It was accolades all around from fellow River Parish coaches when commenting on the announcement that Stephen Robicheaux decided to retire as the head football coach at Destrehan.
“It was just an honor to compete against him on Friday nights,” Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio said. “He is the kind of guy that makes you a better football coach. I would like to think at the end of the day when I call it a career people would say when his kids showed up to play they were well prepared and they played hard every minute of every game. That’s why playing against a Stephen Robicheaux team was great.
“It’s special for us because of the Hahnville-Destrehan rivalry but it was special to me because we get to work together a lot. In my seven years, I’ve gotten to know him pretty well and I would bounce a lot of things off of him because I think he’s a Hall of Fame guy.”
Saltaformaggio’s Hahnville teams managed to defeat Destrehan once is six tries against Robicheaux.
“I always say I don’t know if Coach Salt was 1-5 against him. I think I was 0 and 5 and Pooka was 1-0,” said Saltaformaggio, referring to former Tigers running back Anthony Williams. “To win that game is always special. It’s special because the school system we work in makes it special. The caliber of football players on that field make it special.”
One coach who was able to pull off a win against Robicheaux was Robert Valdez. His Wildcats defeated Destrehan 31-24 during the 2019 season on his team’s way to a state championship.
“It was an honor,” Valdez said of playing a Robicheaux-coached team. “I have so much respect for him. He didn’t have to take a chance on playing a 3A team. The relationship and friendship that we had and to be able to watch how they warm up, how they do things – to me, it was an honor to coach against him.”
Fellow coaches, Valdez said, were able to learn from Robicheaux’s example.
“He’s a guy that all coaches should have an opportunity to sit down with and just learn from,” said Valdez. “The way he handled himself and handled his program and how he handled the expectations and all those things.
“I will miss him, but then I’m happy for him. We all know that time is so precious and I know he wants to be with his family.”
Like Saltaformaggio, East St. John’s Brandon Brown coached against Robicheaux as a district rival.
“Coach Robe, I have always looked up to him,” said Brown. “I respect what he has done in the game of football. It’s more than just the wins and losses. Coach had been a class act ever since I’ve met him. It will be a big loss, not only for Destrehan but for the state of Louisiana. He was a legend. He’s had a Hall of Fame career. He’s definitely made me better coaching against him. We will definitely going to miss him.”
Dwain Jenkins and the Lutcher Bulldogs competed annually against Destrehan in the season-opening jamboree.
“A lot of times you play jamborees and they are pretty much not exciting or not intense and really ready to play a game. You could chalk it up that every time Lutcher and Destrehan played in a jamboree it was almost like a playoff atmosphere,” said Jenkins.
A Robicheaux-coached team, Jenkins said, would always been well prepared.
“I think he has always been one of those coaches in the River Parishes that year in and year out will be one of the most prepared teams to play. He’s been extremely successful. From a personal standpoint, he’s always been good to me,” said Jenkins.
Echoing Jenkins sentiment of Robicheaux’s well-coached teams is Hall of Fame coach Frank Monica of St. Charles Catholic.
“You knew they would always be technique sound. They would be traditional. You knew exactly what they were going to do but they just executed so well. It was a byproduct of his coaching mentality to make sure his kids would perform and played hard and fast,” said Monica.
Robicheaux, Monica said, will always be known for his professionalism.
“I think the profession is losing a great friend. He’s been very classy in everything he’s done. He’s handled thing in a professional manner. I wish him all the best and luck in his retirement years. We as football coaches will certainly miss him and his insight and the things he brought to the profession. The old guard hates to see people like that go. I will miss him as a coach and as a friend,” said Monica.
Despite Robicheaux’s success, he was always looking to improve as a coach, according to West St. John’s Brandon Walters.
“He’s put a lot of time into the game and he’s well respected. When I would go to some of those clinics out of state, I would always run into him. He’s one of those coaches that you see out try always trying to get better even though he’s been in the game a long time. My hat goes off to him. I hope one day to be able to do the same myself. He definitely put the work and I have a whole lot of respect for him,” said Walters.
Robicheaux has been an example to younger River Parish coaches, said Riverside Academy coach Kevin Dizer.
“The first thing I could think about with Coach Robicheaux is just how nice of a guy he was,” Dizer said. “I remember when I first got the head coaching job at Riverside, the few encounters I’ve had with him, he was just really, really nice and treated me with respect. That was a huge deal to me.
“The second thing was just how good of a coach he was at Destrehan and how clean of a program he ran and the culture he built at that place and the respect he had for everybody and the respect he had from everybody. I my mind, he definitely was one of the good guys in the business. He did it the right way. I haven’t been around the River Parishes long but he definitely seemed like a River Parish legend to me.”