There was little doubt about the direction of Rob Poole’s career path.
Having played quarterback for his father, Leslie Poole, at Olive Branch (Mississippi) High School, and with an uncle who served as a head coach on both the high school and junior college levels, Poole was destined to follow in their head coaching shoes.
Poole, 35, became a head coach for the first time when Lafayette High made his hiring official Monday.
“My whole life, I’ve been around football,” Poole said. “I was either at practice or watching it on TV at home. I’ve always been around coaches. When I decided to choose a profession, it was out there in front of me.”
Poole was on hand Monday to meet with returning players and observe offseason workouts.
“He just did a great job in the interview,” Lafayette High Athletic Director Karl Broussard said. “He obviously knows football, both sides of the football. He has worked with all kinds of kids and gets along with them. It was just his presence and poise. He definitely has a vision for the program.”
Broussard was part of a five-member committee that interviewed eight candidates and ultimately recommended Poole to Lafayette High Principal Dr. Donald Thornton.
Poole replaces Jay Domengeaux, who resigned Dec. 21 after five seasons in which he went 17-33, including 3-7 in 2015.
Poole, a graduate of Delta State, spent 10 years coaching in Desoto (Mississippi) County high schools, first at Class 6A power Olive Branch, where he was the defensive coordinator after beginning there on the offensive side working with skill-position players. He also coached at Horn Lake High before moving to Briarcrest Christian in Memphis.
“Their helmet has a logo of the state and a star that represents Lafayette,” Poole said. “It’s something to be proud of. If you take pride in where you’re from, you’re going to represent that more than likely on Friday nights.”
Poole, who coached former LSU and current Atlanta Falcons cornerback Jalen Collins at Olive Branch, has most recently been the defensive coordinator at Briarcrest.
Poole said the opening at Lafayette High enabled him to fulfill a lifelong goal of becoming a head coach while providing an opportunity to return his wife, Kristi — a native of Ville Platte — to her home state.
“You have to set your program where you get the most out of everybody,” Poole said. “There’s no ready-made plan. You have to build relationships with players, and they’re going to play hard. You have to put them in a position where they can be successful.”
Poole said he immediately noticed some similarities from his experience at Olive Branch and the prospect of coaching at Lafayette High — two schools that play in the highest classifications in their respective states and in extremely competitive districts.
Moreover, during some of his initial research on the school, Poole discovered Lafayette High had produced such NFL players as Ross Brupbacher, Billy Ryman, Jeff Fontenot and Cedric Figaro.
“When I looked at that, I say ‘Why can’t it be now?,’ ” Poole said of having a winning program. “Part of that is that is a positive outlook on a daily occurrence. If I do my job, then we can do that as a unit, as a coaching staff and school and then that change will take place over time.”