Carl Gustafson is the 21st head football coach in Texas Lutheran history after taking the reigns of Bulldog Football in 2017. In that first season as head coach, Gustafson and the Bulldogs embarked on a four-game turn-around and tied for third place in the always tough American Southwest Conference. In his second year, the team again finished third in the ASC and posted a 7-3 overall record with a 6-3 mark in the ASC.
Through two seasons as head coach at TLU, entering his third year in 2019, Gustafson is 13-7 overall and 12-6 in conference play.
Gustafson took command of a Bulldog program in 2017 that was coming off a 2-8 season. TLU had six returning starters on offense and two returning starters on defense when Gustafson took the job on Nov. 17, 2016.
In the 2017 ASC Preseason Coaches' Poll, TLU was picked seventh out of 10 teams.
But with a vastly improved defense, a powerful rushing attack and contributions from players new and old, Gustafson and the Bulldogs went 6-4 overall and 6-3 in the conference, grabbing a third-place league finish that tied for the Bulldogs' best-ever finish in the ASC.
Gustafson was named ASC Co-Coach of the Year.
Gustafson is the third Bulldog coach to grab a conference coach of the year honor in football. Tom Mueller was named the ASC Coach of the Year in 2004, and Danny Padron won Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honors in 2013, 2014 and 2015. (Texas Lutheran was not a member of a football conference during the NAIA years, which included NAIA-II national championship runs in 1974 and 1975 and a national semifinal appearance in 1976.)
In addition to Gustafson's coaching honor, the Bulldogs put two players - senior offensive guard Alejandro Briseno (Brownsville/Rivera) and redshirt freshman safety James Bell (Houston/Lamar) on the ASC First Team. Briseno would go on to claim All-America honors.
Briseno helped paved the way for a Bulldog offensive attack that finished the regular season ranked 15th nationally in total offense (486.1 yards per game), 22nd in rushing offense (244.2 ypg), 81st in passing offense (241.9 ypg), 44th in scoring (35.7 ppg), 35th in sacks allowed (1.2 pg), 10th in total first downs (245), 29th in third-down conversion percentage (.464), and 18th in time of possession.
Bell led a defense that ranked 26th in rushing defense and 70th in passes intercepted. The TLU Defense went from allowing 171.6 yards of rushing per game in 2016 to allowing only 91.8 yards per game this year. TLU's total defensive yards allowed went from 443.0 per contest to 400.9, and the scoring defense improved by nine points a game.
Bell led the ASC in interceptions per game, with six in nine games played. He currently ranks 13th nationally in interceptions per game. Bell also was active in stopping the run. He finished third on the team in total tackles, with 60, and he had a tackle for loss. Bell's six interceptions went for 53 yards in INT return yardage. He also had four pass breakups.
The Bulldogs's success continued in 2018. TLU made a one-win improvement from 2017, going 7-3 overall and 6-3 in the ASC. The Bulldogs matched the program's best-ever finish – third place – in the ASC.
Texas Lutheran place-kicker Juan Ocampo was named the 2018 American Southwest Conference Freshman of the Year and joined three Bulldogs – running back Austin Mathews, defensive end Manny Longoria and safety James Bell – on the All-ASC First Team.
In addition to the four players on the All-ASC First Team, the Bulldogs placed three players – offensive tackle Travis York, defensive tackle Nwankwo Nwankwo, and linebacker Emory Cuzze – on the All-ASC Second Team. All-ASC Honorable Mention awards went to: quarterback Kyle Grona, linebacker DaKwa Davis, cornerback Kedrick Ward, and punter Justice Porter. Bulldog wide receiver/returner D'Andre Gallagher was named to the ASC's Outstanding Sportsman Team of the Year.
Also in 2018, Texas Lutheran junior defensive end Manny Longoria was named the 39th Academic All-American® in school history. Longoria was named to the Google Cloud Academic All-America® Division III Football Team. He was named to the Academic All-America® Second Team. The Academic All-America® honor was the first for Longoria, who was named to the Google Cloud Academic All-District® First Team in each of the last two seasons.
The 2018 football season was filled with honors for Longoria. D3football.com named him to the Second Team All-South Region squad, and he was a First Team All-Conference selection for the American Southwest Conference. Longoria was among the NCAA Division III leader in sacks (19th) and tackles for loss (11th). He also ranked 32nd in forced fumbles.
Longoria led the ASC in sacks per game and tackles for loss, and he tied for the conference lead in fumbles forced per game.
Longoria ended his 2018 season with 37 total tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss (108 yards in losses), and 10.0 sacks (77 yards in losses). He also had five quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery (which he returned 41 yards for a score). Early in the 2018 season, Longoria broke Texas Lutheran's DIII-era record for career sacks, and he is closing in on the TLU DIII-era record for tackles for loss. He needs 10 more in his senior season to break the record.
