Dawson Durbin realized what would have happened had he stepped foot on Acadiana High’s campus one more time.
Six years as the football program’s defensive coordinator, including back-to-back Class 5A state championships, couldn’t truly capture Durbin’s true feelings for the school.
Having resigned from that job and the state system after 34 years of coaching, the 58-year-old Durbin had accepted a similar position running the defense at Foley (Ala.) High School.
Last week Durbin’s six years at the Scott-based school and 32 of his 34 years in the coaching profession at five schools in the Acadiana-area region were reduced to a matter of days that included packing and saying his final goodbyes before his move Thursday.
When it came time to turning in his keys to the school early last week, Durbin asked Acadiana assistant Gavin Peters to drop them off instead and avoid any tearful send-offs with an administration he said was among the best he worked for.
“I wouldn’t have handled it too well,” Durbin said. “They’re a great group of people.”
That turned out to be a reoccurring theme when Durbin summoned help from his former boss — Ted Davidson — and several assistants to help him pack. For the most part this was the same staff that spent countless hours together on the practice field, devising game plans and guiding one of the state’s most successful programs.
Davidson, who has led the Rams to all four of their state titles in a nine-year span, was first to lend a hand and immediately Dawson became emotional.
“It was tough on me; these are great guys,” Durbin said. “They’ll always be my buddies. I’ve been here a long time and made a bunch of friends.”
Taking the defensive coordinator’s position on the staff of head coach Tad Niblett at Foley High represented quite a departure for Durbin, whose entire life and coaching career had been spent in Louisiana.
Having surpassed more than three decades in the state system (all but two spent at public schools) Durbin took a leap of faith. He opted to continue his coaching path in Alabama, being able to enjoy the fringe benefit of living in his vacation haven of nearby Gulf Shores.
With a son, Tyler, in graduate school at Mississippi State and daughter, Danielle, married and living in the Baton Rouge area, Durbin, a graduate of Baton Rouge’s Broadmoor High, joined the program at Foley.
His official first day on the job is Sunday with a staff meeting.
“I’ve never been so excited and scared all at the same time,” he said. “I’m going to work with a brand-new staff where I know only one or two by name. They seem like a great staff there.”
Durbin is not only proud of his longevity in such a demanding profession, one he owes in part to his late father Eldridge Durbin, but also the success he enjoyed (30 of 34 years in the playoffs) and the career-shaping head coaches he worked for.
Durbin graduated from Louisiana Tech, where he served as a graduate assistant under Billy Brewer and A.L. Williams until joining the staff at Cedar Creek in Ruston for two years before heading south.
Over the next 32 years Durbin coached with such Acadiana-area pillars as 200-game winner Mike Mowad at Breaux Bridge for 11 years, Mac Barousse at Carencro for another 11 years, Brent Indest for three years at Crowley and the past six at Acadiana with Davidson.
Durbin was part of resurgent programs at Breaux Bridge and Crowley, while Carencro nearly won its second state title in 1996, losing 24-21 to West Monroe.
The final chapter in Durbin’s home-state coaching narrative had a happy ending.
A year after Acadiana’s offense was lethal in a 77-41 win over Parkway, the Rams defense had a larger say in a 23-7 victory against Destrehan last season, bringing the staff together for what turned out to be their final postgame ritual together dubbed by Davidson as the “Walk of Fame” through New Orleans.
“I hope I’ve been a good assistant,” Durbin said. “I know I’ve worked for some great guys.
“Fortunately, they’re all still really great friends.”