School names gym after longtime coach

THIBODAUX — The name of Preston LeJeune, longtime E.D. White Catholic High School football coach, will live on at the campus through more than fond memories.

The school is naming the gym it built in 2009 after LeJeune, who has spent the past 35 years working with athletics there.

LeJeune didn’t move to Thibodaux for football and actually had left a coaching position to run a new Sonic Drive-In restaurant in the city.

“I had five kids at the time, so financially it was a good move,” he recalled.

By spring 1978, however, he returned to football. He signed on to work as the defensive coordinator for E.D. White while still helping run the Sonic during lunch and after work.

But then the school’s head coaching position unexpectedly opened up.

“I didn’t have my eye on it. ... I thought I should try for it because if someone else came in, he could say, ‘Are you here to coach football or sell hamburgers?’ ” LeJeune said with a laugh. “It was never a burning desire to be a head football coach. It just kind of fell in my lap.”

By that summer, he was named head coach and held the post for 23 years.

“It was seven days a week and my thought process was always on football,” LeJeune said. “I enjoyed the competition and the whole process: thinking about it, watching film and putting together a plan and then putting that on the field.”

LeJeune’s teams had a 69 percent winning record. He coached four undefeated teams, won 11 district championships and beat archrival Vandebilt Catholic High in Houma 17 out of 23 games.

LeJeune’s 1981 team was a state finalist, losing 21-17 to John Curtis Christian in River Ridge in the finals in the first high school championship game played in the Superdome.

“Afterward you would think we had won with our fans cheering us. The support was always wonderful. I won’t ever forget that,” LeJeune said.

LeJeune was named athletic director in 1992. He’s overseen construction of a new running track; softball complex; locker rooms for boys and girls basketball, football and volleyball; an office for women coaches; gym; and improvements to the baseball park.

“I’ve been around the block a few times and nobody will have facilities like this,” LeJeune said as he looked over the new artificial turf field being installed in the school’s football stadium.

Kay Constant, assistant advancement director and alumni director, said the school will host a reception Sept. 20 to name the gym and acknowledge his contributions to the school.

“It’s such an honor and I am so humbled,” LeJeune said.

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Information from: Daily Comet, http://www.dailycomet.com