He’s happy to be back home

By Kevin Eckleberry Sports Editor

December 12, 2013

He’s thrilled to be back home.

Dialleo Burks, a former Granger great who helped the team win a state championship in 1991, was introduced as the new LaGrange High head football coach Thursday evening.

It is, Burks said, “a phenomenal opportunity, one that I’ve dreamed of for a long time, and am honored to have.”

Burks, who was an assistant coach at LaGrange in 2011 and 2012, spent the past season as the head coach at Lafayette High School in Alabama.

When Donnie Branch decided to step down as the LaGrange coach, Burks applied for the job.

At the end of a process that lasted several weeks, the school made its recommendation.

The final step was for the Troup County Board of Education to approve the hiring, which it did, and a press conference was held on Thursday to announce the hiring.

“I am over-joyed to have this opportunity to lead the Granger nation,” Burks said. “It’s something that I’ve longed for, I’ve dreamed of for a very long time. Just to have this opportunity, to be the head coach of LaGrange High School, words can’t describe it. I’m very happy. My family, we’re just happy for the opportunity to come back home.”

Burks had a few coaching stints while he was playing, and after he retired following the 2007 season, he became a full-time coach.

He coached at LaGrange College for a few years until the 2009 season.

In 2010, Burks was an assistant coach at Troup High.

When Steve Pardue stepped down as the LaGrange head coach following the 2010 season, Donnie Branch took over, and he was able to bring Burks back to LaGrange to become an assistant coach.

Burks coached wide receivers in 2011 and 2012, and he helped the LaGrange offenses put up huge numbers both years.

One of the players Burks coached, Dee Smith, had more than 100 combined catches in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and he left holding a number of school receiving records.

When the job at Lafayette came open, Burks applied for it, and he got it.

It was Burks’ first experience being a head coach, and he said he learned a lot.

“As an assistant here at LaGrange High School, there were some things that I did not see that I could only gain through experience,” Burks said. “That opportunity (at Lafayette) allowed me to go forth and sharpen those skills as far as scheduling, managing staff, maintaining facilities, and also the administrative policies and procedures.”

Now, Burks is ready to attack his new job.

He’ll be putting together his coaching staff, getting to know the players, and preparing to put a team on the field for the 2014 season.

Burks inherits a team that struggled through a 3-7 season.

“As a team, we have a lot of work to do, and I understand that,” Burks said. “I am ready to fulfill the challenge, ready to uphold the tradition that LaGrange High School has.”

Burks said it isn’t just about winning, though.

“One of my goals as a head football coach is to produce quality student-athletes, on the field and off the field, who are also successful in life, in school, and in their community,” Burks said. “The students at LaGrange High School have so much potential. And me and my staff want to provide an opportunity for all student-athletes to allow them to realize their potential, and fulfill their potential.”

Burks said the goal will be to have players who have “discipline, self-respect, and are just a pillar in the community. Me and my staff, we’re going to work hard to strive to get those guys to that point.”

Burks added that “we’re going to work heavily with the faculty and staff at the school, to make sure that academically and socially our guys are where they need to be. That will allow us to produce a great product on the field.”

Burks expressed his appreciation to a number of folks, including LaGrange principal Penny Johnson, athletic director Jamie Schmitt, and of course his family who was there with him on Thursday.

“I’d like to thank my wife and children for cheering me on in this endeavor,” Burks said. “My mom and my brother, who helped me to build this Granger foundation that I have, along with my friends and family.”

One thing Burks stressed is that the school will get his absolute best.

“I’m going to work as hard as I can, give 110 percent in everything I do to my staff, to my players, and to the Granger family,” Burks said.