Coaching change for LaGrange football program

Published 6:54 pm Friday, November 10, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

LAGRANGE – It was his dream job.

After spending one season as the head football coach at Lafayette High in Alabama, Dialleo Burks got an opportunity to return to his alma mater.

When Donnie Branch resigned as LaGrange High’s head coach following the 2013 season, a search for his replacement began, and the position was eventually offered to Burks.

Burks, who helped LaGrange win a state championship in 1991, happily and readily accepted, and when the 2014 season began he was on the sidelines at Callaway Stadium calling the shots.

After four seasons, Burks’ time as LaGrange’s football coach has come to an end.

Following a difficult season, Burks is out as LaGrange’s head coach, putting an end to a time in his life that will always be special to him.

“I was always amazed to be here,” Burks said on Friday afternoon after he finished meeting with the players and his coaches. “From the first day I got here, I never thought I would be in this seat. When the opportunity came, it was like, whoa. I did something pretty special. I had a shot. That’s all you want in life is to have a shot. I had it, and I did the best I could. Did I fail? Yeah, I had some failures, and had some successes, too. That just comes along with the territory.”

Burks’ best season at LaGrange was his first one.

In 2014, the Grangers went 5-5 in the regular season and qualified for the state playoffs, and they hung tough with Houston County in the first round before losing 55-34.

The Grangers went 5-5 in 2015 and they didn’t make the playoffs, and they went 2-8 record a year ago.

This season was a struggle from the get-go.

An inexperienced roster combined with a challenging schedule was too much for the Grangers to overcome, and they went 0-10.

In the final game of the season, LaGrange had its best chance to get a win.

LaGrange had the lead in the final minute, but Chapel Hill scored a touchdown to take a 25-18 win.

“They were very committed,” Burks said. “They always fought.”

Burks met with the players at the end of the school day on Friday to give them the news, and it was a difficult time.

“It was tough,” Burks said.

Burks said his mission over the past four years wasn’t just to teach football, but to help the men under his care develop as people as well as players.

“I was on assignment here,” Burks said. “It was divine for me to come here. And I’ve seen when it’s all about football, and that was something I couldn’t do. I couldn’t walk in this door and just walk out. I wanted to dig deep with these guys, and see what made them tick. A lot of them, I pushed some buttons. When they get to be an adult male, they’ll understand. Hopefully those qualities will come out and they’ll make good decisions.”

Burks added that “those guys, they don’t understand what’s inside of them. They have some strong forces inside of them for what they’ve overcome, and they’re still standing. I’m just glad that I had the opportunity to be here to instill that in them, and bring it out of them.”

After helping LaGrange go unbeaten and win a state title in 1991, Burks played at Eastern Kentucky where he enjoyed tremendous success.

Burks then embarked on a playing career that lasted a decade and took him all across the world.

Burks played in the NFL, NFL Europe and the XFL before beginning a massively successful six-year stint as an Arena Football League player.

Burks was one of the top wide receivers in the Arena Football League, and his best year came in 2003 when he had 102 catches for 1,221 yards with 28 touchdowns while playing for Dallas.

Combining his stats from each of his professional stops, Burks had 389 catches and 107 touchdowns.

When his playing days concluded, Burks began his coaching career as a member of the Georgia Force staff.

Following stops at Hopewell High in Charlotte, N.C. and Berkmar High, Burks was a part of the first-ever coaching staff at LaGrange College.

Burks was a member of the staff in 2008 when LaGrange College went 9-2 and reached the NCAA Division III playoffs.

Burks coached at Troup High for one season before joining the LaGrange High staff in 2010, and he remained there until 2013 when he became the head coach at Lafayette High.

Now, Burks will look for a new challenge.

“You know how life is a book,” Burks said. “You have many different chapters in a book. This stop where I am, it’s a chapter closed in the book, but another one is getting ready to open up. While we’re still living, the book is never completed.”

For now, Burks said he will continue to teach at LaGrange High, and he’ll be in the gym on game nights since his son D.J. is a member of the boys’ basketball team.

Down the road, Burks isn’t sure what he’ll do, but with his background there will likely be no shortage of options.

“I will look out, on all levels, professional, college, just to see what comes of it,” Burks said. “One door closes, and you wait to see which one opens up next.”

While disappointed at the way things ended, Burks said he’ll always be a Granger.

“LG all the way,” Burks said. “I’ve got my ring. I’m not throwing my ring away because of this.”

Burks said he appreciates the support of his family, including his wife Patricia and his four children, Kennedy, D.J., Payton and Kameron.