Hunter Fuselier’s ritual each Friday of a Catholic-Pointe Coupee football game begins the same way — with a visit to his father Andre’s grave before school starts.
“I try to go at least twice a week, especially on Fridays of a game,” said Fuselier, a senior offensive guard and all-district defensive end. “I say a little prayer and then go to school.”
Thoughts of his father, Andre Fuselier, are never far from Hunter's mind. He's the middle of his three sons. Once the Hornets took the field this season, Hunter added a cross on his helmet in his dad’s memory.
During the national anthem, Fuselier covers his heart with his right hand and points skyward with his left.
“I try talking to him and know that he’s with me,” Fuselier said.
Nearly three weeks ago, when Catholic-PC celebrated senior night with a 51-6 win over False River, there was another reminder of his father that Fuselier — and the entire 35-member squad — were given when third-year coach David Simoneaux handed out helmet decals with the initials "AF" in honor of Andre Fuselier.
“It meant a lot,” Fuselier said. “It was like he was with me. It was a wonderful night.”
Fuselier was 12 when his father planned a weekend crabbing trip to Grand Isle. Following a jamboree football game where his older brother, Austin, played for Catholic, Fuselier, his dad, two brothers and grandfather, Donald Fuselier, headed south to Louisiana's only barrier island.
“We decided to do something new,” Hunter said of the Aug. 24, 2012, trip. “I couldn’t wait.”
With his grandfather and older brother on the beach the next day, Fuselier was talking with his father and laughter filled the humid August air. Fuselier, with his younger brother next to him and father not far behind, even cast a line when he noticed upheaval in the water.
The tides had suddenly changed and all three of them were caught in a strong current, forcing Fuselier to place his younger brother on his back and heroically get him closer to shore.
In the instant, he turned in the direction of a distressed voice, Fuselier’s father had disappeared. Hunter immediately sought help from his grandfather and older brother.
Andre was later spotted near the rock jetties where emergency personnel tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate him.
Andre Fuselier was only 46.
“It’s something you never forget,” Hunter said. “It was a tough day for all of us.”
Instead of once again enjoying a Saturday morning cutting grass with his father or tagging along in the summer to his office at the Louisiana Department of Revenue, Fuselier was one of nine pallbearers during an emotion-filled farewell.
Fuselier said he has since tried to live by his father’s hard-working, caring example, applying his advice in life and athletics.
Simoneaux wanted to bring those ideals to light and include Andre Fuselier in Hunter’s senior night tribute, first getting his approval before moving forward.
“I hoped he understood that his dad was a great man,” Simoneaux said. “We needed to honor and celebrate his life by making him a part of everything we were doing.”
The pregame ceremony was moving.
The Hornets honored their three-member senior class — a group that included Nathan Carriere and Gared Beauvais — with Fuselier walking closely with his mother Raquel. Tears flowed openly, representing not only the loss of the family’s patriarch, but the courageous steps they’d taken together the past five years.
“It was just me and mom on the field,” Fuselier said. “But I felt like my dad was there with me that night. I know he would be very proud.”