LaFayette High School announced Paul Ellis as the school’s new head football coach on Wednesday morning. Ellis, 50, is the 36th head coach of the Ramblers, dating back to 1923.
Ellis comes to south Walker County after a very successful stint as head coach at Class 6A Fort Payne (Ala.) High School where he went 109-48 in 14 seasons and leaves as the all-time winningest coach in Wildcat history.
He has been a coach and a teacher for 28 years, most of them at Fort Payne. His Wildcat teams made the playoffs 12 times in his 14 seasons as head coach and claimed six regions championships. Fort Payne won 10 games or more five times under Ellis, including a 12-1 campaign in 2010 that saw them advance to the third round of the state playoffs.
Ellis met with his new players this morning before being introduced to the media.
“We feel very fortunate to have a coach the caliber of Coach Ellis,” said LaFayette Principal Tracy Hubbert. He’s a proven winner and comes highly recommended by everyone who worked with him at Fort Payne.
“We had 115 applicants for this position and he emerged over the interview process as the best fit to lead our football program into the future.”
Ellis had spent his entire coaching career in Alabama. He was the head coach at Valley Head for one season in 1992 and was later hired at Section in 1998 where he coached for three seasons.
“Throughout this process, Mr. Hubbert and all of the committee members have been very gracious to me,” Ellis said, citing the excitement surrounding the Ramblers’ recent Elite Eight run in basketball. “I can see a lot of similarities in the kids here and the kids I coached in the past and that excites me. I think these kids are very hungry and I think this community is very hungry to be successful. That was my main attraction (about LaFayette).”
The son of longtime Alabama high school coach Nelson Ellis, he was named as a head coach in the 2011 Alabama North-South All-Star Game.
This past fall, Fort Payne finished fourth in Region 7 and once again advanced to the state playoffs where they dropped a narrow 28-21 decision to Region 5 champion Homewood to end the year at 6-5.
“Success, in the beginning, is not always measured in wins and losses,” Ellis continued. “We’re here to win, but it’s going to be a process, starting this spring and going on into the summer. We want our brand of football to be respected. We want everyone in this area to say ‘those kids play as hard as they can play, they’re very well coached and they execute what they’re taught to do’.
“We’re not going to beat ourselves. We’re going to try and do everything right, not just on the field, but off. I just want these kids to have a great high school football experience and it be a source of pride for them 25 years down the road and always be proud.”
He and his wife, Kelly, have two children, a son that will graduate from Fort Payne this spring and a daughter, currently in eighth grade. He will begin teaching at LaFayette in approximately two weeks.
Ellis replace Chad Fisher, who stepped down following the 2017 season. Fisher went 11-39 in five seasons as head coach.