Author: Katherine Smith
1968 in Gloster, Mississippi a senior football player at Gloster High School, was catching people’s attention. John Nagle was one of only thirty-three kids in his graduating class, but was being recruited by some of the biggest names in football history. Among those greats was Paul “Bear” Bryant. Bryant made a personal visit to the Nagle’s home. Johnny’s mother, who was a schoolteacher for forty –four years, made them all breakfast. The “Bear” loved Mrs. Nagle’s fried quail so much he later wrote her a letter saying he wanted another one of her breakfast the next time he was in Gloster.
Three of the players on the undefeated 1967-1968 Gloster High football team signed with Southeastern Conference schools. Two of them signed with Ole Miss while Johnny chose Louisiana State University. The defensive back received many offers from big schools including Tennessee, who offered him a scholarship for golf, basketball, and football. He never went to visit Tennessee, but did have some memorable visits. Ken Stabler was his host when officially visiting Alabama, and Archie Manning at Ole Miss. First committing to Mississippi State, Johnny later de-committed and chose to play for coach Charles McClendon and the LSU Tigers.
His mother and high school football coach, Frank Brocato, both attended LSU. Nagle claims Brocato, who is a member of the Louisiana Sports Coaching Hall of Fame, to be the biggest role model in his life. Although two influential people in his life attended his chosen school, he says he made the decision without pressure from either one. Nagle describes choosing LSU as, “The best decision I’ve ever made.”
John Nagle left the tiny town in Mississippi whose population is less than 1,000 to play football in front of 68,000 fans in Tiger Stadium. In his first class at the University, there were more people than in his entire high school. When asked about his experience playing for the Tigers, Nagle said, “Other than the birth of my two sons, it was the greatest thing to ever happen to me.” During his time at LSU Johnny played with some of the biggest icons in school history. Two of those iconic players were Tommy Casanova, the all-American corner back and quarterback Bert Jones, both of which went on to play in the NFL.
Witnessing many exciting games, as well as two bowl games, the Orange Bowl and Sun Bowl, no game was as memorable to him as the 1971 Notre Dame game in Tiger Stadium when they defeated the Fighting Irish 28-8. After playing four years for LSU (1968-1971) Johnny went back to school to finish his Bachelor of Science degree in physical education.
It was only three short years before he was involved with football again. At the age of twenty-five he began his first coaching job at Central High School, but that was only the beginning of what was going to be a long and respected career. While at Central he coached what he says was the best high school athlete he’s ever coached, Steve Ensminger. Ensminger went on to play quarterback at LSU and is now currently on the LSU football coaching staff.
Of all the places Nagle has coached, McNeese held a special place in his heart. During the thirteen years he spent coaching at the Lake Charles University he was able to coach his son, Slade. Nagle’s coaching career consisted of five years at Central High School, five years at Nichols State, three years at Texas State, thirteen years at McNeese, seven years at Northwestern State, and six years at Zachary.
While coaching, Johnny also became a father when his two sons Slade and Austin were born. Following in their father’s footsteps, both became excellent athletes and later coaches.
Slade Nagle, the older of the two was a star football player at Barbe High School. He continued his career playing at Clemson, and finishing at McNeese. When S. Nagle finished playing, he, like his father, began coaching and is currently coaching at McNeese.
“I owe my Dad so much for the support he has provided which has help me become the person I am today. His hard work and reputation helped pave the way for me to start a career in the coaching profession. He is a good coach, a great father, and an ever better man”. –Slade Nagle
As for Austin Nagle, the younger of the two, he also was an exceptional athlete at Barbe High School, excelling in both Baseball and Football. In both, his junior and senior year of high school, he was honored as Mr. Baseball. Austin chose to pursue a career in baseball and signed with LSU. However, after the Oakland Athletics drafted him out of high school, he chose to play professionally. He went on to play two seasons of pro ball before having to have rotator cuff surgery. He now owns his own facility and coaches hitting lessons. When asked about his Dad’s impact on his life he says, “Watching him as I was growing up, he put in the countless hours of coaching and being around it and listening not only inspired me to push myself in baseball but it has also made me a great instructor.” Austin went on to say “The way my father treated and loved each one of his players taught me how to treat people not only in sports but in everyday life, I couldn’t love and thank him enough”.
Both sons, as well as Johnny reside in Louisiana. Not only are the Nagle sons currently coaching, so is their father. J. Nagle is now coaching football at Zachary High School and teaching 1st and 2nd grade physical education. This year will be Jonny’s 40th year coaching, and he plans on coaching for four more years.
When asked what he missed most about playing he said it’s the competitiveness of playing against the best athletes in the country. He played against Cliff Branch, from the University of Colorado who was at one time the fastest man in the world, and the University of Alabama Hall of Famer John Hannah. The relationships you develop while playing sports is another thing the former Tiger misses. He met his best friend Buddy Breaux, who is a still a friend today, while playing football.
Through all he has experienced over the years both playing and coaching Nagle says, “Playing and coaching sports make you realize life isn’t always fair.” He believes athletes make the best employees because they know how to deal with failure and are used to working hard. “Everyone has to fail in order to know how to succeed.”- John Nagle
Nagle credits every job he has ever gotten to his playing football at LSU. This upcoming fall Nagle will continue to coach the Zachary High football team and do what he loves most, coach football.