Lamar fans shower players, coach with praise as they head off to Northern Iowa
Applause erupted as Mike Schultz appeared from his second-story office, walking down the stairs and toward the entrance of the Dauphin Athletic Complex early Friday afternoon.
There he was met with dozens of adoring fans, cheering and occasionally chanting for the second-year Lamar University football coach.
“Mike Schultz for president,” Beaumont United football coach and athletic director Arthur Louis shouted as Lamar’s lead man greeted the Cardinal faithful.
This was no scripted rally, but a midday sendoff for a Lamar squad making program history.
Six straight victories secured its first winning season since 2014 and earned Lamar a trip to the FCS playoffs, a feat that has not gone unnoticed.
Surrounded by a line of fans and family members, Lamar loaded the buses, then boarded a plane en route Cedar Falls for a first-round game against Northern Iowa on Saturday.
“This has really opened the community’s eyes,” Cardinal Club president Sherrene Cook said at the sendoff. “People are now thinking about Lamar University.”
Louis followed Lamar’s progress closely this season with a rooting interest. Cardinals starting quarterback Darrell Colbert Jr. is his godson.
Louis coached Darrell Colbert Sr. at West Brook High School, winning a state championship during the 1982-83 school year. The two have since developed a close relationship.
Colbert Jr. transferred from Southern Methodist University before the 2017 season and was Lamar’s starter for most of the Cardinals 2-9 season.
“When he first got here, it was really tough,” Louis said. “But Mike (Schultz) brought in some big offensive lineman, and that’s making all the difference. This is really a heck of a roll they’re on right now.”
Schultz and his players weren’t made available to the media as they greeted fans eager to show their appreciation.
But overwhelming fan support wasn’t always the case for Schultz. Some questioned hiring an individual without any prior head coaching experience. A 2-9 first season didn’t help his case.
A year later, those doubts are gone, at least in the eyes of Cook and many of her follow boosters.
“When you only win one conference game in your first season, people are going to ask questions,” Cook said. “But I’ve been so proud to watch him come back and lead this team to great things. When he says trust the process, this is what he’s talking about.”
Arthur said Lamar’s surprise season is also having an impact on high school coaches and players around Southeast Texas.
He expects Lamar to see a rise in local recruiting.
“Lamar has a winning team and great facilities right here in Beaumont, Texas,” Louis said. “Once you have both of those things, it can be a game-changer.”
Lamar will hold a watch party for Saturday’s game at Buffalo Wild Wings on Dowlen Road in Beaumont.
Louis and Cook both plan to attend, along with what Cook expects to be a great turnout of Cardinals fans.
“People have waited a long time for this, and the kids have worked so hard,” Cook said. “I just can’t wait to go out and support.”