Former Azusa Pacific defensive back Gabe Higerd has served in multiple positions on the Cougar coaching staff since returning to his alma mater in 2011, serving the past three years as the head strength coach, special teams coordinator, along with coaching safeties.
Players under his coaching span include 2013 GNAC Defensive Player of the Year Tyler Thornton, a three-year starting safety, as well as five All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference honors and 11 conference player of the week awards. In 2013, Thornton registered 120 total tackles, four forced fumbles, and five interceptions, and he is the only player who has earned All-GNAC honors at two positions (safety and kick returner).
As special teams coordinator and kicking coach, Higerd has mentored the program's all-time leading scorer in placekicker Jamie Cacciatore, who was the 2013 All-GNAC first team kicker and has twice tied program and conference records with four field goals in a game.
Higerd played for three years (2002-04) at Azusa Pacific, starting at free safety in 2004, which was the first year as defensive coordinator for current Azusa Pacific head coach Victor Santa Cruz. That year, Higerd helped lead what was arguably the best defense in program history, a unit which allowed just 135 points in 14 games (school-record low 9.6 points a game). In three NAIA playoff games, the Cougars surrendered just 17 points, holding two of the NAIA's top four offenses (No. 1 Sioux Falls and No. 4 Northwestern Oklahoma) to a combined three points. His graduating class achieved a record of 36-10, which made it the winningest class in program history. His senior season was limited to one game due to a near-fatal rock climbing accident following the season opener.
Prior to coaching, Higerd was a Captain in the US Army, serving as a paratrooper and jumpmaster stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. A decorated war veteran, he was awarded the Bronze Star for actions in Iraq.
Higerd currently teaches as an adjunct professor in Azusa Pacific's exercise and sport science department. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (C.S.C.S.) and a Certified Personal Trainer. He graduated in 2006 with a bachelor of science in finance from Azusa Pacific, and he earned his master's in coaching and athletic administration from Concordia University-Irvine in 2013. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in sports management.
Higerd and his wife Mari live in Azusa with their four daughters: Caroline (8), Annabelle (7), Grace (5), and Rose (1).