Northwestern State (LA) - Football

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Head Coach Brad Laird

One of the Demons’ greatest players and defensive coordinators, Brad Laird returns to his alma mater from his high school alma mater, Ruston High, where he averaged more than seven wins in four playoff seasons as head coach. He has been NSU’s DC twice before, for a total of seven years, under Scott Stoker (2003-05, 2008) and Bradley Dale Peveto (2009-11). He and current Demon head coach Jay Thomas were colleagues on the NSU defensive staff in 2010-11. He begins his 17th season in coaching.

In his first stint as the Demons’ DC, Laird was running the vaunted Purple Swarm defense when NSU was second nationally in total defense (2004, 274.7 yards allowed per game) and ninth (2003, 287.3 ypg). The Demons produced 75 turnovers from 2003-05, set three NCAA FCS records and led the Southland Conference in total defense and rushing defense, also ranking highly in pass defense each season. The Demons won the 2004 Southland championship and went to the NCAA FCS playoffs.

In 2004, the Demons tied an NCAA FCS record by notching two safeties vs. Texas Southern. A year earlier, his defense set FCS records by allowing only 1 first down and a net of minus 1-yard offense to Oklahoma Panhandle.

After a record-setting playing career at NSU, Laird joined coach Sam Goodwin’s Demon staff in 1996, serving as the defensive graduate assistant coach working for then Demon DC Peveto. He then worked for coach Don Shows at West Monroe High School in 1997, going on to coach at Ouachita High, Longview (Texas) High (under former FCS national champion coach Pat Collins) and Nashville (Ark.) High (under his father, Billy Laird) before joining Stoker’s staff as defensive coordinator prior to spring practice in 2003 (Collins and Shows are in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame).

Laird left the Demons following the 2005 season to enter private business, then returned to coaching in July 2007 as linebackers coach at NSU’s conference rival, Stephen F. Austin, working at SFA for one season, then returning to coach as DC/linebackers coach with Stoker in 2008 at NSU. In 2008, Laird’s Purple Swarm defense held five of the nation’s top 14 offenses, including four of the top six, below their season’s averages. Against four SLC teams in the top 14 (three in the top six nationally), Northwestern limited McNeese, Texas State and Sam Houston State (Nos. 4-6) and Stephen F. Austin (No. 14) to an average of 74 yards below their normal output.

When Peveto was hired to succeed Stoker, his first move was to retain Laird as DC and moved him to coach safeties. Laird was promoted to associate head coach in early 2010.

The shutdown ability of the Demons’ defense emerged in the second half of the 2010 season. Not coincidentally, NSU went on a four-game win streak and played for the Southland title and an FCS playoff berth in the season’s final game.  Laird helped cornerback Jeremy Lane develop into a sixth-round NFL Draft choice (Seattle) and Lane has emerged as one of the NFL’s better cover corners with the Seahawks.

In the summer of 2012, Laird accepted an opportunity to take one of the top positions on campus, as director of university advancement, overseeing the NSU Alumni Association and the NSU Foundation. Less than a year later, his father retired as Ruston’s head football coach and he was wooed to fill that role for the Bearcats. Laird and his father, who remained as RHS’s athletics director, worked together until his dad passed suddenly in May 2015.

In 2015-16, he served as AD and head football coach at Ruston. His 2016 Bearcats were ranked sixth in the state’s largest classification, 5A, and became only the third RHS team since 1990 to win at least eight regular-season games.

Laird was a record-setting quarterback for the Demons in his playing days. Laird set the NSU career pass yardage record by throwing for 6,037 yards from 1991-95, a mark he retains, and he also holds a school record with 113 consecutive passes without an interception. He tops the Demons’ all-time lists in completions (438) and attempts (761) with a 57.1 career completion rate and 19 touchdowns. In his senior season, 1995, he posted the third-best single-season passing total, 1,895 yards. He led Northwestern in passing all four years he played, including his true freshman season in 1992. He is the school career total offense leader (6,178 yards).

Laird was named in 2007 to the Top 100 Players in Demon Football History, commemorating the centennial celebration of NSU football. He completed 57 percent of his 761 career pass attempts and was the Demons’ season leader in passing all four years he played, including his true freshman season of 1991.

Laird played his high school football at Ruston High under Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame coach Chick Childress and was the 1991 Superdome Classic MVP for as the Bearcats won a second state championship with him at quarterback. He led Ruston to a No. 1 national ranking and was the first-team Class 4A (at the time, the state’s largest classification) All-State QB. He set career passing records at Ruston of 4,157 yards and 39 TD passes, at a school where 1976 NFL MVP Bert Jones also played QB. The Bearcats were 30-1 with Laird as the starter.

In January 2010, Laird was inducted in the Louisiana High School Sports Hall of Fame along with four other state prep sports legends. At NSU’s 2015 Homecoming, he was inducted in NSU’s N-Club Hall of Fame, the university’s highest athletic honor.

Laird, 44, has an education degree from Northwestern. Laird spent his early days in Natchitoches when his father, Billy Laird, was offensive coordinator for the record-shattering, NFL talent-laden Demons of the late 1970s and early 1980s under head coach A.L. Williams, when future pro stars like Bobby Hebert, Joe Delaney and Mark Duper shined for NSU.

Brad is married to NSU alumnus Renee, and they are parents of two children, Brianna (14) and Brock (11).