Legendary La. high school coach has story worth reading

You know who Nick Saban is.

You probably don’t recognize the name of Lewis Cook Jr.

All you need to know about Cook is that Saban called him “one in a million” as a high school head football coach.

To find out more about this legendary Louisiana coach, you should read Gaylon H. White’s book, “Coach of a Lifetime.” Saban wrote the introduction, and it was published by Rowman & Littlefield.

Cook noted that he and Saban had similar backgrounds. They were both born in 1951. They both married a coed who was a year behind them in high school and were majorettes. Saban’s dad ran a gas station. Cook’s dad did the same thing, but also sold cars. 

“Obviously, we went in a little bit of a different direction as coaches, but we’ve both been coaching a long time,” Cook said. 

Saban, of course, went on to become rich and famous as he won national championships at LSU and  Alabama and signed an $84.8 million deal with the Crimson Tide.

Except for a brief stints as a college assistant coach, Cook was content to coaching in high school and has had an amazing 392-92 2 record in 38 year as  a high school head coach.

Cook likes to joke he was the “clown” who took a $6,000 pay cut to leave a job as a college assistant to return to the high school ranks.

And he never looked back. The nomad coaching life wasn’t for him. 

“That just wasn’t for me,” he said. He has spent his entire career living with his family in the same house so he didn’t have to move around the way so many coaches do.

“Dad and Saban are polar opposites,” said his son Jeff, who admitted he didn’t like playing for Saban at LSU. 

 “The work ethic is the same. The drive to win is the same. The difference is how they treat people. The development of kids is where my dad excels. He makes everybody better. He pulls the underdogs up.”

With all his success, you might think Cook spent most of his career at a big school with a lot of Division I prospects.

But he spent much of his career at a small school — Notre Dame High School in Crowley, La. — and didn’t recruit. He takes the players who attend the school and turns them into overachievers.He was as likely to coach future priests as future college stars or NFL players. And he has coached grandsons of players he coached back in the day.

He coached five state title teams, four at Notre Dame and lost six finals, mainly because he faced better teams.

Saban  watched one of the losses in a title game, said he enjoyed watching his team play and added, “Don’t. take this the wrong way but that team was probably three or four touchdowns better than y’all and they were lucky to get by you.”” Cook’s team lost only by a touchdown.

Cook’s legacy, though is much more than the wins and losses. It will be how he developed the players to be the best they could be on and off the field.

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