Former SMHS football coach Charlie Cryer remembered for widespread impact

Everywhere he went in a 31-year career coaching high school football, former St. Mary’s head coach Charlie Cryer made friends and won admirers.

That has been evident by the outpouring of sadness and affection, and professional respect, from around the state and beyond in the aftermath of Cryer’s sudden passing Tuesday afternoon at age 59.

He was stricken by an apparent heart attack during practice at Houma’s Vandebilt Catholic High School, where he was in his first season as defensive coordinator.

Cryer had successfully overcome a diagnosis of non-alcoholic cirrhosis forcing a liver transplant two years ago.

“He was doing great. He was moving along,” Chris Cryer, Charlie’s son and a former St. Mary’s and NSU football player, said speaking to the New Orleans Times-Picayune/ “Then he didn’t feel too good on Tuesday. It’s just so sudden, but we’re doing all right. We’ve received so much love and support from all over. It’s truly been amazing to see how many lives my father touched.”

Cryer was a head coach for 15 seasons, winning a Class 1A state championship at Abbeville’s Vermilion Catholic in 2003 and earning state coach of the year honors. He was head coach there from 2002-04, then took his next head coaching role in Natchitoches with St. Mary’s in a very successful stint from 2009-13. He moved to St. Louis Catholic in Lake Charles and was head coach from 2014-17, then was in charge at Pope John Paul II in New Orleans from 2017-2020, stepping aside during his liver crisis in 2019.

Before taking over at that fledgling program, and managing only four wins in three seasons, Cryer had a 84-41-1 coaching record.

But the numbers aren’t the story with Cryer. He was described as a “master motivator,” a “perfect southern gentleman,” “very caring,” and first and foremost, a family man.

“Every person that ever had an interaction with Charlie walked away with a smile. One of the most unselfish people I have ever known,” Vandebilt Catholic head coach Tommy Minton told the Houma Courier. “He’s a good friend of mine for a long time. It’s a huge loss for Vandebilt and the Louisiana high school coaching community.”

Former St. Mary’s coach Eric Held, how director of the Louisiana High School Coaches Association, told Cryer was “a giant of a man and always had a smile on his face. He always got the most out of his players. His teams always played hard for him.

“I met Coach Cryer when he was head coach at Vermillion Catholic, fresh off winning a state title. I had just gotten the job at St. Mary’s in 2004 with a similar enrollment, roster size and demographics to Vermilion Catholic. I asked every dumb question you could ask. He patiently answered every question.”

His son told the Times-Picayune “I knew that a lot of people liked my dad. We’ve heard from NFL players to someone just working a regular job who played for him. He changed so many lives. It’s tough to lose him, but the impact he had on people will live on.”

Cryer, a Shreveport native, played football at LSU.

He is survived by his wife, Kristie, and along with Chris, two other adult offspring, daughter Kacie and son Cody. Funeral arrangements were pending as of Thursday night.

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