Instincts kicked in for Russell Gage, LSU’s junior receiver.
During a FaceTime conversation with his mother, he saw that a few inches of water had become a few feet – in a stretch of just four hours.
Gage didn’t think about football practice the next morning. He didn’t even think about telling his LSU coaches that he and teammate Devin Voorhies planned to rush to his flooding home in Baker to rescue his family.
He just left.
“I made the decision out of stress and worry,” he said. “Once I got there, the water was around 3 feet and rising.”
Voorhies and Gage flagged down a rescue boat. They loaded up his family – mother, father, sister and grandmother – delivering them to safety, far away from a town submerged in water and a house that got more than 4 feet.
“It was a relief,” Gage said during interviews with reporters on Wednesday.
LSU players are balancing football and the flood.
A highly anticipated season – LSU is ranked sixth in the coaches poll – begins in just two and a half weeks with a showdown against Wisconsin. Meanwhile, the Baton Rouge area and surrounding parishes are recovering from a destructive flood that’s killed at least 12 and destroyed thousands of homes.
“It’s a struggle,” said freshman Caleb Roddy, a tight end from Denham Springs.
Roddy’s home got more than 3 feet of water, and running back Derrius Guice’s grandmother needed to be rescued by boat from her Sherwood Forest home. The Gage family is now staying in a Radisson Hotel on Acadian Thruway.
The vehicles of quarterback Brandon Harris, and several other players, were flooded while parked on the north side of campus, and the roof of fullback Bry’Kiehton Mouton’s grandma’s house caved in, Gage said.
“It’s tragic,” Roddy said.
LSU players get so immersed in preseason camp – a set of 13 days of intense practices and meetings – that many of them didn’t learn about the flood until it was already happening.
“My girl texted me, ‘I’ve got a foot of water in my house,’” Roddy said. “I hadn’t heard about the flood. I was like, ‘What, a toilet exploded or something? What’s wrong with you?’”
He quickly surfed Twitter.
‘I saw these pictures and saw, ‘Pray for Denham Spring,’” he said.
He spent the next several hours trying to reach his mother and brother – all while participating in a football scrimmage Saturday at LSU’s indoor facility.
“It was hard,” he said.
Guice’s grandmother sent him a picture of her on a boat earlier this week while he was between practices. In the background: homes under water.
Moments later, of course, it was back to football.
“She just moved into that house from Hammond, too,” Guice said during interviews from LSU’s indoor facility. “She sent me a picture saying she got rescued on a boat. Whenever you get in here – I mean, that’s family – but you’ve got to block it off while you’re in here. Nothing you can do about it right now, especially the position we’re in. We’re getting ready for the season.”
Gage didn’t even tell coaches about his departure.
“It wasn’t the wisest decision being that coach Miles was responsible for us. Probably should have had better communication with him, between me and the coaches,” Gage said.
“I thought maybe I could go and come back before practice (Monday). It was poor communication between me and the coaches,” he continued. “You never want to do anything without communication. That was a boneheaded decision on me because anything could have happened. The water was pretty high. There was current. At the end of the day, Coach Miles was just happy I saw safe.”
LSU's final day of preseason camp was Wednesday. The Tigers had two practices and are completely off Thursday, a day in which players plan to volunteer and help flood victims, Harris said.
"It's a struggle right now," Roddy said, "but we'll be all right."
Sheldon Mickles contributed to this report.