Now that school is finally back in session, Paul Bourgeois can enjoy quiet time during his morning planning period.
Even though it was a long, hot summer, the first-year football coach at East Ascension High School has plenty to be thankful for. Being a head coach again isn’t necessarily at the top of his list.
“I had eight years as a head coach and I didn’t know if I’d get this chance again,” Bourgeois said. “The kids have done a great job of buying into the things we want to do.
“There are a lot of similarities between here and where I was before, at Sulphur. The kids work hard and there is a so much community support. Like any place you coach, problems can come up, but it’s just something you deal with.”
The 47-year-old Bourgeois talks like a man who has dealt with issues beyond football. And yes, he has.
Five years ago, Bourgeois reached the pinnacle for a Louisiana high school coach. The Sulphur native who was a back-up quarterback at McNeese State in the mid-1980s led Sulphur to the Class 5A title game at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s Prep Classic in New Orleans. His nephew, Ben, was the quarterback of the team.
Less than two years after current LSU kicker Drew Alleman booted a field goal to give district rival Acadiana a 13-10 win, Bourgeois faced a health crisis.
On June 3, 2008, Bourgeois had surgery to remove a brain tumor that was about the size of a quarter.
“They had to remove my forehead to do it,” Bourgeois said. “I’d never really been through anything like that, so I didn’t know what expect.”
What Bourgeois did after the surgery was remarkable. He never missed a game or practice during a 5-5 season despite driving to the Houston area for radiation treatments.
“They don’t really give you a handbook for things like that,” Bourgeois said. “I thought I needed to be doing my job, so I was out there every day, doing the best I could.
“I’d leave after practice, get a radiation treatment and be back the next day. That was what was right for me. “
When Sulphur finished 4-6 in 2009, Bourgeois resigned. He spent the spring and fall of 2010 as an assistant at nearby Westlake before landing the EAHS job in January.
Though the job required a move for his family that also includes his wife, Stephanie, and a 9-year-old daughter, Hope, Bourgeois said he was ready and willing.
“Moving here did take us away from family,” Bourgeois said.
“We really are blessed. We’ve found a great place to live, my wife has a job she loves and we like the things going on for our daughter at her school.
“And the good news is that it’s only a little over two hours away if we want to go visit.”
Health-wise, the news also is positive. Bourgeois remains cancer free. He said he does take several medications daily because his pituitary gland was a casualty of the cancer and surgery.
With his health restored, Bourgeois is now charged with reviving an EAHS program that finished 4-6 last season and has not advanced to the football playoffs since moving back up to Class 5A in 2007.
One key hurdle was cleared late last week when former Lutcher assistant Thomas Bourgeois was hired to work with kickers and wide receivers, filling a spot vacated when Nick Mitchell left to become head coach at Southern Lab.
“There’s still a lot to be done,” Bourgeois said. “We’ve got the offense and defense in and everyone, players and coaches, has worked hard. Now we’ve got to put it all together.”