Some people thought Tony Hull was crazy.
Some still do.
Hull, now in his eighth season as head football coach at Warren Easton, was an engineer at the time.
He was working for NASA, making engineering money.
But his heart wasn’t in it.
“Coaching was my passion,” Hull said. “I felt it was my God-given passion, and something that was a God-given ability. I felt I was placed on this earth to be a coach and to develop young men. It was my passion, and I decided to follow it. I lost a lot. I lost an incredible paycheck, friends. But this is my passion.”
Hull’s mother, Roxie, still remembers the day he told her he was going to leave engineering behind after four years in the profession.
“He came in and said, ‘Momma, don’t get mad at me,’ ” Roxie Hull recalled. “ ‘But there are too many young black men going astray. I’m going to start coaching.’ ”
His first stop was at Sarah Reed, his alma mater, as an assistant. His second was at Mandeville.
Then he got his first head coaching job in 2007 at Warren Easton.
It was a proud moment for Hull, a former offensive lineman at Louisiana-Lafayette.
But it was an even prouder moment for Ollie Hull, Tony’s father.
The elder Hull couldn’t hold back the tears the day his son came to their home in New Orleans East after being hired.
“When I walked in the house, his eyes were just full,” Hull said. “I had never seen my dad cry. I asked him … ‘What are you crying for?’ ”
He said: “Son, I was a little boy, I couldn’t even set my feet on the same side of the street that Warren Easton is on, and now my son is the head coach.”
But this head coaching job wasn’t going to be easy.
Hull was basically starting a program from scratch.
Easton didn’t even field a football team the year before that as the school was still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
Fast forward to now, and Hull is just one victory away from bringing Easton its first state championship since 1942. Easton will play Neville on Saturday at 3 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the Class 4A title.
Hull didn’t need to get to the title game to validate his decision to become a coach, but…
“This helps,” he said. “But I’m really just enjoying to see the kids go through this process. It feels good to be here, but I just to see my coaches and the kids go through it gives me joy. It’s like a dad watching his kids open up their Christmas gifts. I’m more excited because the people are seeing the fruits of our success and seeing that hard work pays off.”
And Hull knows hard work.
He saw it every day from his father, a retired bus driver.
Ollie Hull would drive the bus for 10 hours, then take a four-hour nap, then get back up and do another 10-hour shift.
But the elder Hull, who turns 81 in April, says his son works just as hard.
“He practically lives at the school,” Ollie Hull said. “He is over there all the time. He loves those guys like they are his own sons. A lot of people said it couldn’t happen, but it’s happening.”
It almost didn’t.
It took a touchdown from star receiver Tyron Johnson in the final seconds for Easton to prevail over top-seeded Plaquemine in the semifinals.
Ollie Hull was one of the first ones down on the field at Pan Am Stadium Friday night.
“And you have to realize that my dad NEVER comes on the field,” Hull said. “He ran on the field, cut the interview short and he gives me a hug and then asks someone to ‘Take a picture of me and my son.’ To see that on my dad’s face makes me enjoy this moment. I am just excited that I can put that much joy in his eyes.”
There could be a similar celebratory hug on Saturday.
This time it would be in the Dome.
Ollie and Tony.
A father and a son.
The former bus driver who took folks where they wanted to go. And the former engineer, who became a coach, trying to take the folks at Easton to a place they have been longing to get to.