by Stephen Garcia
June 12, 2012
About J.T. Dunbar
J.T. Dunbar is a Marksville man through and through. While he is taking a one-year sabbatical and will not coach the team during the 2012 season, he has coached at his alma mater for 20 years, including 11 years as head coach. But Dunbar’s beginning at Marksville High School came long before he started coaching.
Dunbar played tight end and linebacker at MHS during the ’80s. In each of his four years playing football, Dunbar had a different head coach.
“We went through a lot of different coaches at that time, so as a team we weren’t very successful,” he said.
Some of his former teammates now have children who have played under Dunbar, who has also coached multiple family relatives while at MHS. Coaching in Marksville means a lot to Dunbar, who is happy to bring football success to his hometown.
“Just being able to turn some things around, some things that didn’t go so well back in the past, has been a blessing for me,” he said.
The school pride he felt as a player has followed him to the coaching ranks.
“To come back and to continue to be part of [MHS], it’s been a pretty special feeling,” Dunbar said.
While the success on the field is exciting, Dunbar is most proud of being able to shape the lives of the players he coaches. Whatever path they follow after high school, Dunbar enjoys hearing good news from his former players.
“To be able to listen to some of their success stories, that’s one of the biggest things for me,” he said.
2012 Marksville Football
Marksville will have to replace 20 seniors from a 2011 team that made it to the State Semifinals. It was Dunbar’s largest senior class since he began coaching at MHS.
But Dunbar thinks having the same football scheme in high school as in junior high will ease the transition into next season.
“Being able to run the same system makes things a lot easier whenever you’re going through a rebuilding process, if that’s what you want to call it,” he said.
Dunbar said the experience of the seniors will be what is missed most from last year’s squad.
“We lose a lot of experience but we also have a lot of talent coming back, particularly on the defensive side,” he said.
A tough schedule will demand experience and depth to be developed early in the year, Dunbar said. But he believes this team is as athletic as Marksville has ever had and still holds big expectations.
“I think come district time and into the playoffs we’ll be fine, with a chance to be a pretty good football team again,” Dunbar said.
Dunbar has coached a lot of players in his time at MHS, and he has also coached a lot of players named Lavalais. But none are more recognizable than Chad Lavalais, a former NFL defensive tackle and LSU standout.
Lavalais played all over the field while at Marksville. On offense, he took snaps at running back, tight end, and even receiver. He also played linebacker at MHS before converting to defensive tackle at LSU.
“Chad was just a special talent,” Dunbar said. “I’ve never seen a kid that size with that type of skill.”
Dunbar called Lavalais the “most athletic big guy” that he ever coached. He quickly learned that Lavalais had a bright future in football.
“He was just one of those kids that you knew, right off the bat, was going to be special,” Dunbar said.
Another former MHS player under Dunbar is currently in the NFL. Linebacker Isaiah Greenhouse, who played at Northwestern State, signed with the Dallas Cowboys this offseason.