The state of Louisiana lost one of its most revered high school football coaches on Sunday.
Jimmy “Chick” Childress, the face of Ruston High School football for 12 seasons and a former baseball coach at ULM, died at Northern Louisiana Medical Center in Ruston. He was 83.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Kilpatrick Funeral Home in Ruston.
“He was a wonderful man and whatever he said you could take it to the bank,” said Hall of Fame strength and conditioning coach Al Miller, who Childress mentored at Lee Junior High in Monroe.
“I owe him a lot because he did so much for me as a young coach starting out.”
Childress built Ruston in his image with a punishing offense and stifling defense, leading his alma mater to a 131-27 (82 percent) record and four Class 4A state championships in 1982, 1986, 1988 and 1990. His body of work while on the sidelines of James Field at L.J. “Hoss” Garrett Stadium earned him a place in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.
The Bearcats brought a high school national championship to Lincoln Parish in 1990 following a 52-10 win over Catholic-Baton Rouge in that season’s 4A state title game.
“Coach Childress was a father figure to me and someone you could talk to. I really don’t know what I might be doing right now had it not been for him. He made a huge difference in my life,” said former Ruston linebacker Michael Brooks, who went on to an All-American career at LSU and was a Pro Bowler for the Denver Broncos.
Ruston football in the 1980s was defined by championship gold and intense battles with Neville. Childress understood the historic rivalry from both side having spent 15 years coaching alongside Bill Ruple and Charlie Brown at Neville.
The two schools met twice for state titles on the Superdome turf. Ruston beat Neville 8-0 in 1982 and set a 4A Prep Classic record for most punts (9) and punt returns (7) by one team.
Ruston’s record 52 points scored in the 1990 Class 4A state title game still stands today.
Most thought of Childress and Brown as enemies standing on opposite sidelines but that assessment couldn’t be further from the truth. They carpooled to work together at Neville every day and stayed close despite the rivalry.
The national championship was Childress’ swan song at Ruston. He traded one alma mater for another when he stepped down following the 1990 season and took a job as the football recruiting coordinator at ULM in the fall of 1991, his second stint with the program.
When Childress finally settled into retirement, he did it in Ruston. He was a frequent visitor at the football field house that bears his name over the last two seasons to visit with current head coach Brad Laird, his national champion quarterback.
“For some reason it was always on Tuesdays. He had his routine and I knew to keep my schedule open at 10:30 because most times there he would be,” Laird said. “It wasn’t ever anything x’s and o’s, we really just talked about life and we built our relationship up just like it was when I was in high school.”
Childress was a part of nine state championship teams in his career; four as the head coach at Ruston, four as an assistant coach at Neville and one as a player at Ruston in 1947.
After graduating from Ruston, Childress headed east to play football at ULM in 1951. He put his career on hold to serve in the Army and finished his career in 1956, where he was voted the team’s most valuable player and named third team All-Gulf States Conference.
Between his time at Neville and Ruston, Childress was the head baseball coach at ULM and an assistant football coach under Ollie Keller from 1974-75.
He spent three years coaching at Cedar Creek before taking over at Ruston in 1979.