UL offensive line coach D.J. Looney died Saturday morning after suffering a heart attack during a team workout at Cajun Field.
His death was confirmed in a statement released by the university Saturday afternoon. “At this time, the Department of Athletics asks that fans, friends and acquaintances of Coach Looney keep his family and the football program in their thoughts and prayers,” the statement said.
This was the 31-year-old Looney’s third season with UL’s program. Under his guidance, the Cajuns had Robert Hunt drafted in the second round this past NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins, while Kevin Dotson was picked in the fourth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Dotson also was honored as the first AP first-team All-American in the program’s history.
“For those who knew D.J. Looney, we can all agree we were better because of it,” UL head coach Billy Napier said. “We lost a tremendous coach, leader and person today. He sincerely cared for others. He had a unique ability to impact and encourage people in a positive way. His smile and energy will be sorely missed.
“Our team, his family, friends and many others across the nation mourn D.J.’s passing. Most importantly, we will all share memories of a great human being we were lucky to know. We pray for all involved during this difficult time.”
Furthermore, Looney helped O’Cyrus Torrence become a freshman All-American after taking over for Ken Marks at left guard during the season opener against Mississippi State.
In 2018, Looney guided an offensive line that started the same five in all 14 games.
This past year, however, Looney and the offensive line lost one starter for the season before the opener and another one during the season opener. Still, the revamped offensive line helped the Cajuns boast one of the nation’s top rushing attacks in the nation.
The Cajuns ranked third nationally in yards per carry (6.28), fourth nationally in rushing touchdowns (42), sixth nationally in rushing yards per game (257.4) and seven in total rushing yards (3,604).
Before joining coach Billy Napier’s staff for the 2018 season, Looney was the tight ends coach at his alma mater, Mississippi State. In 2016, he was an offensive graduate assistant coach at Georgia.
Before those stops, Looney had coaching positions at Central Arkansas for two seasons and was the offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator at East Mississippi Community College in 2012-13, winning a national championship during that stretch.
Looney played college football at Mississippi State and graduated from there in arts and sciences in 2010.
During his college career in Starkville, Looney served on the SEC Student Advisory Council and was a three-year member of the NCAA Football Issues Committee.
Shocked and saddened to hear the news of @CoachDJLooney. Man he he loved @HailStateFB so much. Can still see that smile on the field at last year’s opener. Players respected him so much. Thoughts and prayers to him, his family, @RaginCajunsFB and #HailState family. 🙏
— Bill Martin (@Bill_Martin) August 1, 2020
Looney was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and prepped at Oak Mountain High School in Birmingham, Alabama.
Looney’s death is the latest heartbreaking tragedy UL’s athletic department has had to endure over the past two years. Prior to the 2019 softball season, coach Gerry Glasco’s daughter and assistant coach Geri Ann was killed in an auto accident.
In March, two beloved, longtime members of the athletic department, Leonard Wiltz and Lynn Williams, died.
In June, longtime UL bus driver Mastern St. Julien died.
In July 2019, the department was rocked again with the loss of longtime baseball coach Tony Robichaux to heart disease.
Later last July, men’s basketball coach Bob Marlin’s older brother died by suicide.
Then just as 2019 was ending, former UL athletic director David Walker died.
This is a developing story. More details to come.
Follow Kyle Whitfield on Twitter, @kyle_whitfield.