Brusly senior offensive lineman Akkai Ward had every intention of leaving Louisiana-Lafayette’s campus with a scholarship offer in hand from the Ragin’ Cajuns in an on-going recruiting process.
With each step from the school’s indoor practice facility to the nearby parking lot Ward’s mind started to wander. By the time he joined his mother for the hour-long drive home, Ward shared his deep feelings for the school.
With his mother’s full support, Ward stepped out of the car, walked back to the indoor facility, where he found UL-Lafayette coach Mark Hudspeth and gave his commitment.
“She said whatever decision I made she would go with, so I made it right then and there,” Ward said. “I told coach Hud I wanted to commit ,and they welcomed me. It was real good.”
The addition of Ward — a projected offensive guard — continues a torrid stretch for the Cajuns who have parlayed two successful summer camps into the bulk of their 14 commitments.
Ward said he also had an offer from Tulane and was receiving interest from Mississippi State and Louisiana Tech.
First-year Brusly coach Marc Brown was the offensive coordinator at the school three years ago and vividly recalled seeing the infancy stages of Ward’s climb to a starting role at offensive tackle.
“He was always a quiet, humble kid that was a hard worker,” Brown said. “Now, he’s got a body that looks like a college player. He’s done extremely well in the weight room, improved his footwork, agility and mobility.”
Ward started for the past two years in Brusly’s Wing-T system under former coach Erik Willis.
The Panthers will run a no-huddle spread offense this season and utilize a zone blocking scheme that will benefit’s Ward’s transition to UL-Lafayette, which runs a similar offense.
Ward got a look at UL-Lafayette’s system during an unofficial visit for the spring game, and the Cajuns got a closer look at the 6-foot-3, 300-pounder during their first camp near the end of June.
Ward said he enjoyed working with Cajuns offensive line coach Mitch Rodrigue, who was complimentary of his performance, and later with Hudspeth.
“I started liking them when I went to Junior Day,” Ward said. “I liked them even more after the spring game. I went to their camp, and in the middle of the indoor facility, coach Hud told me they wanted to offer. I was at a loss for words. I could barely talk.”
Each visit not only helped facilitate a better relationship with the coaching staff and school, but Ward also developed a greater sense of familiarity with a program that’s won four straight New Orleans Bowl championships and is in the midst of a major facilities upgrade.
“The day I committed, in my head I was thinking, ‘maybe I should or shouldn’t go’,” Ward said. “But in my heart I knew this was it. It’s real close where my mom and grandmother could come watch my games. I thought it was a good idea.”