Anchorage — Chugiak football coach Duncan Shackelford wiped the raindrops from his iPhone during practice Thursday so he could better examine slow-motion video of sophomore quarterback Ben Stewart's throwing motion.
The video, shot just moments before on the "coach's eye" app, is a far technological cry from the coaching aids in existence when Shackelford took a job as an assistant coach at Chugiak more than 20 years ago.
"My first couple years I started coaching with Bruce (Shearer) out here, we did some reel-to-reels," Shackelford said. "VHS was top of the line. If you had VHS, you were a hot dog."
Along with seeing the DVD emerge and go out of style, Shackleford has seen hundreds of players come through his programs throughout a 20-year head-coaching career that started with a 10-year run at Dimond and continued for the last 10 years at Chugiak.
This season will be the last, however, for the gregarious, lovable coach known for wearing open-toed sandals and shorts in freezing weather.
Shackelford will retire from coaching when the season ends, and retire from a 25-year career as a special education teacher when the school year ends. He will say farewell to football sometime during the postseason -- the Mustangs enter the eight-team state football playoffs this weekend as the No. 4 seed from the Cook Inlet Conference.
"I will miss the kids," said Shackelford, who turns 53 Saturday, when Chugiak faces Service at Dimond High. "I will miss that interaction with the kids every day, trying to motivate a kid that is totally unmotivated, getting a chance to help them."
Shackelford, a one-time nose tackle for the Palmer-Wasilla Falcons, fell in love with football when he was 6. He worked as an assistant coach outside Alaska before returning to become a fixture in the football community. He graduated high school in 1978 and dreamed of coaching at Palmer High, but classmate Rod Christiansen beat him to the job.
"Some pretty good football coaches came out of there," Shackelford said.
Among Christiansen's achievements at Palmer is leading the Moose into the large-school state playoffs for 14 straight seasons. Shackelford's career highlights include back-to-back state titles with Dimond in 2000-01, which is the last time a school repeated as large-school champ. The closest Shackelford has gotten to a state title with Chugiak was a runner-up finish to Bartlett in 2009.
Shackelford is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Alaska football, full of entertaining stories for anyone willing to listen. He said he'll stay involved with football on some level, maybe helping out as an assistant and perhaps sharing some of his stories as a regular guest on local radio and TV broadcasts.
At Thursday's practice, Shackelford passed on technical knowledge about the passing game, imploring Stewart to push off more from his back foot when he throws and to release the index finger on his throwing hand toward the ground. Shackelford enjoys helping players improve their skills on the field, but he also relishes the chance to watch them mature off the field.
"Being known as a good guy out in your community is one of the big things he always talks about," said Chugiak senior Gabe Mingledorff. "That's something I'll cherish and remember."
Mingledorff, the second-leading rusher in the CIC with 699 yards on 118 carries, said Shackelford called him Dingledorff when he was a junior, because he lacked focus. Shackelford took extra time to work with him and mentor him, and now Mingledorff is one of Shackelford's favorite examples of how a player can grow up on the gridiron.
"When he was a sophomore, he was a little dork, incredibly talented little dork, but he was a dork," Shackelford said. "Now, he's one of the most gracious young men I've been around in a long time. Him and I have a very close bond."
Being a head coach is a job that fills 11 months a year with late nights and long weekends, Shackelford said, and he's looking forward to being able to tell his wife he will be home in time for dinner or tell his seventh-grade son that he can attend more than one of his baseball games next summer. A few fishing trips might find their way into Shackelford's schedule as well, but he also expects to explore new career opportunities.
"It's time for a new adventure," he said. "I'm still young. I can still walk, most of the time."
Saturday's game with Service is a rematch of a 27-26 Chugiak victory in Week 4, one of the most exciting games in the CIC this season. It featured a fourth-quarter Chugiak comeback highlighted by an amazing catch from Mingledorff.
Shackelford said he took time after the game to soak in the win, because he knew it was one of the last times he would experience such a thrill on the Chugiak turf. When all is said and done, however, Shackelford's fondest memories won't involve winning football games.
"The greatest thing, whether it's a football player or one of the kids I taught in class, is when they bring their wives or their husbands and babies in for me to meet," Shackelford said. "That means the world to me, because that means that I impacted that kid somewhere down the line and it's special enough for them to make me part of their life."
Reach Jeremy Peters at email@example.com or 257-4335.