New coach, team anticipate upcoming football season


Northwestern State University has found a new football coach in Brad Laird, and he’s wasting no time whipping the team into shape.

“We’re all feeling good coming off of spring ball and we’ve gotten a lot accomplished in all three phases,” Laird said, referring to offense, defense and special teams. “There’s a lot of excitement as we look forward to the summer, where we’ll continue the strength and conditioning we did in the spring.”

Laird, who was promoted in November of last year, previously served Northwestern as associate head coach and defensive coordinator. Of particular accomplishment was Laird’s restoration of the “Purple Swarm” brand for the Demons’ defense, which has struggled in recent years but showed signs of improvement especially in the last few games of the 2017 season.

“Brad has many assets that make him an outstanding choice to lead his coach staff and over 100 student-athletes,” said athletics director Greg Burke, who hired Laird, in a press release last November.

“[He has a] perspective on our football program gained over the past year which gives tremendous head start as he assumes leadership of the program,” he went on to say.

It seems like the team feels the same way.

“He expects a lot from us in everything we do,” said tight end Tyler O’Donoghue. “He won’t let you get away with less than you’re capable of. He demands hard work, but still has fun.”

Parker Pastorello, a punter, reflected similarly on the coach’s leadership and work ethic.

“Coach Laird is a wonderful leader for our football team,” he said. “He gets to know every player personally and pushes each one of us to be great on and off the field.”

Laird succeeds Jay Thomas, who was let go at the end of his five-year contract. The new coach does not feel restrained by the past, however.

“With new coaches comes change,” Laird said. “We have new coordinators, there’s new schemes and new terminology, so things will be different.”

Hailed as “one of the best players to ever wear a Demon uniform” by Burke, Laird was a quarterback in his college days at Northwestern. He went on to spend the next 20 years coaching both high school and college teams before returning to work at his alma mater in 2017.