By Ed Daniels, Clarion Herald Sports
He was happy as the head coach at Scotlandville High School.
His team had won 10 games only to lose 42-41 to Mandeville in a regional round 5A playoff classic.
Then, Robert Valdez’s youngest daughter, Raina, now 16, spoke up.
“Daddy you should apply for the job at St. James,” she told her father. “I want to be a student at St. James.”
And, so, she is.
The Valdez family is happy, and so is the extended family of St. James High School football.
The Wildcats are once again looking like a Superdome team. Their head coach took a circuitous route to get there.
He won 60 games at West St. John and led the Rams to the 1A championship game in 2011. He thought he was going to be the head coach at East St. John.
“I applied, thinking I was the man for the job,” said Valdez.
The job went to someone else.
Now, in his 13th season as a head coach, Valdez is back on the river, and rooted in Vacherie.
“Larry Dauterive (former head coach at East St. John) told me he moved 18 times,” said Valdez. “I didn’t want to do that.”
A graduate of O. Perry Walker, the steady Valdez learned from an impressive coaching tree. It began with Al Ott at Karr Junior High.
“He instilled passion,” said Valdez.
Then on to O. Perry Walker, where the former offensive lineman learned from two accomplished head coaches, Byron Jones and Larry Favre.
As an assistant coach at West St. John, Valdez said he learned much from head coach Laury Dupont, who led the Rams to three state championships in seven years.
“Coach Dupont did a great job of planning,” Valdez said. “He was so calm, so under control. Nothing seemed to get too big for him. He showed me how to handle a school in a small community, where football is so important. He was there for everybody.”
At Southern University, he was moved from tackle to center and flourished. He was a member of the 1993 black college football national champions under head coach Pete Richardson.
“Coach Richardson was meticulous in his preparation and organization,” said Valdez.
Valdez said every practice, every pre-game walk-through was thoroughly planned.
And, on game day?
“Coach had a laser-like focus,” Valdez said. “He gave us the same speech every week. ‘Win this game for your school, your family and your community.’ He was all business.”
At St. James, Robert Valdez is preaching many of the same things.
“Understand work ethic … At your core belief, believe in the process … We are one.”
And, something for his 2019 future opponents to ponder:
“We have yet to play our best game.”
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.