The first time Paul Dietzel visited us at LSU Press, we were immediately struck by his kindness. Smiling and self-effacing, he introduced himself by saying, “Call me Coach. Everyone does.” When his book was ready to move into production that signature phrase, Call Me Coach, became the title.
Over the next few years, as we published and promoted this book, we also marveled at Coach Dietzel’s boundless energy. Never too busy to speak with a fan, sign their endless collections of memorabilia, or simply listen to their stories, Coach Dietzel epitomized patience and good humor. The first to write a thank-you note to anyone at the Press who helped him, he seemed to truly appreciate everyone’s efforts to make the book as beautiful and readable as he had hoped it would be.
In fall of 2008, to highlight the publication of the book and the anniversary of his legendary success, we suggested hosting an event which became “Call Them Champions! A Conversation with Coach Paul Dietzel and Members of the 1958 National Championship Team.” In addition to Coach, several members of the 1958 champions–Don “Scooter” Purvis, Lynn LeBlanc, and Gus Kinchen–reminisced about Tiger football as Mike Rhodes moderated. Laughing and sharing favorite stories, they all seemed to enjoy the evening as much as Coach did.
The last time I saw Coach, he came to visit the offices this summer, to thank us again for all our hard work on the book and to say how happy he was with how it all turned out. So that will be my abiding memory of Coach: gracious and thoughtful, unpretentious and kind.
We will miss you, Coach.