|« NCAA: Betting Equals No Playoffs (for Delaware and Delaware State)||Who's it going to be? »|
Demons,Tigers learned to believe in Peve
In their days playing for Southland Conference championship football teams at Northwestern State a decade ago, Rob Robertson and Brian Whaley used to enjoy listening to pregame and halftime motivational talks by assistant coach Bradley Dale Peveto.
They had to sneak into those meetings. Peveto was the Demons’ defensive coordinator from 1996-98 under venerable head coach Sam Goodwin. Robertson, a fullback, and Whaley, a lineman, played on offense. They weren’t invited to the defensive meetings.
But they had to sneak in whenever possible.
“We had some great coaches here, and we all loved Coach Goodwin,” said Whaley. “But the way Coach Peve could reach out and inspire each and every one of us was something special.”
“One thing is for sure,” said Robertson. “He will get the maximum potential out of his players.”
Peveto, 47, was named the Demons’ new head football coach on Dec. 17. He came from LSU, where he was the linebackers coach for the past four seasons, including the 2007 Tigers’ team that won the BCS National Championship with a Sugar Bowl win over Ohio State. He was introduced on campus Dec. 22 in a rousing press conference attended by about 250 friends and NSU supporters, then returned to finish his coaching duties at LSU as co-defensive coordinator by helping the Tigers win the Chick-Fil-A Bowl over 14th-ranked Georgia Tech in dominating fashion on New Year’s Eve.
His decision to pursue and ultimately accept the Northwestern head coaching position raised some eyebrows. Skeptics wondered why a coach would step out of the high-profile, big dollar world of the Southeastern Conference to become a head coach at a smaller Division I state university.
Part of the reason, said Peveto, was ambition. His late father was a legendary high school head coach in Orangefield, Texas, 10 miles west of the Louisiana border, and 15 miles east of Beaumont. Bradley Dale started as a ballboy for his dad’s team, hanging out in the field house and riding the “old yellow dog,” as they called the team bus, to games with his father.
Two of his three brothers, Jeff and Garey Birt, are high school coaches in southeast Texas. To say their father had a strong influence is understating the situation.
Peveto has been an assistant coach for 21 seasons on the college level, beginning at Trinity Valley Community College. He’s also worked at Southern Mississippi, Arkansas, Houston and Middle Tennessee before coaching and winning four bowl games at LSU.
When the Northwestern job opened after last season, it tugged at Peveto’s heart. If he was ever going to be a head coach, it was time to take that step. A year earlier, he had been a prime candidate for the head job at his alma mater, SMU, but Hawaii coach June Jones got the nod after leading the Rainbows to the Sugar Bowl.
The allure of returning to Northwestern and Natchitoches was very strong for Peveto and his wife, Melissa, who treasured their previous stay.
“I’m glad to be back home. There’s a lot of jobs out there, but where do you want to live? I love Louisiana. I love Natchitoches. Is there a better job in the country? I don’t think so.”
A reporter from Peveto’s hometown newspaper interviewed him before the 2007 Sugar Bowl, at Media Day for the national championship game. He asked an obvious question: is this the highlight of your coaching career?
Remarkably, it wasn’t, and still isn’t. As fantastic as that experience was, and as much as Peveto enjoyed his four seasons at LSU, he maintains his favorite coaching memory is the 1997 season with the Demons.
“That team came through so much, not just developing into a championship team when we were 2-3 and just thoroughly whipped at McNeese in the middle of our season,” he recalled. “Coach Goodwin did such an amazing job of being positive and confident in the days after that game and we all fed off of him. We didn’t lose another game, and they tore the goalposts down in Turpin Stadium and carried them downtown after we beat Stephen F. Austin to win the conference championship.
“That was great, but what that team dealt with outside of football, I’ve never been around a closer group. We had an offensive lineman, Jay Olive, and he and his wife lost their little baby son to crib death during preseason camp. We had another player whose family’s home burned down. We had other family tragedies. We had some heartbreaking injuries and we had guys who just had to gut it out and get us through,” he said.
“You talk about triumph, that was a season when we had a triumph of will,” he said. “Winning that national championship at LSU, you bet it was special and I’m so very proud of those players and being part of that team. What a great thrill. But what our team accomplished, considering all of the circumstances, here in 1997 is without a doubt my greatest thrill in coaching.”
Those who have played for, and worked with, Peveto attest to his magnetism and seemingly boundless enthusiasm, along with a tireless work ethic. Goodwin recalls routinely getting to the office before sunrise and finding Peveto already on his second or third cup of coffee.
While making his recruiting visit to the campus, Whaley remembers being taken with Peveto’s energy.
“He had charisma and a passion for NSU football which was very obvious,” said Whaley. “It was later on, in spring conditioning drills at 5 in the morning, that I realized he was as intense at 5 a.m. workouts as he was at a 6 p.m. recruiting dinner.”
“I only wish I would have had the chance to play for him longer,” said Mike Stone, a defensive back during Peveto’s three years with the Demons.
“He is the most passionate coach that I have ever played for, both in his approach to the game and his passion for his players,” said Lanny Lawrence, a linebacker for Peveto with the Demons. “Coach Peveto always had a way of instilling pride in what we were trying to accomplish as a unit and no one wanted to be the weakest link in that endeavor.”
At LSU, he quickly developed a national reputation as an outstanding recruiter while Tigers players aided his cause as they told prospects how much they would enjoy playing for Peveto.
“He’s a very exciting coach to play for. He gets you up,” said LSU senior linebacker Darry Beckwith. “He’s just a hilarious guy, and he makes it fun. He’s also a guy who can count on and go talk to. He’ll make a great head coach.”
A sophomore linebacker last season at LSU, Kelvin Sheppard, recalled Peveto getting his ankles taped alongside the players before last November’s game against No. 1-ranked Alabama.
“It was great. It got everybody fired up, and it worked,” said Sheppard. “It was one of our better games. Coach Peve was the kind of coach you would dream of having.”
“The thing that always stuck out in my mind about Bradley Dale is that what he took to the field as a coach was exactly the kind of intensity you want your players to bring,” said Goodwin. “They see him working that hard and caring that much and that affects them. He relates as well to kids as any coach I’ve ever been around, and they’ll fight tooth and nail for him because he’s such a good motivator.”
He’s fond of introducing his Melissa to groups, as he did at his introduction as the Demons’ coach, and saying, “obviously, looking at me and looking at Melissa, you can tell I’m a pretty good recruiter.”
He’s eager to get Melissa and their two children, 6-year-old Payton Marie and 3-year-old Jacob Edward (whose middle name honors Peveto’s father, “Big Ed”), settled in Natchitoches.
“What a great place to raise our children,” he said. “It’s a special place. We’ll be at the little league games, at the festivals and the events around town, enjoying getting back together with the friends we left and making new ones.”
Northwestern State Media Relations