The Family That Plays Together
Gallery: Personality: Bill Desormeaux [9 Images] Click any image to expand.
By Amanda Jean Elliot
Bill Desormeaux is hesitant to say his family is a football dynasty. But from the outside looking in, that’s just what it seems. It doesn’t begin and end with a hefty dose of talent – it extends to a family who shares a deep love for the game…and for one another. A love for the sport that transcends the field.
Bill Desormeaux was playing football by the sixth grade. He was 11 or 12 years old and the elementary school had a team, so he went for it. There was no pressure or real preparation from his family. And then, in the 70s, he saw the Green Bay Packers on TV and that’s all it took.
“I wanted to be a football player,” Bill says. And he would. A New Iberia native, Bill would learn discipline on the gridiron, develop friendships that were the kind you only develop on a team and learn the value of hard work.
“The biggest thing I learned was the discipline. You gotta pay a price for success,” he says. It’s a price he paid and one he taught his sons to pay as well. Bill went on to play at LSU where he met his wife of more than four decades — Thaddie. The couple have four children together: sons Beau, Michael and Matthew and daughter LiLi. Like their father, all three sons are coaches who have played football at various levels.
“I’ve coached for 35 years and I’ve coached all three of my sons,” Bill says. From pee wee league to varsity football to two of the boys playing together at UL, the Desormeaux family has a real love affair with the game.
“When I started playing when I was young, college wasn’t a thought. I didn’t think about LSU. But, I was blessed,” he says. Bill’s boys, however, were certainly steered straight into the game. “They didn’t have a lot of choice,” he continues with a laugh. “I thought it was important they experience everything.” The boys played sports most of the year and their sister LiLi was a tremendous softball player as well.
“Michael loved the sport since he was two years old,” Bill says. Today Michael is coaching at UL after a stint at Ascension Episcopal School. At one point his time at AES overlapped with both Bill and Matthew, putting all three family members in the coaching arena at the same school at the same time.
“Sports has been very big in my family,” Bill says. “All my kids were good kids and they always had something they had to go to. Football is something we love in the family and people supported football so much in our community; they supported their kids and our kids.”
Bill talks of how football is very much “not a one man sport” and the importance of teamwork. The way parents buy into the team and the community rallies around them. When it comes to a down time in his long career of playing and coaching, Bill can’t think of one. Not one.
“I would say I never had a down time. The winning part is not everything about football,” he says. In fact, his favorite memory of his boys playing was the second round playoffs against Parkview Baptist.
“They were a much better team and we made it to the second round and we played them down to the very end. They both contributed so much to the game, but we didn’t win,” he says.
Then again, it wasn’t all about winning. It was really about the game and the relationships on and off the field. “I love the practice more than the game. The time when you’re growing and teaching the fundamentals,” Bill says. Those fundamentals were engrained early on in the Desormeaux home. Just ask Matthew, who is coaching at AES with his dad now.
“I started playing when I was four or five and my dad was the coach,” Matthew says.
And while he wasn’t always the biggest sports fan he eventually found his groove. “At first I was too young and I just wanted to play off the field with my friends, but once I was the right age I really enjoyed it,” he elaborates. “I grew up playing with Mike (Michael) my whole life. It was pee wee and middle school and high school and then we played college together, which is not a very common thing.”
Their brother Beau played in high school and now coaches at Catholic High School while working as an engineer and the duo of Mike and Matthew had the unique opportunity to play at UL together and eventually coach at the same place for a while — AES — before Mike headed to UL.
“One of the highlights of my athletic career was to play with my brother for that long and that often,” Matthew says. “It was a major defining factor in my life and taught me a lot of life lessons.”
Those life lessons have come in many ways over the years from community support and teammate friendships to the games that didn’t go his way.
“Things don’t always go your way and you learn to deal with adversity,” Matthew says. “It’s one of those first times you learn that lesson. In football, teammates get injured and recover and you learn how to come back. It helped me learn to overcome difficulties in life and work as a team.”
That ability to work with others is something all the Desormeauxs learned over the years and something they are all using now as coaches of young men who are learning the game and all the lessons that come with it.
“In football you’re always working with other people and to have that ability prepared me in life. It was a major defining factor in who I am today and where I am right now,” Matt says.
Who the Desormeauxs are today is a collection of various talents with a heart for the kids who they now lead in the sport they once played. You would think that priority for football coaching would have some sort of game-related essence on the field, yet, when Matthew explains his hope for the kids he coaches, he points off the field.
“First and foremost, I love those kids. If there is anything they need, football or not, I’m a mentor and someone they can come back and talk to. I try to stress that when things don’t go your way don’t let those things take you down, but rather let them build you up,” he says. “We want to teach them to deal with life because it’s not just what happens, it’s how you deal with it.”
He says the hardest part of the game is saying goodbye after four years of coaching. “After that last game and it’s all over, knowing the team will never be the same again is always a challenge,” Matthew says. While the end of the year is a hard pill to swallow, the beginning of the year brings a new round of optimism. “Every year the highlight is when they step on the field for the first time and they have that confidence and feel good. Every year, that’s the highlight.”
Growing up it may have seemed to be all football all the time at the Desormeauxs, but the truth is that it was always about much more. “Since I was a little boy, football was the most important thing, but growing into it you learn that it’s a team-oriented game and it’s not just about you,” Matthew reveals.
As for Bill, he says he has no regrets and hopes to be coaching for years to come even though he already has 35 under his belt. “I wouldn’t trade a day playing or coaching. Just like I wouldn’t trade a day of my marriage either,” Bill says pointing to his wife who has been more than a fan.
“You go to a game with her and she can call out the plays they are running,” he says. “She is a football wife and a football mom and she filmed all my games when I was coaching.”
Proving that for the Desormeaux clan, football is truly a family affair. Their passion and dedication for the game is only surpassed by their love and admiration for one another.