Late Ledyard football coach Bill Mignault might have been old school, but he was tough to beat
There were times opposing coaches knew, KNEW they had a better team than longtime Ledyard High School football coach Bill Mignault. And they would lose to Ledyard anyway.
“I can guarantee you that he was the most respected coach we ever went against,” former Waterford head coach and Montville assistant Dave Sousa said Thursday of Mignault. “We knew they were extremely disciplined, well-coached. You had to play your A game to beat Migsy.
“Ledyard always thought they could beat you and they would beat you. They played hard. They were Colonels. Bill got it done.”
Mignault, 90, died Tuesday night at Backus Hospital following a long illness, leaving a void in his family — he met great-grandson Garrett William Mignault for the first time at his 90th birthday celebration in May — the football community and at his beloved Ledyard High School.
Mignault retired after 42 seasons coaching football at Ledyard, 47 overall, after winning the 2007 Class M state championship. Mignault left as the state’s all-time wins leader in his sport with 321, four state championships and 10 Eastern Connecticut Conference titles.
The football field at Ledyard was named in his honor in 2004 and he was a member of the inaugural class of the school’s Football Hall of Fame in 2011. Mignault was 321-130-5 in his career, coaching the first five seasons at Waterford. He was 303-115-5 at Ledyard. He also served as the school’s athletic director.
“Ledyard High School and Ledyard athletics meant the world to him,” Mignault’s son, Brian, said, growing emotional Thursday. “He loved Ledyard High School. He loved Ledyard athletics. It wasn’t just football. He was in charge of the entire athletic program and he wanted nothing but the best for all sports. Nothing made him more proud than to hang a banner.”
“Even upon Bill’s retirement, he was still visible at many of our athletic events,” said Ledyard athletic director Jim Buonocore, who replaced Mignault as football coach. “He was still a presence in terms of being a part of our school community. Bill was here from the day this building opened. He was a really, really good person. We were a better school and a better community getting to know him and getting to have him around.”
Mignault met his wife Pat when the two were students at Killingly High School and were together for 74 years from that time, Brian Mignault said.
From there, Mignault had the opportunity to coach sons Brian and Billy and grandsons B.K., Patrick and Marc. Marc had the distinction of scoring the final touchdown of the Bill Mignault era in the 21-14 state championship victory over Berlin in 2007.
“He and my mom helped so many players as students, academically if they needed extra help he made sure they got it. If it was a plate of cookies, he made sure they got it,” Brian Mignault said. “She certainly understood and she supported him throughout his entire career. She went to every single game. … She stood along the fence. That was her spot.”
There was a directness about Mignault when he was on the field. He coached a run-based offense and wasn’t timid about the elements, claiming, “It never rains in Ledyard,” known for heading a program predicated on toughness.
“He certainly had passion for the game,” Brian Mignault said. “His coaching philosophy, that entailed toughness. He was certainly intense. But he loved every one of his players.”
Sousa opposed Mignault as a player at Waterford, as an assistant coach at Montville for 10 seasons and as Waterford head coach for 10 seasons.
“Believe me, I had my run-ins with Bill,” Sousa said with a chuckle. “I was a youngster back then and Bill had a lot of experience.”
But as Mignault began coaching his grandchildren, assisted in coaching by his sons, and Sousa began coaching his sons, as well, Sousa began to admire Mignault even more.
“It got to be like, ‘Wow, it’s this big circle of family and friends,’” Sousa said. “… You know what? The old stuff (running plays), they believed in it and he coached it up pretty well. People can say he’s old school, but old-school people have a lot of love for where they’re from.
“He loved Ledyard," Sousa said. "He put them on the map. He put the ECC on their back and made us known throughout the state. Even though he loved Ledyard, he still had great respect for everyone in this area. We had great conversations, not just football, life.”
Mignault is survived by his wife Pat, children Brian, Billy and Pam, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
His calling hours will be held Friday, Oct. 11 from 4-8 p.m. at Church & Allen Funeral Service in Norwich and a Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 12 at St. Patrick Cathedral in Norwich.
A moment of silence will be held at Ledyard’s home football game against Killingly at 1 p.m. Oct. 19 at Bill Mignault Field.