In 2018, Longoria was named to the All-South Region Second Team, and Ocampo picked up a spot on the All-South Region First Team. Bell was named to the All-South Region Third Team.
Gustafson became head coach after a year away from TLU and after serving the 2014 and 2015 TLU football seasons as the offensive line coach and as the team's director of football operations for his good friend and then-TLU Head Coach Danny Padron. Gustafson and Padron car-pooled together from San Antonio nearly every morning while they worked together at TLU.
Gustafson has head football coaching experience from his time at San Antonio Christian High School, Winston Churchill High School, and New Braunfels Canyon High School.
Gustafson came to TLU after a year as the head football coach at San Antonio Christian High School.
"I'm walking on a cloud," said Gustafson at the time of his hiring. "I really am very excited and humbled. Danny Padron is my best friend. We first coached together back in the 90s, and I have learned so much from him."
"I believe we stand for the same things. He has done a remarkable job with that program, and it is a sincere privilege to be handed the baton. We will do our absolute best to advance the TLU football program."
"TLU is extremely fortunate to have as its next football coach a man who embodies the qualities that Danny Padron used to transform Bulldog football: a keen football mind, years of head coaching experience, and great energy," said TLU President Dr. Stuart Dorsey at the time of Gustafson's hiring. "We are confident that Carl Gustafson will build upon the foundation laid by Coach Padron and make the Bulldogs perennial contenders for conference championships and the NCAA playoffs."
"Most importantly, Carl Gustafson brings the same faith, high ethical standards and commitment to both winning football and developing young men of character."
In his two prior seasons as the TLU offensive line coach and director of football operations, Gustafson and the Bulldogs went 17-4, won a pair of Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships and advanced to the NCAA Division III Football Championship (first round) in 2014.
"Dr. Dorsey's choice for the next head football coach at Texas Lutheran University couldn't have been a better one," said Padron. "He is the right man for this job. Carl Gustafson is an outstanding coach, but an even better person - a man of integrity, a man of compassion, a man of faith. He is an individual who has a clear vision on how to build on the success of this program, and he has the ability and experience to unite our players and staff alike."
In 2014, the Gustafson-coached TLU offensive line paved the way for running back Marquis Barrolle to lead NCAA Division III in rushing. Barrolle rushed for 1,792 yards that year and concluded his record-breaking collegiate career this past Saturday with 3,991 rushing yards, a new TLU all-time rushing record.
Gustafson was the position coach for TLU All-American Kendall Wilkerson, who was named to the All-Time Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Team. Wilkerson, an offensive guard, was a 2014 All-American and the 2014 TLU Capt. Thomas E. Eddy Award Winner.
In his head football coaching and athletic coordinator days at Churchill, Gustafson coached the Chargers to the Area state playoff round in 2000 and to the Bi-District state playoff round in 2006.
In 2003, Churchill was the Dan Cook Cup Winner as the top-rated athletic program in San Antonio. Churchill also claimed the University Interscholastic League (UIL) Lone Star Cup Championship in 2000.
At New Braunfels Canyon, as head football coach and athletic director, Gustafson coached the Cougars to the 1998 state quarterfinal round.
Gustafson also served as a varsity assistant coach at San Antonio's Tom C. Clark High School, Round Rock's Westwood High School and Seguin High School in Seguin, Texas. He also coached in the Seguin ISD at Briesemeister Middle School and Saegert Middle School.
From 1993 to 1997 at Clark High School, Gustafson coached alongside Padron, who was the offensive coordinator for the Cougars.
In 2006, Gustafson was elected to the Board of Directors in the Texas High School Coaches Association. In 2004, he was selected as the head coach in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
From 2001-03, Gustafson served as the chairman of the Football Advisory Committee for the Texas High School Coaches Association.
"The familiarity of the high school coaches in Texas with Carl is a major attribute for TLU in the recruiting process," said Padron, commenting on Gustafson's long relationship with the Texas High School Coaches Association.
Gustafson holds a Master of Science degree in school administration from Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M University - Kingsville) in Kingsville, Texas.
Gustafson has a Bachelor of Science degree in education from the University of Texas at Austin.
Gustafson and his wife, Charlotte, have been married 32 years. The Gustafsons have two adult children: Trey and Katy. Trey is a graduate student at Stanford University. Katy completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Texas and is now a graduate student at Baylor University. Charlotte is the librarian at Churchill High School in North East Independent School District.
Gustafson's late father, Marvin, is a San Antonio Sports Hall of Famer and a high school coaching and athletics administration legend. The Northside ISD football complex is named C. Marvin Gustafson Stadium.
Cliff Gustafson, Carl Gustafson's uncle, is the legendary former baseball coach of the University of Texas.