When Tim Detillier went looking for a new defensive coordinator at Lutcher just prior to the start of the 1998 season, he didn’t have to look far.
“I didn’t have much time, but I could have had 10 years. I knew Craig Zeringue was my defensive coordinator,” said Detillier. “We made it to the semifinals that year.”
Zeringue already was on staff as the defensive line coach for the Bulldogs.
“I knew he was a good coach and very knowledgeable but his relationship with the kids, that’s what I liked in him. He was the defensive coordinator for the rest of my time at Lutcher. I had all the confidence in the world in him,” Detillier said.
When looking for a candidate from Louisiana to become the first-ever winner of Frank Broyles Award as the state’s top assistant coach, no one had to look farther than Lutcher.
The Broyles Award, long bestowed to the top assistant coach in college football, is now awarded on the high school level. Established in 1996, the award is named after Frank Broyles, the legendary head coach at the University of Arkansas, who had served stints as an assistant coach at Baylor, Florida and Georgia Tech prior to becoming a head coach.
The award is given on a yearly basis to the top high school assistants as well. Only a few states are involved on the high school level.
Louisiana recently entered the ranks and Zeringue received the award for 2019 as the state’s first recipient.
“It’s an honor. An assistant coach doesn’t win that type of award too much. It’s an honor to be the first from Louisiana. It’s a good culmination of a career,” said Zeringue, who retired after the 2019 season, culminating a 31-year coaching career.
“I just think it’s well deserved for an outstanding career. I know a lot of time a lot of assistant coaches don’t get recognized for a lot of the things that they do. I think it’s fitting that if someone in Louisiana was going to be our first award winner for the Broyles Award, I think it was an excellent choice of Coach Zeringue for the career he had,” said Dwain Jenkins, Lutcher’s current head coach.
Zeringue was originally hired at Lutcher by David Richard, a former Bulldogs player who led the team to a state title in 1983.
At the time, Detillier was having quite a bit of success at nearby St. Charles Catholic and it seemed almost destined that he would return to his alma mater.
Once he did return, the Bulldogs went on to win four state title with Detillier as head coach and Zeringue as defensive coordinator. A mutual admiration society was also born.
“He was a guy that loved the place and never interfered with what you wanted to do,” Zeringue said of Detillier. “He just let you coach. He never questioned what I did at any point. He let me make decisions and didn’t question them. I really respected that.”
“I had complete trust in him. I don’t think I ever called a defense. I had total trust in him, and he knew that. He knew how I felt,” said Detillier.
Jenkins has had the perspective of viewing Zeringue, who played at St. James, as a rival player and fellow assistant before becoming Lutcher’s head coach.
“In the whole progression, there is no one probably that I will ever come across in my career that was more loyal, not only to the school, but his head coaches as Craig was. I think because of that, kids gravitated to him and played extremely hard for him for a long time. From a success rate at Lutcher, I know the school saw more success once he made the move from defensive line to defensive coordinator and in 1998 we saw more success in that period of time while he was defensive coordinator than in any other era in the history of the school,” said Jenkins.
A key to Zeringue’s success, the coaches agree, was his special relationship with the players.
“If you don’t have that rapport; that’s part of motivation. I tell people that every now and then you can find a team and preach that fire and brimstone. That might work every now and then, you can’t do that every week. Motivation, I feel now, is individual. The first thing is you’ve got to have rapport with your players. If you are a fake, kids will smell that in a heartbeat. Kids know if you are real or not. Craig was real. He was caring. He was genuine. He was my kind of coach,” said Detillier.
Like Detillier and Zeringue, a bond developed between Zeringue and Jenkins, first as staff members at Lutcher and then when Jenkins returned as Bulldogs head coach follow a three-year stint at St. James.
“That was obviously a tough situation because he was successful and they were headed in the right direction,” Zeringue said of Jenkins’ move from St. James back to Lutcher. “It’s was a hard decision for him to make at the time and when he came over, he knew we were pretty good and we all knew that we had a chance to do it again (win another state championship).
“Dwain is not only a good coach, but he’s also one of my best friends. I’ve known him for a long time.”
The first year back together the duo of Jenkins and Zeringue won the Class 3A title to give Lutcher back-to-back state titles. It was the fifth state crown for Zeringue as an assistant coach.
“It took us a couple of years to final get over the hump to win a championship (under Detillier) and to get the first one, it’s always super special. The last one, too, because it was a back-to-back type deal,” said Zeringue.
Another key to Zeringue’s success as a defensive coordinator was his adaptability.
“I think one of the biggest things you can always attribute to Coach Zeringue was that he was going to be flexible. He wasn’t tied into a scheme just because that he believed was the best scheme. He was going to take the talent of the kids he had year in and year out and shape the scheme to fit them,” said Jenkins.
For Zeringue, it all comes back to relationships and being a team player.
“I hope they (past Lutcher players) think that I was fair and knowing what I did was always best for the team and not for the individual,” said Zeringue. “I think they know I didn’t do it for glory for myself. That they know me well enough to know that everything I did was best for our team. I was always a team player. That’s directly from my time at St. James as a player under Coach (James) Waguespack and those guys that I played under and those I coached with. I think that was instilled in me with my family, my mom and dad, my background.
“Hopefully, that’s the way people see me, someone who was fair and always wanted his best for the team – and along the way we got to win a lot of games. So, that was pretty good.”