Interview with Coach Jim Gatlin
By Reid Althage
LAFM: How many years have you been in coaching?
This will be my 31st year.
LAFM: What is the name of the first school you coached at? What other schools have you coached at?
The first school I coached at was Bossier High School. I was a DB coach and track coach. I was at Bossier for 18 years. Eventually I became the Defensive Coordinator, and then was then the head Coach at Parkway for 10 years. I did do 1 year of junior high school between Parkway and Northwood.
LAFM: What made you get into coaching? Who or what influenced you the most?
I knew I wanted to be a coach since I was in 7th grade. I went to Bossier for junior high and high school. I was lucky enough to come back and get a job their. A coach by the name of Chester Wrooten who coached me in Junior high. It was the first time I had played organized football. My dad was in the Airforce, and we had just moved from Nebraska. Before Bossier, I never played football. It was just basketball and baseball. I did the punt, pass, and kick competitions, but never anything organized. At that time the base leagues did not have organized football. Coach Wrooten was just a great guy, and I knew I wanted to be a coach. I was lucky enough to go through high school and college knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I wanted to go to college (hopefully get a scholarship and I did). I got an education degree and minored in biology and P.E.. I ended up teaching Biology my first 15 years.
LAFM: Did you go to college? Did you play football? What position?
My first year I went to Northeast, now ULM. I transferred to Baptist Christian College my 2nd year. I was able to play basketball and football for them which got me a better scholarship. I graduated from Baptist Christian.
At ULM, I played Defensive End. When I got to Baptist Christian, I played RB. I played RB and LB in high school and that was what I liked to play.
LAFM: Who are some of the best players you’ve ever coached?
The best athlete I have ever coached was Tony Moss. I coached him at Bossier. When he was at Bossier, he was our best basketball player, best football player, best baseball player and just the best all-around athlete I ever coached. At LSU, he was All-Conference I think around 1986 or 1987. He was by far the best athlete.
LAFM: What would you like to see changed in Louisiana High School football?
I wish Louisiana was better at one thing. The high school athlete in Louisiana has one of the toughest roads to get a scholarship. The “better than average” athlete is what I am talking about not our higher level athletes. First of all we do not have any JUCO colleges that play football. If our kids played in Arkansas,Texas, and Mississippi, they would all get scooped up by the Division II and JUCO schools. Texas and Mississippi Junior Colleges and DII colleges have limited numbers on out of state kids. They are all taken up by the 5 star recruits who did not make the grades. Looking at Football, everybody in this state plays good, high level football. Anywhere you go to play college football in Louisiana it is at a premium level. Basically, I just think that “better than average” athlete gets left out here in our state. I wish their was another avenue for those kids to go play such as a DII or Junior College here in Louisiana.
LAFM: Do you think the brand of Louisiana football is different than anywhere else?
I think it more athletic. The speed of the game and athleticism in Louisiana is as good as their is in the United States. Just look at the number of college recruits from Louisiana and how well they do in college. The ones who stay in state are successful and the ones who leave the state are successful. If you are a college football team, you are going to have some one coming to Louisiana to look at our high school athletes.
LAFM: Do you feel like the offense/defensive philosophies differ between North and South Louisiana?
Yea, I do. I think what I have seen is that in Northern Louisiana it is more finesse with spread offensive. I think their is more offensive schemes. Then you go farther south it is more physical and run right at you. It is amazing though. We go play Franklinton, and we could just not mach their offensive line. They were just so big, and we did not have anybody in our district with O-Linemen like that and they had 3 of them. Down south it is just a bigger tougher kind of run the ball mentality. Up here it is more spread out and trying to make use of our speed and athletes.
LAFM: Who is your favorite NFL or college player of all time and why?
I will have to go old school here and say my favorite player ever is Johnny Unitas. People who read yall’s magazine will not even know Johnny Unitas. I liked his competitiveness. Flat-top hair cut, high top shoes, nothing flashy. He just went out their and got the job done. I thought he was a great leader. He played out their before the players ever made any real money. I read some where he played for 12 dollars a game. He is definitely my favorite guy.
LAFM: Who is your favorite college or pro football coach and
I liked the career of Mack Brown. I liked him at Tulane (showing my age again). I like seeing a coach climb the ranks the way he did. He was at Tulane, then North Carolina, and then did a great job at Texas. I know he was relieved of his duties, but I bet 10 years from now Texas University will wish they had a coach their with his record. You know, he seemed like a great guy who just worked his way up. He always treated the kids right. You never heard anyone ever complain about how they were treated. He was just a top-notch guy.
LAFM: What is special about Northwood?
Well its a great community school. We are in a little town called Blanchard. (We are really not in Shreveport itself) It is a great community. They are very hungry to win. We have had a lot of excitement here the last 2 years. Going 10-2 and making the 2nd round of the playoffs was amazing. It is just a well rounded school. It is not a magnet like many of the other schools in the district. Magnet schools can attract players from outside their district. We cannot but do really well with what we have. We are just a neighborhood school. It is just a great community to live in and go to school in.