”

For Fairfield, his philosophy is pretty simple: Work hard and have fun.

“Be honest with the kids, be upfront, teach them the basics,” he said. “The overall program is what you put into it. Just do your best and have fun with it.”

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