Out of the blue
La PORTE — Jeremy Lowery wasn’t actually looking for a new job. Then an opportunity presented itself.
He started making a few calls about the La Porte football head coaching position and the rest was history.
The process culminated with Lowery being approved as the Slicers’ new coach at Monday night’s La Porte Community School Board meeting.
Lowery, a 1991 Penn High School graduate, has been Paoli High School’s head coach the last two years and had exceptional success there, going 21-4 with a sectional title.
“Everyone I talked to, you got the same feel,” Lowery said. “This is a town that’s very passionate about football. They haven’t turned over a lot of coaches. They’ve been able to keep coaches for long periods of time. There’s very great support from the administration and the community. And very nice facilities. And when you start putting those things together. And then, everyone you talk to is saying the same thing. I just really started getting drawn here. And then, there was a definite connection. As I kept talking to people, I kept finding a connection.”
Lowery replaces Dave Sharpe, who served at the Slicers’ helm the last four years.
Sharpe resigned in November because he and his wife, Kristen, and their two daughters are moving to Indianapolis to be closer to Riley Hospital for Children for the Jacob Sharpe Foundation. Jacob, the Sharpes’ infant son, died June 4 from fetal dural sinus thrombosis in the brain.
Sharpe’s teams earned a 26-17 record in those four campaigns, including the program’s first outright Duneland Athletic Conference title in 2016. La Porte notched a 4-7 mark last season, Sharpe’s only losing season for the Slicers.
There were five final candidates for the job, but one dropped out before the interview stage with the selection committee.
“Jeremy was a unanimous selection from the committee,” La Porte High School Athletic Director Ed Gilliland said. “He’s going to be a really good fit for La Porte High School. He’s a family person. His family’s very important to him. We got a chance to meet his wife. They’re excited to be here. He indicated he wasn’t out looking for jobs, but that La Porte intrigued him. That really stood out. They really want to be here and we’re really excited to have him.”
Lowery went 9-3 in 2017 at Paoli and finished with a 12-1 mark last season, reaching the 2A regional.
“What an incredible experience that was,” Lowery said. “Paoli is a very special place. It will always have a special place in my heart. Very hard-working kids, a blue-collar, type town.”
As a youth, Lowery’s family moved from Galveston Bay, Texas, to South Bend when he was 15 years old and he started at running back for Penn as a sophomore. Injuries cut his college career short at Western Kentucky.
He’s been an assistant coach at Elkhart Memorial, Salem and Paoli, before becoming the head coach at Paoli in 2017. Prior to taking over the helm of the Rams, Lowery served as Paoli’s offensive coordinator and offensive line coach for seven years.
Fittingly, La Porte will face Lowery’s alma mater Penn in Week 2 on the road, an added game to this year’s schedule.
“This area was a very special place in my heart,” Lowery said.
He said what he likes most about La Porte’s football program is the camaraderie.
“The biggest thing is when I talk to people I just felt really good,” Lowery said. “I felt really good that we’d be able to build relationships here. I was able to meet a couple of the coaches during the process at a clinic a couple of weeks before the interview. That went very well. I met (assistant) coach (Bob) James and some of the other staff. It seemed like we immediately connected. And there was a nice connection with Ed, even Ben (Tonagel), the principal, and some of the Slicer Association guys. I really feel like we’re going to be able to build relationships here.”
Lowery will teach Strength Training and Physical Education at La Porte High School, where he will begin next Monday.
Under Lowery, Paoli featured a flex bone offense, a rush-first attack similar to Mishawaka, but a scheme that will feature up to 15 passes per game. He said it is similar enough to what the Slicers were running under Sharpe, who featured the Wing-T, that the transition for players and coaches won’t be too difficult.
In the end, Gilliland recognizes Lowery’s fervor will serve him well, besides offering a similar offense to what the team was running.
“His passion for the game of football is sincere,” Gilliland said. “His concern for kids and their well being, his enthusiasm. “When he interviewed, he was very enthusiastic. His knowledge of the game. He’s bringing in an offense that’s a continuation of what we did to a certain degree. Dave did some things for us that leveled the playing field a little bit with some of the bigger schools in our conference. This is just going to build on what Dave had already started.”