“I remember the day he pulled up at the field house in an old, beat-up Ford truck,” Wiegand said. “He was a young man looking for a job, and he found one here. And he never left.”
That was more than 34 years ago, when LaReau was hired as a freshman assistant coach at La Porte High School. Since that time, LaReau—who became the LPHS head football coach in 2005—has positively impacted thousands of young men who were part of the Bulldog football program.
LaReau, who has announced his retirement effective Dec. 20, is known for leading the Bulldogs with quiet strength and resolute determination, demonstrating an example of how hard work and a positive attitude equate to success both on and off the field.
With his leadership, the Bulldogs advanced to 12 playoff appearances and had 13 wins, breaking the La Porte High School record in both categories. Among the highlights of those games were advancements to the state quarterfinals in 2008 and 2011. And while the annual game against neighboring Deer Park is likely the most anticipated of each season, perhaps the most memorable game of the LaReau era for La Porte fans was the 9-7 victory over perennial powerhouse Katy in the 2011 Region III semifinals.
Wiegand uses adjectives such as “trustworthy” and “loyal” to describe LaReau—qualities that are important not only in leading a football team, but also in guiding young people into adulthood.
“He would do whatever was necessary to make the team successful,” said Wiegand, who served as Bulldogs head football coach from 1988 to 2001. “He dedicated himself to learning everything he could.”
Retired LPISD athletic director Carroll Lundin, who served as head football coach from 1976 to 1987, agrees that LaReau’s tremendous work ethic was key to his success. In 1984, he hired LaReau as a coach shortly after he graduated from Sam Houston State University, where he played wide receiver for the Bearkats.
When Lundin was head coach, LaReau served as head freshman and assistant varsity coach. He served as junior varsity and assistant varsity coach, and then defensive coordinator, under Wiegand before being named as head coach, replacing the late T.J. Mills, in February 2005.
“Jeff did a wonderful job in taking over the reins as head coach, and he has been very successful,” Lundin said. “He works hard with his coaches, his players and the school district and has done a remarkable job.”
Wiegand added that LaReau was the type of assistant coach that every head coach dreams of having. “He even corrected me when I needed it,” he laughed.
While LaReau is at home under the “Friday night lights,” he prefers that any spotlight shine on his players, always giving credit to others. However, his efforts have not gone unrecognized. In four different years, he was named one of 10 finalists for the Touchdown Club of Houston’s High School Coach of the Year award, and he was also selected as the Houston Texans Coach of the Week four times.
LaReau’s initial plans for retirement include fixing up the “home away from home” he and his wife, Susan, yearbook advisor at La Porte High School, own in the Columbus area. He will likely also spend some time hunting and fishing, which along with football, share a spot at the top of the list of his favorite things.
The impressive number of wins LaReau has had as head coach of the Bulldogs (103, to be exact) pales in comparison to the number of students he has positively influenced during his career. There is no doubt that he will be missed.
“Jeff LaReau has demonstrated a level of commitment and stability that is rarely seen,” said Lloyd W. Graham, La Porte ISD superintendent of schools. “He has a technical mind, is highly organized, and above all, is child-centered. We applaud his successful career and thank him for his many years of service to our students, our district and our community.”“Jeff LaReau is well respected throughout the state of Texas,” Wiegand said. “He was dedicated to La Porte High School and La Porte football, and La Porte means a lot to him.”