Overcoming an up-and-down five year span that saw an exodus of upper-level talent, Dean once again delivered a national championship for the Blazers in 2012 with a 35-7 win over Winston-Salem State. That title completed Dean’s ascension to becoming the most illustrious coach in school history with three rings since his return.
“Dean is a great leader. Anyone with these wins and titles, it speaks for itself,” said assistant wide receivers coach Thomas Reese. “He has an open door policy and we all know we can go to him. He’s a good leader and that’s honestly the top thing that sticks out about him. He’s unselfish and cares about the players. You can tell he loves being here.”
“He’s very humble. He takes everything a game at a time. He’s not flashy and really works hard. He gets the best out of his players and has fun with them. This season is the most fun I’ve had in years at the office. He makes the atmosphere enjoyable to be around for coaches and players.”
While his success has been acknowledged frequently in the community, Dean has put the Blazers on the national map more so than any of his predecessors. That is not just for his offensive expertise, but also for his emphasis on player development, which has been nothing short of outstanding. Just this season alone, over half of the NFL has sent representatives to Valdosta to scout players in Dean’s program. A New York Giants scout also attended VSU’s match-up with Mississippi College.
“It goes back to all the guys that recruit. We recruit honestly,” said Dean. “We tell them the good and the bad. But honestly, this school sells itself. Let these kids see the school, how pretty it is, the nice weather, the location. That’s an easy selling point.”
One current Blazer in the NFL is Ryan Schraeder, the starting right tackle for the Falcons. Former guard Edmund Kugbila became the highest Blazer ever drafted when the Carolina Panthers selected him in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. Receiver Seantavius Jones and defensive tackle Lawrence Virgil are both currently in the New Orleans Saints organization. In total, 10 former Blazers have reached the professional level in some capacity.
As admirable as his coaching success is, Dean’s impact has gone deeper than football. Firmly entrenched in Valdosta culture, the coach has stressed the importance for caring about the citizens of the community. Dean has been active in helping the local youth and is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He puts special emphasis on making sure his players and coaches adopt similar values.
“He’s taught us how to treat people,” said Reese. “I’ve learned a lot about being a leader and how he comes across in the community and school. Everyone here likes him. He’s shown me how to be a coach on and off the field. He has guided our athletes in growing into great players and people. It’s a tribute to coach Dean and how runs this program.”
“We’re never going to survive unless we have the support of the community,” said Dean. “We, as a football team, want our fans to be able to put faces with names. We want our players out among the community so they can see what good kids these guys are.”
“One of the things I’m most proud of is we just had 23 guys graduate from our program. Of those 23 seniors, not a single one had an arrest or any run-in with the law. That says a lot about our guys.”
Dean and his wife Stacie, a VSU alumnus, have three daughters named Caroline, Allison and Natalie.
Moving forward, Dean hopes to see more of the same for the Blazers.
“We want to continue to graduate guys. That’s the main goal. We want to be competitive every year. Be in the hunt for conference and national championships, and always be in the playoffs. We hope to continue bringing in good quality kids that sell-out for Valdosta State, bleed red and black and do everything they can to help this program help this institution and community be the best that it is.”
“That’s one of the best recruiting tools we have: this is Titletown U.S.A.”