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Former Armour star athlete now teaching, coaching in Iowa

ARMOUR -- More than 20 years after playing his final game in a Jackrabbit uniform, Jeff Tiefenthaler was back on the campus of South Dakota State University for another four-year tour of duty.

But this time, he watched his son play football at his alma mater, bringing the Armour native back to his home state for Saturdays in the fall.

With his son Trevor Tiefenthaler now graduated, Jeff Tiefenthaler plans to spend his weekends during the fall months in a tree stand hunting, instead of at football games.

"It's been great to go up to Brookings and see my son play and continue to be a big Jackrabbits' supporter," Tiefenthaler said. "It seems like it comes and goes pretty quickly."

Tiefenthaler, now living in Sioux Rapids, Iowa, is preparing to enter his 27th year as an educator and 15th with the Sioux Central School District as a health and physical education teacher.

Tiefenthaler, 51, has two sons -- A.J. and Trevor -- and three stepchildren. He has been married to his wife, Brenda, for 12 years.

After graduating from SDSU in 1986, Tiefenthaler moved to Newell, Iowa, to pursue an open teaching position. He said the reason for choosing to take the job in Newell was the prospect of the school's open head football coaching position.

"You never know what to expect that first year out of college, but I applied and I got it," Tiefenthaler said.

Fast forward 21 years, Tiefenthaler finished his 21st season as a head football coach after taking over the position at Sioux Central Community School in 2000.

With his son Trevor going off to play at SDSU, Tiefenthaler wanted the free time to follow his son to Brookings for Jackrabbit home games and around the region for SDSU road games.

"I always wanted to coach my own kids and I always knew that when Trevor finished high school, I would give coaching up to follow him around from weekend to weekend," Tiefenthaler said.

Though he hung up his football headset in 2008, Tiefenthaler remains the head track and field coach at Sioux Central, having recently completed his eighth season.

With his son's college career in the past, Tiefenthaler said he has not considered getting back into coaching football at the high school level, as he enjoys the view from a tree stand more than breaking down game film on the weekends. He continues to coach football for the Sioux Central School District at the junior high level.

From 1978 to 1981, Tiefenthaler helped Armour enjoy a string of success that included three state titles in track, two in basketball and two in baseball. He added since the football playoff was not instituted until after he left high school, his teams were never crowned champions in South Dakota, but he felt Armour had teams as good as any during his playing days.

Tiefenthaler was home in Armour a few years ago for a 30-year reunion to commemorate the 1979 state basketball championship team. The event brought Tiefenthaler back together with former teammates and coaches.

"Time goes by so fast and life goes pretty quick," Tiefenthaler said. "Those guys meant so much to us. Any opportunity to go back to not only see family, but those coaches and teammates as well, is something that I think is important. Anytime you get together with your family and teammates, the past comes up. It was such an important part of growing up."

He said he makes it to Armour at least twice a year and misses being close to the Missouri River for the outdoor activities the area provides. He said he really misses the fishing around Armour, but his home in Iowa provides great deer hunting in the fall.

While in high school, Tiefenthaler enjoyed the success and camaraderie that emerged from playing with the same group of teammates across multiple sports.

"It seemed like that whatever sport season came up, that was our favorite," Tiefenthaler said. "We really enjoyed them all. With so many good athletes in such a small town, we were lucky and the coaches did a great job of molding the talent that was there."

The benefits of playing as many sports as possible is something he preaches to his children and the players he coaches.

Despite the success Tiefenthaler enjoyed in football at SDSU, it was not his first sport for the Jackrabbits. He went to Brookings on a full scholarship to run track and did not join the SDSU football team until his third year of college.

Although he got a late start, Tiefenthaler made his mark on the university's football history. He was named an All-American in 1985 and 1986 and was a finalist for the 1986 Harlon Hill Award as the top player in NCAA Division II football.

"It is one of those things that probably goes back to playing four sports in high school," Tiefenthaler said about his ability to transition to the football season at the college level while also running track.

Former Mitchell High School and SDSU football coach Wayne Haensel signed Tiefenthaler to a letter of intent for football straight out of high school, despite knowing he would be going to Brookings on a track scholarship.

"(Haensel) left the door open for me if I ever wanted to come out and play football," Tiefenthaler said.

Tiefenthaler was inducted into the SDSU Hall of Fame in 2012 and he said his coaches from Armour made the trip to Brookings to support him at the ceremony.