With each step toward his car Friday afternoon, where Darcy Delcambre was preparing to make the three-mile trip home from Delcambre High School for the final time in a teaching/coaching career that spanned nearly three decades, the lump in his throat only increased in size.
“I’ll make it,” Delcambre said. “I’m going to miss the kids, big time though.”
Given his long-standing popularity among students the feeling was certainly mutual.
Delcambre, who also attended the school and participated in athletics, announced he would retire from his alma mater after 29 years in the classroom and athletics fields where he coached football and track.
Delcambre served in both capacities as the school’s head coach in football and athletic director the past 13 years and boys track coach the past 22 years.
“As the (football) season ended I started thinking about what I wanted to do?” Delcambre said. “As time went on I thought maybe it was time to sit back and smell the roses and spend a little more time with the family. I told the principal (Kimberly Messman), the staff and the kids. I had to OK it first with Fran (his wife).”
Delcambre got the all-clear to come home for good where his sanctuary — the garden — awaits his full-time attention, along with moving items off his wife’s “honey-do” list into the finished category.
That probably didn’t include the impending purchase of a brand-new boat, but next to his garden, there’s no greater passion for Delcambre than fishing.
For a change, Delcambre can actually start putting himself and his family that include two children and two grandchildren ahead others.
“When you’re coaching kids and a little farther down the road you start coaching their kids,” Delcambre said. “The biggest positive is when you’re coaching or teaching their kid, and they want you to treat them the same way. Make sure you teach them the same principles and morals. Those are things I feel so thankful for that I’ve passed that on.”
Delcambre said he realized in his collegiate days at McNeese State he wanted to remain around athletics and possibly have the same impact on student-athletes in the way one of his mentors and former coach — Donald Dunbar — had on him.
It was Dunbar, who died in January, who insisted Delcambre apply for an opening at Delcambre High after serving nine years at Catholic High of New Iberia, including three as head football coach.
Delcambre was set to accept another position at Vermilion Catholic until Dunbar intervened.
Not only did Delcambre get the job in 1986, he never left and subsequently had a flood of emotions and memories in recalling his career that culminated in his final day Friday.
“Being able to be a part of Delcambre High as a student and then come back and get the opportunity to coach was tremendous,” he said. “I was one of those guys that bled (school colors) orange and black. I was fortunate and blessed I was able to do it this long, especially at Delcambre. I had some good administrators and worked along some good people.”
The degree of success for coach Delcambre wasn’t always measured in trophies and championships, but there were plenty of both go around from an individual and team perspective.
Delcambre was the defensive coordinator for his older brother Mike during an undefeated regular season and district championship in Class 1A the year before a memorable home victory over a talented Teurlings Catholic team that featured future NFL quarterback Jake Delhomme.
Delcambre enjoyed solid regular seasons when coach Delcambre’s son Blaze was part of a team in the mid-1990s that went on the road on the first round of the state playoffs and avenged an earlier loss against Basile to spoil their undefeated season.
Both cross country, along with track and field, are sports Delcambre High has annually excelled, and Delcambre’s own daughter — Darcel — captured six state titles in the 3,200 meter run.
Coach Delcambre is still trying to transition 29 years of memories captured in photographs and keepsakes from his school office to home.
A week ago he was the unsuspecting victim of a going-away roast, where Delcambre, knee-deep in his garden with dirty blue jeans and cowboy hat, received quite a jolt when he walked into the school’s gym filled with well-wishers that included former teachers, coaches and players.
Because of his own self-deprecating humor Delcambre traded a few good-natured barbs but allowed himself to enjoy the tribute and his day in the sun.
“It was nice, great tribute,” he said. “I was blown away by it. I’m lucky to have taught neurosurgeons, lawyers, engineers, cardiologists, pharmacists and teachers. You get the kids to understand to do what you like because that’s what I did.”