Beloved coach departs LC football program

Photo courtesy of Jay Locey

Head football Coach Jay Locey retired from Lewis & Clark at the start of February and has since accepted an offer to coach as part of the United States Football League (USFL), a professional league with a spring season. 

Locey first came to LC in 2014. Under his leadership, the Pioneers began to win multiple games in back-to-back seasons, beginning in 2017 with a win against Pomona-Pitzer that snapped a 33-game losing streak. Two weeks later, the team won the Wagon Wheel traveling trophy against Willamette University for the first time since 2000, and have defended it every year since then, marking four consecutive seasons with the distinction.

According to Director of Physical Education and Athletics Mark Pietrok, Locey has made a lasting impact on the football program. Pietrok is also excited for Interim Head Football Coach Joseph Bushman to take the helm next fall.

“Coach Locey has created a new era of Lewis & Clark football and followed through on his commitment to building our program,” Pietrok said to the Source. “We are thankful to Jay for leading our student-athletes over the last seven seasons, and excited that Coach Bushman and the current staff will provide a seamless transition to sustain that success.”

Locey was not ready to give up coaching, as he is continually inspired by the people he gets to encounter through the process.

“You get to work with some beautiful people is what you do,” Locey said. “And the unique part about football or a lot of other sports, is you get to work with people that are enjoying what they’re doing. Then there’s the relationships you build and then working collaboratively together on trying to accomplish the same goal.”

Beyond his impact at LC, Locey has evolved to be a key figure in the Oregon football community.

He won a state championship at Corvallis High School in 1970 as a reserve linebacker and special teams player. Locey went on to play at Oregon State University (OSU) under a football scholarship, where he was named to the Pacific-8 Conference First-Team as a defensive back in 1976 and was twice OSU’s top student-athlete. 

As head coach, between 1996 and 2005, Locey guided the Linfield Wildcats to three national titles and 12 conference championships. In 2005, The Oregonian listed Locey as one of Oregon’s top 25 most influential people in sports. He has also received five Northwest Conference Coach of the Year awards in his career.

This fifty-year history seems to keep following Locey throughout his career. While a sophomore at Corvallis, he made the varsity team with Mike Riley as the starting quarterback. Locey later replaced Riley as the defensive coordinator at Linfield University in 1983. Riley is currently the head coach and general manager for the USFL New Jersey Generals, the same team Locey is joining for the upcoming season as the running backs and tight ends coach. 

Bushman came to know about Locey through his prominence in the football community before they started working together. Later, the two interacted more because Locey often recruited the high school athletes Bushman was coaching. Bushman’s daughter also went to Linfield, where she met Locey and was impressed with his kindness.

“He’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet,” Bushman said. “You know, when I was at Clackamas, he would come by and recruit our athletes and so I really got to know him and just hit it off.”

Bushman also got to know Locey when he recruited his son, Jake Bushman ’23. At the time, Joseph Bushman was his son’s high school coach, and now has served as his college coach as well. He was hired as the recruiting coordinator and assistant head coach in 2018.

Both coaches have had a great impact on Jake Bushman.

“One thing I realized about him after (him) being my head coach for the past three seasons is he’s more than a head football coach,” Jake Bushman said. “He’s one of the greatest people I’ve ever met, the kind of unselfish person who puts other people before himself.”

After the 2020 season was canceled due to the pandemic, the Pios started the 2021 season off strong under the guidance of both coaches. In the home opener, the team scored their third most points of any game in LC history and totaled 316 rushing yards, the most since 2011. Locey credits part of this success to Joseph Bushman, who he knows is ready to take charge of the team for the next season.

“I believe he is very well equipped, and in a great position to help push this forward,” Locey said. “So I feel really good about that.”

As a head coach, Joe Bushman guided Clackamas High School to the first championship in school history in 2017. Later that year, he was named Oregon 6A Coach of the Year.

Bushman sees his position as continuing the legacy Locey has advanced at LC.

“We’re not where we want to be yet, but we’ve definitely taken a jump out of the bottom of the league to more (in) the middle of the pack,” Joe Bushman said. “We’re competing now against some of the better teams, we’re giving them good games, (although) we’re not finishing those games yet. It’s been a privilege for me to be part of that as taking it to the next step, and now that the job is to go even further.”

Jake Bushman is proud of his father’s next step in his career as LC’s head coach. 

“I know it’s something he’s wanted and that he really worked hard to change his program around it, put it in a good direction,” Jake Bushman said. “I think it’s something our program needs.”

With the smallest roster in the league and despite a recent positive change in league standing, the Pios still face many challenges for the upcoming season. However, Locey is excited to watch the team take these obstacles head on from the sidelines.

“There’s some very special players in the program right now, so it’s going to be fun to see as they push forward and take things on,” Locey said. “And again, I think our staff will do a superb job of continuing to get their mindset, keep it strong and keep their work ethic and accountability strong.”

Though Locey will coach in the USFL, he also plans to spend more time in Arizona with his family in the coming years. However, Locey maintains that he is still just a phone call away.

“I think we’ll just miss his easy-going way, his friendship more than anything and just kind of his guidance,” Joe Bushman said. “But he knows I got him on speed dial.”

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