Friendships come together many different ways and in many different scenarios. Many adults may still keep in touch with friends they made in college, and a lot of those friendships came from living together.
This is no different for head football coach Chris Ball and defensive coordinator Jerry Partridge. Ball and Partridge met back in 1982 playing football together at Missouri Western State University. Ball was an All-American defensive back for Missouri State and was roommates with Partridge during that time. Their bond was created and strengthened by playing on the same field.
Throughout the years, their friendship changed from seeing each other in an apartment everyday to simply keeping in touch. Today, they now coach side by side in an attempt to lead the Lumberjacks to a Big Sky Conference championship.
This 37-year relationship started with college football and has been growing ever since. As all good college stories go, their friendship features some fun and competition.
“We used to play a fun game in order to get back to the apartment,” Partridge said. “We would race back to the apartment in two different cars, and if one was in front of the other one of us would chuck cans at the other”.
Ball and Partridge explained the biggest problem with their friendship during their time coaching at different colleges was making sure they kept in touch and knew what was going on in each other’s lives. Ball said this wasn’t the case for their friendship.
“We would text and call each other. We talked to each other quite a bit,” Ball said. “We were in the same profession with the same hours and time off, so it made it a lot easier.”
One of their favorite memories while coaching at different colleges is calling the office of the other. The secretary would tell them who called and what college they were calling from at the time. This made them laugh, because the secretary didn’t know of the relationship the two had. They already knew where the other was, and the secretary thought the call was for business, but it was just a chance for them to catch up.
The friendship Ball and Partridge have built over the years made their transition into coaching very easy. Ball said in football it’s all about trust in your players and coaching staff, and the trust between these two coaches is unquestioned.
“He’s a guy I can count on,” Ball said. “A guy who I have always respected — someone who has always been there.”
Ball went on to say his friendship with Partridge is special because he knows Partridge will do things the right way on the field. He said this brings relief during the stressful situations he faces as head coach. This is a season the coaches are excited to be apart of.
“We get to coach together,” Ball said. “It’s not everyday that you get to coach with someone who you have known basically your entire life.”
To Partridge, there is more excitement than just coaching with a long-time friend. It is Ball’s first opportunity to take the reins as a head coach. Partridge wants to make every moment count.
“He should’ve been head coach a while ago,” Partridge said. “It’s going to be fun to help him this season. Remembering my very first win back when I was the head coach at our alma mater, Chris grabbed the game ball and threw it to me to congratulate me, and that will be reciprocated on his first win.”
The closeness of these two even has an impact on the players. The strategy and drive they both have is an attempt to raise team standards, defensive back Khalil Dorsey said.
“They like to mess with each other before meetings in order to pump up the players and get us ready,” Dorsey said. “It’s an incredible environment to be around.”
Their relationship will continue to grow this season as the Lumberjacks take the field. Striving for that Big Sky Conference championship, the two will fight side by side for the players and the NAU logo on their jersey.