Iowa High assistant football coach Luke Dietz has learned from some of the best head coaches in Southwest Louisiana and has passed on that knowledge to his players. (Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 26, 2012 1:24 PM
IOWA — Proving you can teach an old dog some new tricks, Luke Dietz has found a way to keep his old-school teachings and turn them into present-day victories.
Dietz, who has learned from some of the area’s best-known and winningest coaches, has taken those teachings and found his own formula for success.
The man who once student-taught and coached for Mike Johns at LaGrange, and helped Jimmy Shaver at Barbe, made quite a name for himself this year at Iowa.
As the Yellow Jackets defensive coordinator, Dietz helped turn the Iowa program around, as the Yellow Jackets finished 10-3.
That, along with his longtime work in Southwest Louisiana at other successful programs, made Dietz the choice as the 2012 Charles Vicknair Assistant Coach of Year.
The award winner is chosen by a panel of local football watchers and is presented to an assistant coach who has not only helped a program that season but also been an integral part of the Lake Area football community.
Dietz becomes the fifth winner of the award, which is named after the longtime area coach who took Barbe to its first state championship game in 1980. Vicknair coached at several area high schools and McNeese State and is often credited by current head coaches as having helped their careers.
Dietz is one of those who learned from him, coaching under him at LaGrange.
“That makes this award very special to me, because it is named after coach Vicknair, who I have great respect for and learned so much from,” said Dietz.
“It is nice to be recognized for your work, but I am thankful and very, very fortunate to have learned from some of the best coaches around. I got lucky I fell into the right places and it has worked out.”
Dietz, who has 13 years of coaching experience, turned 37 last Thursday. He helped turn around a defense that proved tough to score against, allowing 11 points a game as Iowa advanced to the quarterfinals of the Class 3A state playoffs before losing to eventual 3A runner-up Notre Dame.
“Coach Dietz brought a workman-like attitude to not only our defense but to our entire football team,” said Iowa head coach Sean Richard. “He brought a different attitude to us, a hard-nosed way of doing things.
“He holds everybody accountable, including myself.”
Richard added that he was the secondary coach as well as head coach, so in many ways he worked for Dietz on the defensive side.
“He had so many ideas and changed so many little things that made us better,” said Richard, who noted that Dietz seems to have learned from those he coached for in the past.
“Coach has done a great job of picking the brain of those other coaches and turning it into his way of doing things,” Richard said. “He has a lot of football knowledge for somebody who is still pretty young.”
Dietz credits the players for accepting his changes.
“They bought into the system and what we were trying to do quickly,” Dietz said. “It grew from there.
“Defense is an attitude and you show the kids how passionate you are about defense by working hard every day in practice and they learn from that. Then they get some success and they buy into the work and the rewards.”
Dietz also served as the coach of the Yellow Jackets’ punt return and punt block teams. Iowa responded to his work by returning five punts for touchdowns.
“He did a great job with our special teams as well,” Richard said. “He knows a lot of different ways to help your team win games.”
Dietz admits he might like to try his hand as a head coach one day, but it would have to be the right place at the right time.
“I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket,” he said. “I love being an assistant coach. You get to put all your time in football and teaching the game and working with the kids. As a head coach, a lot of the work is public relations. I get to coach football.”
It’s that love for the game that others noticed about Dietz at a young age.
“He is very excited about football,” said Johns, the St. Louis head coach who had Dietz on his staff while at LaGrange. “He was a real student of the game,” Johns said.
“He was always working, always studying, learning all the time. He is a coach through and through.
“You just knew he would work to be successful.”
Last season all that work paid off for both Dietz and the Yellow Jackets.
2012 — Luke Dietz, Iowa.
2011 — Tommy Thompson, Lake Arthur.
2010 — Tommy Johns, St. Louis.
2009 — Wayne Cespiva, St. Louis.
2008 — Jamie Schiro, Westlake.