Interview with Michael Roach
by Reid Althage
LAFM: I know you have had a great coaching career and this will be your 2nd year at Madison Prep. Name some of the other schools you have coached at in you career?
I coached at Southern Lab, Glen Oaks, Grambling State, Morehouse College (Atlanta, GA), and Alcorn State. I have been all over the place.
LAFM: Did you grow up in the Baton Rouge area? Did you play football?
Yes, I went to Capitol High School and played football there. I went on to become a LB at Southern University. I was a star at one time Ha!
LAFM: How did you end up Coaching at Madison Prep?
I had actually left Southern Lab and went to Alcorn State for one year as a Defensive Coordinator and assistant head coach. Well, they let Coach Spears (head coach at the time) go, and I was back in Baton Rouge. I just kind of said to myself that I may just go ahead these next couple years and not coach anymore. Dr. Johnson (Director of Madison Prep) and Jeff Jones (AD and Basketball Coach) came by my cabinet shop. They said we are looking for a football coach to start our program. I told them they need to find someone else because I am getting to old for this. Making a long story short, they came by a few more times and got me to agree.
I will tell you something. I just felt a need to go to that school. It may have even been some kind of divine intervention. Right now I think it is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
LAFM: What made you get into coaching?
Man, I could write a book on what made me get into coaching. Actually, I was suppose to go to law school. I graduated slightly early and was working on my masters in my 5th year of playing football. I had really made up my mind. I said I was going to law school and was going to be a lawyer. I banged up my knee my senior year and was suppose to become a free agent with the Saints. Unfortunately that did not materialize. I went to work in the junior court system. I saw the kids that ended up there, and what they were going through. I said, “you know what, maybe I can do something from a coaching standpoint to stop kids from going down this path.” That is basically what got me into coaching. I look at coaching as a mentorship. I want to be a father figure for these kids and someone that they can learn from. I look at coaching as an opportunity for saving kids and nurturing young men.
LAFM: Have any coaches had a major influence on you as a coach?
I tell you what, the guy that probably had the most influence on me was coach Robert Brown. He was our elementary and middle school coach at Capitol Middle School. I was also around coaches such as Eddie Robinson and Otis Washington. I worked with Doug Williams at Grambling as well. Looking back these past 25 years, I have had a great time and coached/played under some great guys.
LAFM: Who are some of the best players you have ever coached? if you had to name 1-3?
It is kind of hard to say because there will be a whole lot of guys who will be mad if I don’t mention them Ha. I have coached so many great players. I have about 10 guys who have played to in the League. If you are looking at 2007, Chad Jones was an outstanding player. He went on to play at LSU and become a 3rd round draft pick with the Giants. Darryl Johnson who played for me at Southern Lab actually just signed with the San Diego Chargers. He was only a 2 year guy at Southern Lab. Another guy would be Gabe Northern who played for me at Glen Oaks. He went on to have a 5 year NFL Career. Another guy is John Simon (Southern Lab). He went on to play at LA Tech and then to the Tennessee Titans. John was one of the guys who was less talented coming into high school, yet worked the hardest. He is going to be successful in anything he does. Now he is the running back coach at Southern Miss. I have just been blessed with a bunch of guys who have taken their game to another level.
LAFM: What is one thing that stands out about some of the great players you have coached?
I think the thing that pushes these guys is their character and their integrity. I mean all of these guys are high character guys. It is so important to have that kind of character in order to get to the next level. I tell my guys all the time that you test your character when no one is looking. With all my great past players, you never had to look over their shoulder to make sure they were working. All these guys could self-motivate themselves. All those guys were great players off the field as well as on the field.
LAFM: Do you think the brand of Louisiana Football is different than anywhere else in the country?
It is some of the best football in the country. I was talking to a scout from the east coast the other day. He now works at one of the colleges down here. He says, “On the east coast you may go to one school to see 1 or 2 players and then you may have to go 25-50 miles to find another guy. In Louisiana, you can go 10 yards to find 10 more players.” When I was the DC at Grambling under Doug Williams, we found out that their was enough players in certain Louisiana areas for Grambling, LSU, and all the state colleges combined. Looking at Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and all of the south there is just a surplus of players. I went to Kansas State to help out with a camp about 6-7 years ago. I went there and the high school kids that went to the camp would not have even been invited to the LSU camp. It was like night and day compared to what we work with down here, especially looking at the speed of players.
Also, football down south is like a religion. East Coast and elsewhere it is second to other things. Football is so important here to our community and our culture. It goes down all the way to the high school level. In Louisiana, high school coaches that do not win get fired. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, and Florida could supply the entire country with football players.
LAFM: What makes Madison Prep a great school and also a great football program?
I think what makes Madison Prep a special school is that we are small (only about 250 kids) with a real family atmosphere. In fact, we are very similar to my old school Southern Lab except you are not paying tuition. We have a great Director in Dr. Johnson, great Ass. Director in Mr. Cole, and a great AD. All three really want football to be positive in helping young men. I brought my son Malcom here from Southern Lab. He was an All-State kid as a 9th grader. As a 10th grader here he was able to make All-State again. We got another kid Otis Dumars who is a senior with a 3.5 GPA. He is one of the kids who is going to make it on and off the field. I think that is the thing right now which makes our program positive. Last year we had about 25 kids and this year we are going to have about 45 kids. Everybody wants to come. I just see very positive things happening at Madison Prep.