The death of a high school football coaching icon left a Hall of Fame coach in a reflective mood.
“Bob liked his cigarettes and his fishing. He offered to take me fishing a hundred times and I never took him up on it. He had a camp down in Pointe-aux-Chenes. We were very good friends and we talked a lot about football. He was an excellent, excellent football coach,” said St. Charles Catholic’s Frank Monica, the Hall of Fame coach.
Monica was recalling Bob Gros after hearing the former Hahnville and Central Lafourche coach passed away last Saturday at the age of 81.
Although Monica never took Gros up on the fishing invite, they did meet for a while on an annual basis.
“When I was at Jesuit High School, we had a spring scrimmage against him every year when he was at Central Lafourche,” recalled Monica.
By that time, both coaches had already left a mark on high school football in the state of Louisiana.
Gros, at age 29, won a state championship in his first year as Hahnville coach in 1968. He won a second title with the Tigers four years later.
Monica, also at a tender age, won his first state title as a head coach at Lutcher in 1978.
Gros left Hahnville to be an assistant coach at Nicholls State before returning to the high school ranks at Central Lafourche in 1980.
After Monica’s quick success at Lutcher, he became an assistant at Tulane.
“I had the opportunity to recruit his school when I was at Tulane. I recruited some of his players and had a real good time watching his teams play,” Monica remembered. “They always executed well.
“He was an old task-master that loved his football and did it the old-fashioned way. He was very stern in his ways and his commitment.”
Gros developed a reputation as being able to adapt and adjust to his personnel. When he had a Jamie Lawson the backfield, the Trojans passed the football. When Lawson departed and Tommy Hodson was the quarterback, Gros spread his team out and threw the football.
Gros managed to do so despite sticking with basic coaching principles.
“As a football guy, he never used a lot of schemes,” said Monica. “It was always man blocking. I was amazed by that. No matter what the technique was, he didn’t pull guards or tackles. Everything he did, he went one-on-one up front no matter what the play was. I thought that was very intriguing.”
It was similar on the opposite side of the ball as well.
“His defense was unique,” Monica said. “It’s what they call a 5-3. That was the staple of his philosophy, a 5-3 defense and man blocking on offense. He made it very simple so there was no gray (area) from an athlete standpoint. He knew exactly who he had to block, and defensively, they knew exactly where they had to line up.
“That allowed his players to play harder and play faster. There’s a lot that you can learn from that.”
Monica, who would go on to win state championships at Riverside Academy and St. Charles Catholic, always seemed to chuckle when he met up with Gros at Central Lafourche while recruiting for Tulane.
“What stuck out about him is that loved his cigarettes. I would walk in his office he had an ashtray full of cigarettes butts and a couple of packs on the desk,” laughed Monica as he recalled the scene. “He was a tireless worker. I guess that kept him going.”
Monica, in turn, also saw a side of Gros that opponents and game officials didn’t see on Friday nights.
“He had a heck of a sense of humor. He was a big, ole jolly guy. You could hear his laughter echo all the way through the hallways,” Monica said of Gros, who often displayed a gruff exterior.
The duo knew each other in another capacity.
Monica formed the Louisiana Football Coaches Association and Gros was instrumental in getting it started as an original board member.
“He helped me get it started and make contacts and stuff like that. He helped me call people and had ideas of how we had to do it and write our own bylaws and stuff like that,” said Monica.
Gros, said Monica, will be missed as one of the great football coaches in Louisiana.
“He left a legacy in that (Bayou) area and wherever he coached. I know he coached at Nicholls State a while but high school was his thing. Football is saddened by his loss, for sure.”