John Ralston, 65, who has spent much of the past nine years helping spread American football across the globe, returned home Tuesday to coach San Jose State.
Speaking at a news conference, Ralston broke down briefly when telling how the death of his son from AIDS 1 1/2 years ago helped him decide to pursue a long-term job close to his home in Menlo Park.
"Every day I've felt out of place," he said. "Now I'm back at peace."
Ralston's last U.S. coaching job was with the USFL in 1984.
"I've been traveling all over the world," said Ralston, whose recent travels included a stint coaching a football team in Moscow. "It's too much travel just to be able to coach."
Ralston replaces Ron Turner, who resigned in January after one season with the Spartans to become the Chicago Bears' offensive coordinator. Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame last year, Ralston also has coached at Utah State and Stanford and guided the Denver Broncos.