This one’s cemented, locked down. It ain’t even close.
The men who celebrated their fourth straight New Orleans Bowl title at midfield in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Saturday afternoon? They’re the best class that has come through the Louisiana-Lafayette football program — hands down.
The guys like Terrance Broadway and Alonzo Harris, who enjoyed the postseason celebration with their young children in their arms. We so often hear coaches refer to them as kids that it’s easy to forget they’re grown men with burgeoning families of their own.
The guys like Christian Ringo, who politely informed me that I had confused him for Justin Hamilton after the game when I asked him what happened to the soft cast he was wearing on his hand. Ringo doesn’t mind the fact that, despite their individual achievements, they still get confused for each other. It’s a brother thing. It’s probably the odd uniform numbers for such big defensive linemen — 6 and 9 — but maybe it’s also because, after spending so much time together, they’re starting to be kind of similar. Ringo also apologized for being sweaty, and you can’t make things like that up.
The guys like James Butler, who turned in a career-high eight catches in his final game, including one that he speared one-handed while diving. Nasty.
The guys like Hunter Stover, who spent the majority of his career as a kickoff specialist before turning in one of the better seasons by a Cajuns kicker in school history. Stover connected on three of four attempts Saturday, the one he missed being his last attempt when the outcome of the game was no longer in doubt.
The guys like Daniel Cadona, who followed one of his best punts of the season, a 59-yard thing of beauty that flipped field position, with his worst punt of the season, a hideous little 8-yard thing that was so off target that it almost found the stands. It’s the huge swings between good and bad that remind you he had never kicked a football two years ago. Now he’s the Cajuns’ all-time leader in single-season punting average and career punting average. Good onya, mate.
The guys like Jake Molbert and Boris Anyama, the linebackers who signed with the last coach — before there were any bowl trophies or championship rings at the Cajuns facility. They both battled injury year after year but managed to stay healthy for the Cajuns’ stretch run, when they made big contributions on an improving defense.
The guys like Daniel Quave, another one of those few who were recruited by Rickey Bustle. Quave started his 52nd career game Saturday and, as usual, he played at a high level, opening holes for Harris and Elijah McGuire to run through.
The guys like Sean Thomas, who didn’t give up or pout when he was benched for a true freshman midway through his senior season. For the second season in a row, the New Orleans native came up big in his hometown, forcing a fumble deep in Cajuns territory.
The guys like Corey Trim, who joined Harris and Broadway in fatherhood earlier this week before refocusing on football and playing shut-down defense on the perimeter.
The guys like Larry Pettis, who patiently waited three years behind others before getting his chance this season. He made a big 16-yard sliding catch on one of the Cajuns’ scoring drives.
The guys like Trevence Patt, who played whatever position the coaches asked him to — “Hey, Trev! Can you play safety this week? Corner next week? A little of both the week after?” Not a complaint; he just did it to the best of his ability, even though his performance suffered.
It’s because of guys like this, this group of seniors, that the Cajuns are celebrating their fourth straight New Orleans Bowl title. It’s because of these guys (and a few other seniors I didn’t have space to list) that the Cajuns will be housed in a brand new, state-of-the-art facility next year, and it’s a shame these guys won’t be able to enjoy that.
But, knowing these guys, they’re content with knowing that it was their hard work that made it all possible.
They left a hell of a legacy behind. The best one, in fact.