By Barry Allen
Media Relations Director
MOBILE – Billy Napier comes from a coaching tree of a virtual Who’s Who in college football.
The second-year Louisiana head football coach and reigning Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year has trained under some of the game’s top coaches.
The list includes Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, Todd Graham, Jim McElwain, Buddy Pugh and Tommy Bowden.
“I’ve worked for some really, really good head coaches,” Napier said. “Certainly my dad, a high school football coach, made a tremendous impact on me. It’s not just those head coaches. When you work at these places you are exposed to some talented assistant coaches too. You observe them and take things from them that you think are really good. We are all a product of the experiences that we have had. I think that’s who we are as a program.”
While Napier has learned something at every stop along his coaching journey, he credits his time with Saban at Alabama as some of his most valuable learning experiences.
“It started with Coach (Saban) in 2011 and it was probably the most valuable year in my career,” Napier said. “I had been coaching 10 years at that point and time and the opportunity to go work for him when I was 31 years old.
“In general, he has the organization. He’s got a firm grip on everything that he does, whether its academics, strength and conditioning, nutrition, training room, offense, defense and special teams for sure. I’d say 70 percent of what we do is from what I learned in those five seasons there with him. I am very appreciative of that and I certainly would not be standing here without that experience.”
Napier served two stints at Alabama under Saban, first as an offensive analyst in 2011 and then as wide receivers coach from 2013-16. He has also been offensive coordinator at Clemson (2009-10) and Arizona State (2017).During his time in Tuscaloosa, Napier was part of teams that won 63 games and two national championships (2011 and 2015).
In two seasons at Louisiana, Napier has won 17 games and led the Ragin’ Cajuns to back-to-back bowl appearances. The 2019 team is the only team to win 10 games after capturing the Sun Belt Conference Western Division championship.
“To get an opportunity, you’ve got some credibility and some opportunity,” Napier said. “Coach (Saban) sees something in you that he thinks will be valuable to his organization and then what you learn from Coach creates some value for yourself. It’s no different than a player who goes to play at Alabama, the experiences he has there creates value. We won a lot of games too.
“Everyone wants to have insight into what went into those championship seasons. We are very thankful. Coach has been tremendous to me. He hired me two different times and I am very thankful for that. I would not be here today without that experience.”
So far it’s paying dividends in Lafayette.