Don Perret is the "Father of Rummel football."
Always has been.
Always will be.
Perret died on Thursday night in Metairie at the age of 88, but not before leaving his stamp all over the Rummel program.
The phrase "Raider Pride," synonymous with the program, was started by Perret.
The "R" on the side of the helmets and seen on bumper stickers and decals on cars around town?
That was Perret, too.
The tradition of Rummel players holding up four fingers at the start of the fourth quarter was started by him too.
"Rummel High football is what it is today because of him," said former Rummel coach Easten Roth. "He is one of the best people I have ever known. A great Christian man, a great football coach and a great educator."
Roth was Perret's assistant for eight years before succeeding him as head coach in 1979.
Roth's son, current Rummel coach Jay Roth, played quarterback two seasons for Perret, including Perret's final season in 1978.
"The man just left this lasting mark on Rummel High School," Jay Roth said.
Funeral arrangements are still pending for Perret, who coached Rummel for eight seasons. He took over in 1971 and had a winning record each year. He compiled a 65-21-3 record., including Catholic League titles in 1973 and 1974 and trips to the Class 4A semifinals in 1974 and 1975. Before his time at Rummel, Perret coached at Redemptorist and now-defunct St. Aloysius.
"Don was as good of a man as I’ve known," said Jim Robarts, Rummel's basketball coach during Perret’s tenure. "He was as fine of a football coach as I’ve ever been around, and I’m not just talking about Xs and Os, but as a person as well."
Jay Roth's memories of his former coach will last forever. He recalls the letters that Perret would write to him up until his final days.
"You knew when you got that letter that it was from Don Perret," Roth said. "It had this print handwriting that was immaculate.And your hands would automatically start sweating, because it was coming from the man, from coach Perret. His words of wisdom were always like ‘Wow!’ I know for a fact that I saved every letter that I received from that man."
And while Perret's mark is left at Rummel, coaches who lined up across the field from him appreciate his legacy too.
Otis Washington was coaching at all-black St. Augustine during Perret's times, just as integration was taking place.
"It was a tough time for us, but I remember coach Perret always telling me to hang in there and that things were going to get better," Washington said. "He encouraged us. He was a great person. And his Rummel teams gave us fits."
He is survived by four children: Donalyn Ann Perret Bowen, Lauren Ann Perret Butler, Glenn Perret and Ron Edward Perrett. Don's wife, Gwendolyn Doughty Beck Perret, died in February.
Perret, a Holy Cross grad, was a strong believer in playing sold defense and having a strong running game. Off the field, he was a strong believer in his faith, spending much of his time reading and writing discussions about the Bible.
He came up with the phrase "Raider Heaven" for Rummel's practice field across the street from the school. During his days at Redemptorist, players had to get on a bus or in cars to get to practice. But at Rummel, it was right across the street, like being in heaven. So he gave it that name.
Those close to him say he's in another Raider Heaven now.
"I have a big smile on my face and I’m so happy because his ultimate goal was to get to where he’s at today," Jay Roth said. "I know he was ready four weeks ago when I went to visit him in the hospital. He would flat out tell you, ‘I’m ready to meet my Maker.’ I’m glad the Lord’s taken him. He’s a great Rummel Raider and I know he’ll be looking down on us."
— Mike Strom contributed to this story