Grand Junction's football team will be coached by Landon McKee next season. McKee, a longtime assistant at Palisade High School, is eager for his first head coaching position.

After 11 years as an assistant with Palisade High School’s football program, Landon McKee is finally getting his chance to lead a prominent Western Slope program.

Grand Junction High School announced Friday afternoon that it had hired McKee as its next head football coach.

“He brings a passion for creating a positive and confident culture, as well as a winning attitude,” the school said in its statement.

McKee has been Palisade’s defensive coordinator for the past eight seasons and served a different role on the staff for three years before that. His defenses helped the Bulldogs record winning seasons every year from 2010-2020, with two trips to the Class 3A semifinals and five seasons with at least 10 wins.

Now, he hopes to bring that same toughness to Grand Junction on the gridiron and return the program to its former glory.

“Grand Junction is a school and a program that has such great tradition, such great history,” McKee said. “I’ve known and talked to people who have been a part of that program for years. It’s an unrivaled program as far as that history goes.

“It’s extremely exciting to be a part of that and to forge a new path for that program. Sometimes, the timing’s right... This opened up this year and I talked with my family about it and with (Palisade head coach Joe) Ramunno about it, and it was time to go out and take that next step and apply for the head job at Junction. “

The Tigers went 1-4 in 2020 under Ed Johnson, who was in the role on an interim basis after Mike Sirko retired during the summer. Before then, Sirko went 12-29 but led the team to the Class 4A playoffs his final season. It was the program’s first postseason appearance since 2013, the Tigers’ most recent winning season.

“To build something new and different and lay the foundation, it was time to go and build it... I can’t tell you how excited I am about it,” McKee said. “I’m thankful that the Grand Junction High School athletic and administrative team is giving me the opportunity to do this. I’m excited to get there and go to work as soon as possible and start putting together the program.”