WSJH’s Walters named finalist for NFL’s Don Shula coach award

Published 12:01 am Saturday, January 13, 2018

NEW ORLEANS — Hot on the heels of a monster football season culminating in West St. John High’s first state championship since 2004, head coach Brandon Walters is finding recognition on a national scale.

Walters was named a finalist by the New Orleans Saints for the Don Shula NFL Coach of the Year Award, a prestigious honor commending excellence in character, integrity, leadership, community dedication, commitment to player health and safety and on-field success at the high school level, according to an NFL press release.

To Walters, coaching is about building strong players on the field while also building “boys” into good, honest “men” capable of teaching and guiding others.

Rams coach Brandon Walters, right, walks the sideline at St. James High School during preseason action.

“I believe you are judged by how you carry yourself and how your players look toward you for guidance,” Walters said. “You try to be a good role model and teach them how to be a good man.”

When seniors exit the program, Walters hopes they take the lessons to heart. Whether they become dedicated students, workers, husbands or fathers, Walters wants them to be the best men they can be and never forget to support others.

“We instill in our guys to go out there and make something of yourself,” Walters said. “If college is their goal, I want them to finish on time, represent their school well and come back to provide guidance for other kids coming up [in the program].”

Walters cited his father, Thomas Walters, and legendary Grambling State University coach Eddie Robinson as being instrumental in building him into the coach he is today.

Walters is one of 32 NFL Coach of the Year nominees from across the nation. Two finalists announced at the Pro Bowl in Orlando will be awarded a $15,000 grant from the NFL Foundation, $10,000 of which will go to the coach’s school.

The winner, announced during the Jan. 28 game, will walk the red carpet at NFL Honors and be recognized during a two-hour primetime special to air at 9 p.m. the night before Super Bowl LII.

Don Shula, all-time leader in regular season wins by a head coach, Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker and Peyton Manning are among those involved in voting. If he wins the grant money, Walters plans to use it to upgrade West St. John High’s gym and other sports facilities.

“I’ve won funds this season from being one of the coaches of the week, and I want to put it back into the kids,” Walters said. “Put it back into the program, not just for football, but spread it between all the sports in the athletic department.”

St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools Superintendent Kevin George said he was delighted to hear of Walters’ nomination, noting such an honor reflects well on the Parish and speaks to strength of character.

“Anytime one of our staff members is recognized on a national level, or even a state level, we’re so excited and proud,” George said. “It’s a testament to what he, his coaching staff and players have been able to accomplish.”

He said Walters’ perseverance is what led West St. John High to the Class 1A State Championship despite a rocky 2-2 start.

“When you’re a coach in Southeast Louisiana, you’re going to have a lot of Monday morning quarterbacks,” George said. “Those first few months, he took his lumps with people saying negative things, but he always took the high road.”