Pederson becomes first head coach with Louisiana ties to reach Super Bowl
With Sunday night’s 38-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings to claim the NFC championship and a berth in Super Bowl LII, Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson put himself in unique company.
Pederson will be the 55th head coach to guide his team in the Super Bowl, but the first with Louisiana connections – either a native of the state or a graduate of a Louisiana university – to reach football’s biggest stage.
Pederson, who will celebrate his 50th birthday on Wednesday of Super Bowl week, was born in Bellingham, Washington and attended Ferndale High School before making his way to Northeast Louisiana University (now the University of Louisiana-Monroe).
Pederson played in Monroe from 1987-90 and was a freshman, backing up future NFL quarterback Stan Humphries, on NLU’s 1987 Division I-AA national champions. Pederson – whose son Josh just completed his redshirt freshman season as a tight end at what is now ULM – replaced Humphries as the starting quarterback the next season and passed for more than 6,300 yards in his college career.
After a 14-year NFL career, Pederson retired in the spring of 2005 and immediately moved into the coaching profession, serving four years as head coach at Calvary Baptist in Shreveport. The Cavaliers reached the Class 2A semifinals twice in Pederson’s stint.
Pederson then returned to the NFL as an assistant coach with the Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs before becoming the Eagles’ head coach on Jan. 18, 2016. Barely two years later, he has Philadelphia one win away from its first Super Bowl title.
While Pederson is the first football head coach with Louisiana ties to reach his sport’s pinnacle, there have been no fewer than five other coaches or managers to get to this position in baseball and basketball.
Alvin Dark – Dark, who attended both LSU and what was then Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now UL Lafayette), guided two different teams to the World Series, the 1962 San Francisco Giants and the 1974 Oakland A’s. The Giants lost to the New York Yankees in seven games while the Athletics defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games. Dark was the third manager in Major League Baseball history to win pennants in both leagues.
Eddie Dyer – Dyer, a native of Morgan City, won a World Series title in 1946 with the St. Louis Cardinals in his first season as a manager. He finished second in the National League in each of the next three seasons.
Avery Johnson – Johnson, a New Orleans native and St. Augustine High School and Southern University graduate, guided the Dallas Mavericks to the 2006 NBA Finals in his first full season as a head coach. The Mavs lost in six games to the Miami Heat.
Bill Russell – Russell, who was born in West Monroe and lived there until he was 8, won 11 championships as a player with the Boston Celtics and served as player-coach for the last two NBA titles, in 1968 and 1969.
Ron Washington – Washington, a native of the Crescent City who attended John McDonogh, spent eight seasons as the manager of the Texas Rangers and guided the franchise to its only two American League pennants in 2010 and 2011. The Rangers lost to the Giants in the 2010 World Series and to the Cardinals in 2011.
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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…