Lafayette, LA (KPEL News) - The NFL announced this week the nominees for the 2023 Don Shula High School Coach of the Year Award, and St. Thomas More Head Football Coach Jim Hightower was the Louisiana nominee designated by the New Orleans Saints.

STM Coach Jim Hightower
Facebook via St. Thomas More Catholic School

Coach Hightower already has several accolades to his name. He is in the LHSAA Hall of Fame, is a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, and is in the top 11 for most wins all-time by active high school football coaches, and 14th all-time overall.

He has been a head coach in Louisiana for nearly 50 years and has multiple state championships, including 2023, to his credit. He has led the STM Cougars since 1986.

Staff Photo
Staff Photo

The 32 teams in the league recommend the person they think is best in coaching at the high school level for the award, named after the winningest coach in NFL history. The following attributes of each coach is considered:

  • Character
  • Integrity
  • Leadership
  • Dedication to the community
  • Commitment to player health and safety
  • On-field success

Two winners will be named, one from each conference, and announced in the week prior to the Pro Bowl Games.

They will both be invited to attend the Pro Bowl Games in Orlando on February 4, receive VIP access and accommodations, attend practices for both conferences, and be allowed on-field access.

STM Coach Jim Hightower
Facebook via St. Thomas More Catholic School

The St. Thomas More Cougars automatically receive a $1,000 cash award because their coach was nominated.

Additionally, the NFL Foundation and Nike have teamed up to provide the two winners a $15,000 award to their high school football programs and a $10,000 cash award. Winners will also attend Super Bowl LVII in Arizona as special guests of the NFL.

No Louisiana coach has previously won the award.

The panel of judges who will decide the winners of the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award will be are:

  • 2022 Don Shula NFL Coach of the Year Award AFC Winner Clive Harding
  • 2022 Don Shula NFL Coach of the Year Award NFC Winner Matthew Gallagher
  • NFL analyst and former front office executive Scott Pioli
  • Pro Football Hall of Famer and current ESPN contributor Peyton Manning
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame coach and current NBC analyst Tony Dungy
  • Executive Director of USA Football Scott Hallenbeck
  • Former All-Pro cornerback & NFL consultant Bobby Taylor
  • NFL Legend and NFL Network analyst Michael Robinson
  • Aplington-Parkersburg High School Principal Aaron Thomas, son of the school’s late football coach Ed Thomas
  • NFL Legend, former NFL head coach, and son of the late Coach Shula Dave Shula
  • Nike Brand Director of Grass Roots and Team Scott Henson


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