Louisiana School for the Deaf was primed to shoot for its version of the football stars. A 68-8 victory over Carolinas School for the Deaf closed last season and was supposed to be a launching point.
The goal is still to win the deaf schools’ eight-man football national championship. Now there is added motivation for the War Eagles, who are the subject of a upcoming story on NBC’s weekend Today program, tentatively set for Sunday.
Producer Ben Mayer contacted LSD coach Susan Gremillion last winter after running across her name while searching for a story about women in sports. Mayer originally wanted to do a story on Gremillion and the War Eagles before the Super Bowl but wanted the work to stand on its own.
“(Mayer) would contact me to see how things are going every few months,” Gremillion said. “After the flood, he said, ‘Hey this is it … This is what’s going to make this story special.’
“He asked how we were doing and I told him, ‘I’m fine, its players, my co-workers and others we're worried about.' I told him we wouldn’t know about the players until they got back into school.”
LSD lost eight practice days because of flooding. Tight end Jordan Howard of Baton Rouge, assistant coach Jocus Houston and manager Benny Villiareal all lost their homes to flooding. Players from other parts of the state were not impacted by the flood.
A film crew came down and followed the War Eagles as they prepared for and played rival Mississippi School for the Deaf, capturing some raw emotion.
LSD beat MSD 38-0 and has since beat Arkansas School for the Deaf 42-0. A game at Georgia School for the Deaf this week and a Homecoming game against Oklahoma School for the Deaf at 6 p.m. Sept. 15 loom. The games only tell part of the story.
“(The LSD seniors) feel like they set themselves up to do something special last year,” Gremillion said. “They talk about it everyday. But a trophy is something you dream about, but you don’t see it until you’re presented with it. There has to be more. We talk about playing for somebody and playing for pride.”
One of the people they’re playing for is Gremillion, LSD’s second-year coach. Her mother, Anne Castle, died over the summer.
“We want to do something to make them (Gremillion and those who lost their homes) happy,” defensive lineman Daniel Spencer of Lafayette said as Gremillion interpreted through sign language. “We do that with football.”
The players and Gremillion all talk about focus and goals.
“The team is helping me because we’re playing for my Mom who passed away this summer,” Gremillion said. “They are taking it to heart. I warned them that first day when we came out. This will be like no other season. The intensity would be taken up a notch.
“We have a great group of seniors and a great group of underclassmen and we need to get it done this year. I told them then I’d have an intensity and fire in my eye they’d never seen before.”
Focus also was a phrase utility player Josh Rebert of Houma mentioned repeatedly when asked about the season.
Lineman Tre’ Davis of Crowley glanced down and pointed to the LSD on his practice jersey and noted its significance.
With Gremillion interpreting, Davis said, “We want to show that in Louisiana we don’t let things get us down. We work to make the most of what we have and get past them.”