La PORTE — After talking to Jeremy Lowery for 20 minutes Monday, I went outside and started looking around the Kesling grounds for a blocking sled to hit.
Motivating kids is essential to any coach and the new Slicers football boss should excel in that department.
"I believe you play the game one way -- that's with energy, excitement, passion," Lowery said. "We're going to get after it. I've been lucky. I've had great coaches. My goal is for everyone to have the best experience possible, to have an experience similar to what I had. We're going to work and we're going to work hard, but it's got to be fun. It's too hard of work not to be fun. I think it starts with trust. When you build trust and confidence, then you get good, old momentum and there's no substitute for good, old momentum."
Lowery was a kid in Texas when he got his start playing in the TIFI Youth Football League. One of his coaches became an astronaut, another a running back at Arkansas.
"There are two sports in Texas," he said. "Football and spring football."
A junior high coach introduced the smallish teenager to weight training, which would become the foundation of Lowery's success as a player and a coach. Fate, not to mention his family, brought him to Michiana as a high school sophomore, landing at Penn, where he played running back for Chris Geesman. The legendary coach made an indelible impression on the 15-year-old that remains strong 30 years later.
"My experience at Penn was extraordinary. It's a very special place, a big part of my life, a big part of who I am," Lowery said. "Obviously, he's had a huge impact on my football career, coaching career, my life. He's a special guy. Everyone wants to recognize him for what a great coach he is, and there's no doubt he's a great coach, but to me the best thing is he makes you feel really good about yourself. He's one of those people who's got that charismatic personality. When you're around them, you just feel good. It can be his moment in the sun, getting a lifetime achievement award, and he's going to go out of his way to make you feel good about yourself."
It was at Penn where Lowery first learned what relationships mean in the coaching profession and the word was a recurring one as he talked about his future at La Porte.
"I'm really excited to get to know the kids, to make the connection," he said. "I'm going to really dig in and get to know people. It's got to be real. It's got to be you. It's got to be genuine. (Kids) know. If they buy in, you get the feeling everyone's on board, it's really fun to watch."
While La Porte's closer in proximity to Penn, it has much more in common with Lowery's coaching roots than his playing roots.
"I think there's a similar atmosphere here from what I've seen so far, ... on a larger scale," he said. "It's a bigger town that still feels like a small town. There's no sense of entitlement. They're willing to dig in and work. If kids will play hard for you, your job gets real easy real quick."
Lowery knows enough about the Duneland Athletic Conference, describing it as 'a monster,' to understand that La Porte typically lags on the talent spectrum. It wasn't an excuse at Paoli, where Lowery ran the flex bone to success, and it won't be now.
"What I like about it is it gives us a chance to compete even if we don't necessarily have the talent as some of the teams we're playing," he said. "I don't want our kids to go try to be something they're not. We'll love them for who they are. We want the best version of them. We're going to take the mentality that we have to assume we have to do more with less. I take pride in that. It's a similar approach I had to take at Paoli. We're going to compete. I don't care what it is, anything we do, we're going to go out and be our best. Part of competing is turning over every possible rock to get a competitive edge."
For Lowery, that will start Monday in the weight room, where he will be spending plenty of time both as football coach and P.E./Strength Training teacher.
"I want to be around the athletes," he said. "I want to be around them all day, especially taking this step, coming some place new. The weight room is the key here. It's also our best friend when we're talking about some of the challenges we're going to face with the schedule. We've got a lot to do and little time to do it in."
Who else is hyped?