Youthful Bicknell has paid his dues

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 26, 2000

If you didn’t know Jack Bicknell III or had not seen him on television or in the newspaper, you would have a hard time picking him out from his Louisiana Tech football team.

Bicknell, 37, is the second youngest coach in Division I-A. He certainly looks it.

At first glance, Bicknell looks like a Chris Weinke or Josh Booty, a player who started college a few years later.

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There is no hint of gray at all in his jet black hair and his boyish looks belie his job.

But Bicknell has paid his dues.

&uot;I’ve been preparing for this day since I was 10 years old,&uot; said Bicknell, who was the guest speaker at the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Miss-Lou Chapter banquet Thursday.

Bicknell played for his father, Jack Bicknell II, at Boston College. He was the center on the team with Doug Flutie that beat Miami with the Hail Mary pass.

&uot;I missed my block and that enabled Doug to roll out, so I should get credit for that play,&uot; Bicknell joked.

Bicknell was a graduate assistant at Boston College from 1985-86 before taking an assistant coaching job at the University of New Hampshire where he stayed from 1987-96.

&uot;I wanted a job in the northeast but realized if I wanted to be a head coach I would have to leave that area,&uot; Bicknell said. &uot;It got so bad that even my wife (Helen) asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this.&uot;

Then came the call from Gary Crowton at Louisiana Tech to be offensive line coach before Crowton left for the Chicago Bears and Bicknell was named head coach of Louisiana Tech.

I told Clarence Bowlin that I bet he would be sporting a few gray hairs after about three or four years. Clarence said especially if he has a 4-7 season.

And with the schedule the Bulldogs have next season, that could certainly happen. Let’s see, start off with Kansas State, go to Penn State, Miami, Auburn and Texas A&M among other places.

But it’s obvious that Bicknell loves challenges. After all, his team beat SEC&160;champion Alabama last year and played Florida State tough for a half in the season-opener.

Tech went 8-3 last year, but a loss to Southern California in the final game of the season kept the Bulldogs at home in the postseason. When you coach a small school in a small city, bowl officials are not exactly going to be knocking on your door all the time.

I asked Bicknell what it’s like knowing you have to win nine games to get to a bowl game.

&uot;That’s really tough to be honest with you and that’s why we’re looking forward to getting into the WAC (Western Athletic Conference) next year,&uot; he said. &uot;We have one more year as an independent and then we’ll be in a situation where we will only have to win six games, which will be a lot easier. But we’re in a situation where we just have to go out and do our best and see if we can’t win enough games to get in.&uot;

Bicknell will be counting on Vidalia linebacker Brian Bradford and Ferriday defensive end Carlin Thomas to accomplish that feat.

&uot;Brian did a great job for us last year, really came on and probably will be one of better defensive players next year,&uot; Bicknell said. &uot;Carlin is another one of our better players. He’s gotten a lot bigger and we’re very excited about him. He’s always had great athletic ability and now he’s getting the size.&uot;

Bicknell loses all-everything quarterback Tim Rattay.

&uot;I don’t think that will change what we do much,&uot; Bicknell said. &uot;Luckily we have a great quarterback coming back in Brian Stallworth. He’s a lot more mobile than Tim. I think that will open up our running game a little more.&uot;

And hopefully keep those gray hairs from creeping in over the next few years.

Joey Martin is sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 446-5172, ext. 232, or by e-mail at