Caleb Padilla named new Luther football coach
Caleb Padilla named new Luther football coach

This week Luther College Director of Athletics Renae Hartl announced that Aaron Hafner, head football coach, has resigned and that Caleb Padilla, who has been the defensive coordinator for the Norse football program the past three years, has been promoted to head football coach.

Padilla at the helm
   “I look forward to building on the football program created under the leadership of coach Hafner,” commented Padilla.

   During his three years at Luther, the defensive unit has improved each year. In 2017, the Norse recorded their highest Iowa Conference finish in scoring defense in nine years. The past two years, the Norse finished first in the league in pass defense and improved to second in total defense and scoring defense in 2017.
   "Coming off a year with the highest finish in the Iowa Conference standings in 21 years, has brought a heightened level of excitement within our football program and athletic department,” stated Hartl. “I feel the football program has a great staff and momentum, and I am thrilled about continuing the climb with Coach Padilla. His leadership on the defensive side of the football for the past three years, as well as his coaching experiences at Notre Dame, Albion, and Colorado School of Mines, has prepared him for this next phase of his career. I am excited to officially welcome our student-athletes back to campus next week to begin the Padilla era of Luther football,” she said.

   A native of West Liberty, Padilla becomes a head coach for the first time of his 12-year coaching career after serving as an assistant at the high school, NCAA Division II and Division III levels. In 2015, he joined the Norse staff as defensive coordinator from Division II Notre Dame College, South Euclid, Ohio, where he served in the same role for two years. His coaching resume also includes two years as defensive coordinator at Albion College, Albion, Mich., (2010-12); outside linebackers coach at Colorado School of Mines (2008-09); and two years as the varsity defensive backs coach and junior varsity defensive coordinator at Rangeview High School, Aurora, Colo. (2006-07).
   While at Winona State University, Minn., from 2001-05, Padilla was a member of the Warriors football team that captured four Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships.

   “I am incredibly grateful to Coach Renae Hartl and President Paula Carlson for giving me this opportunity to be head football coach at Luther College,” stated Padilla. “During our three years in Decorah, my wife Kristin and I have fallen in love with the Luther College community and the Decorah community.”
   “I also want to thank our players, their parents, our coaching staff and my mentors, Bob Benson, at University of Pennsylvania, Craig Rundle at Albion College, Tom Sawyer at Winona State University and Coach Hafner, for believing in me and helping in my growth and development in this profession I love so much,” he said.

   “We are going to provide a unique culture in which maximizing the individual potential of our student-athletes in every area of their life is our focus. We will be relentless, detailed and consistent in improving ourselves each day and working hard to be an integral part of the college and Decorah community. I look forward to building relationships with alumni, donors, community members and friends of the athletic department that will help strengthen and continue to move the football program to the next level,” he stated.

Hafner resigns
   "It was a tough decision to leave Luther College, but my family and I have an opportunity to teach and coach in the Kansas City, Kans
. area and continue our journey closer to our immediate family,” stated Hafner. ““I would like to thank the Norse family for a great five years. I believe we have made great improvements in all facets of the Luther College football program and it will continue to grow stronger in years to come. It has been a team effort from our administration, coaches, staff, alumni and most importantly our football student-athletes. There is a great group of players here at Luther College that poured their hearts into our football program. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to coach such fine young men. They will continue to press forward and maximize their efforts on the field and in the classroom.”
   During his tenure, Hafner’s option rushing attack led the Iowa Conference in rushing all five years. From 2014-17 the Norse were ranked in the top-six of the NCAA III in rushing yards per game, including finishing second during the 2014 campaign. That year, Luther set a single season school record of 3,409 rushing yards and also tied the single game rushing record with 579 vs. Grinnell College. This past year, he led the Norse to their first winning season (6-4) since 2005.

“I want to thank Coach Aaron Hafner for everything he has done for our student-athletes, football program, and Luther College,” stated Hartl. “Aaron is a true servant-leader. During his time here at Luther he was very active with on-campus committees, advisory groups, alumni and donor activities. He was very instrumental in the planning, fundraising and construction of our new blue turf on Legacy Field, which is and will continue to be a statement venue for our football program.”
“Aaron put together an amazing staff and our student-athletes are in fantastic hands while we decide in the coming days the direction our football program will be headed. I know Coach Hafner will continue to be very present in the lives of our past and current football players and I hope to see him back on campus in the years to come,” she said.