A year ago this week, doctors diagnosed Lowell Narcisse Sr. with cancer.
A few days later — on Jan. 18, 2016 — he died. He delivered a final message to his youngest child from his hospital bed at Ochsner Medical Center.
“He told me,” Lowell Narcisse Jr. said, “he was proud of me and to always listen to my mom.”
The agony and disappointment of rupturing two knee ligaments in a 16-month span is no comparison to losing a father and a friend as a high school junior.
Lowell Narcisse Jr.’s two torn ACLs — one in May 2015 and the other in August 2016 — have been well-documented. The loss of his father is something he has buried until now. It’s the saddest part of his story, a tale he hopes to add to this year in Baton Rouge.
Nearly a year after his father’s death, Narcisse will enroll at LSU, one of six members of the 2017 signing class who are set to enter school at the mid-year. The former St. James High School star is scheduled to arrive in Baton Rouge on Sunday, will participate in orientation Monday and begin school Wednesday.
By heart, he knows the date of the anticipated end of rehabilitation for his latest torn ACL: “My last doctor visit is Feb. 17,” he said. “More than likely, he’s going to cut me loose after that.”
Narcisse is expected to be cleared to participate in spring practice, giving him an opportunity to write another chapter in his story.
“I kind of have a vision already. I’m going to go in, win the job as a freshman and be able to tell my story,” he said. “You remember in books … the bad part is always at the end. I think this is part of the process of the story I’m about to tell — coming (back) from two ACLs, losing my father and being able to fight through all of that and start as a freshman and be able to take this team to a national championship.”
The odds are against him.
He’ll compete with two senior quarterbacks, Danny Etling and Brandon Harris, who combine for 25 career starts with the Tigers. Also in the battle are Justin McMillan, a rising third-year sophomore, and Lindsey Scott, who redshirted this season as a freshman.
In the summer, the second part of LSU’s 2017 quarterback signing class will arrive: Myles Brennan from St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Brennan and Narcisse make up what is the most highly rated duo of quarterbacks to sign with the Tigers in the history of the program. Brennan is the No. 6 pro-style QB in the 2017 class, and Narcisse is the No. 9 dual-threat QB, according to 247sports.com.
The two are close enough friends that they flew together to the Under Armour All-America Game last week in Orlando, Florida. There, they hoped to “start the memories” together, Brennan said.
“We’ve both been through a lot of ups and downs through the recruiting process,” said Brennan, who like Narcisse reopened his recruitment this fall during LSU’s offensive coordinator search. “I’m happy we’re both back for good.”
They begin their LSU careers at an interesting time for the program. Ed Orgeron is the first new head coach in 12 years. Matt Canada is the first new offensive coordinator in four years, and he’s expected to hold an open competition for the starting quarterback job.
“The best guy is going to play,” Narcisse said Canada told him recently.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Narcisse is the rare highly touted Louisiana-born quarterback. This state doesn’t often produce nationally ranked quarterbacks. Just 14 Louisiana quarterbacks signed to play QB at a major college over the past 12 signing classes.
Narcisse is just the second Louisiana quarterback prospect to be ranked in the top 10 at his position in the past decade, joining Harris in 2014.
For Narcisse, this football thing began early — very, very early.
He clutched a football in the nursery as an infant, said Stacy Narcisse, his mother. Stacy is reminded of this from time to time when she bumps into one of the women who attended to her son in the nursery.
“She’ll say, ‘Lowell still carrying a football?’ ” Stacy said.
The answer, of course, is yes.
“He always loved the game,” Stacy said.
It runs in the family. Stacy’s nephew, Chad Jasmin, is a 1999 member of The Advocate's Super Dozen out of St. James and a running back for Clemson from 2000-03. Lowell’s brother, Juarelle, 10 years his elder, played for McNeese State as a linebacker.
Even Lowell Narcisse Sr. played football at the high school level.
His untimely death shook the family of six. Stacy and Lowell Sr., high school sweethearts, married 15 years ago. They had two daughters and two sons.
“Lowell was the baby,” Stacy said. “His father really spoiled Lowell.”
“That was always my best friend,” Lowell said. “He was always the guy who took my mind off things and encouraged me in everything I did. It’s something that really bothered me to this day.”
Within three months of falling ill and within a week of being diagnosed with lymphoma, Lowell Sr. succumbed to the disease at age 48. Lowell Sr. underwent his first chemotherapy treatment on Jan. 15, 2016, a Friday.
“Saturday, he was bouncing back. Sunday he looked so well. He looked so well doctors were going to release him,” Stacy said.
He died at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 18.
“It’s never easy,” Stacy said. “You can never get accustomed to death. We’ve bonded together and prayed. We supported each other. It wasn’t easy. We got through it. It’s still not easy.”
Ed Orgeron celebrated LSU’s Citrus Bowl win Saturday with some dance moves during a post-gam…
Lowell Jr.’s mother and girlfriend, he said, helped him through the roller-coaster ride of the past 18 months.
Narcisse tore his ACL in his right knee in May 2015 during St. James’ spring game. He returned late in the 2015 season, leading the Wildcats to the Class 3A nonselect state championship game against parish rival Lutcher.
His father died the next month, and he committed to LSU that spring. He then tore his left ACL in August during a jamboree against Donaldsonville.
By the time October rolled around, no LSU coach who first began recruiting Narcisse was still part of the staff. The school had fired coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, and recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson had left several months before.
In October, St. James High voted Narcisse its homecoming king, and he stood on the stage with a 9-year-old boy battling leukemia — a gesture from Narcisse for a kid who, he said, “fights for his life each and every day.”
Just last month, Narcisse backed out of his commitment to LSU, only weeks before he was expected to enroll. It was a calculated move, he admitted, to urge LSU to speed up its search for an offensive coordinator.
“I kind of always knew where my heart was,” he said. “I kind of decommitted to force them to be able to faster hire somebody as offensive coordinator. I think they did just that.”
Coaches from a half-dozen schools contacted Narcisse upon his decommitment Dec. 12. Many of them tried to convince him to remain in high school for the spring semester so he could take official visits to their campuses.
LSU hired Canada two days after Narcisse’s decommitment. Within a week, Narcisse recommitted and buried himself in film of Canada’s offense.
“I went back and watched some of the quarterbacks that he’s coached and different things that he likes to do,” Narcisse said. “A lot of similar things I’m familiar with, running the zone read with the shovel pass underneath. A lot of things I’m comfortable with doing.”
Next up is a quarterback competition in which Narcisse said he has an edge.
Narcisse has no problem explaining why — even before taking his first college class — he has that confidence.
“The things I’ve been through,” he said. “They don’t know what it’s like to sit down and watch something that you love taken away from you for two years, losing your father along this process. I have something to play for. I’ve been the underdog in the situation since I tore my ACL the first time.”
Six LSU commitments are scheduled to enroll next week:
Nat. pos. rank
QB Lowell Narcisse
OT Austin Deculus
S JaCoby Stevens
S Grant Delpit
SDE Justin Thomas
Spanish Fort, Ala.
WR Mannie Netherly