Colby Delahoussaye remembers seeing the curve.
He was riding along in the back seat of a Mercedes-Benz coupe on a dark, rainy two-lane Wisconsin road on July 23. Mike Sadler, a former Michigan State punter, was driving. Sam Foltz, a Nebraska punter, was in the passenger seat.
They were in Wisconsin for a kicking camp and that night were on their way to a wedding reception. The mood in the car was light, lots of playful jabs and jokes passing between the three.
“When we got in the car, Mike started playing some Justin Bieber,” Delahoussaye recalled. “Me and Sam sort of looked at each other. Mike said, ‘I hope you guys don’t mind. His new album is awesome.’ We were having fun. Mike was always a humorous guy.”
On thickly wooded Beaver Lake Road, with no lights but the headlights of the Mercedes, Delahoussaye glanced at the GPS map screen and saw a big curve coming.
“As soon as I told Mike, ‘Hey, Mike, there’s a curve,’ the curve was right there,” Delahoussaye said, calm and focused on telling his chilling story.
“He tried to turn but it was raining, the roads were wet. I remember us going down the hill. There was a 50-foot drop, I’m told. I haven’t been back to the accident scene. I didn’t want to go back. I remember going down the hill and just after going off the road I remember seeing some trees.”
Delahoussaye figured he was knocked unconscious. He points to a small scar on his right temple where he needed stitches. The car caught fire, and the flames started burning the outside of his left thigh.
“I’m almost positive what saved my life was my leg being burned and it waking me up,” Delahoussaye said.
He was upside down in the car, hanging from his seat belt. He wrestled his way out of the seat belt and then the car but can’t recall how he managed either.
“The next thing I remember is being on my hands and knees in the mud, in the woods, running up (hill) and calling the cops. My phone was shattered. I don’t how I was able to call the cops on that, either.”
Sadler and Foltz, 24 and 22 respectively, kind, young, fun-loving, popular, died at the scene. That Delahoussaye did not, he figures, is only because he was on the receiving end of some divine intervention.
“God was definitely right there with me,” he said. “There’s no explanation why I’m here talking with you guys right now.”
After answering questions from print reporters for several minutes, Delahoussaye is beckoned over to take a seat where TV crews are doing interviews. LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette pulls him aside to ask if he’s OK with going on.
“Yeah,” Delahoussaye said, “I’m good. I’m good.” He good naturedly offers to hold the microphones for a couple of the TV stations as they point their cameras his way.
Delahoussaye didn’t attend the funerals. His father, Dwayne, immediately flew to Wisconsin to bring him home to New Iberia. But the day before, LSU players were scheduled to report to campus on Aug. 3 for preseason camp, Delahoussaye was back in Baton Rouge to be with his other family.
As he talks about being reunited with them, his voice seems to waver.
“Everyone who first saw me gave me a huge hug,” Delahoussaye said. “They were like, ‘Dude, it is so good to see your face.’ To see that is unbelievable, how much people care about you. You can’t take that for granted at all.”
Though his leg continues to heal, Delahoussaye said he’s been 100 percent kicking in practice. LSU will be counting on him since his childhood friend, Trent Domingue, who beat out Delahoussaye for the Tigers’ starting job last season, transferred to Texas. The job of kicking extra points and field goals will be his from the moment LSU tees it up back in Wisconsin for its season opener Sept. 3 against the Badgers in Green Bay.
It’s more than 100 miles from the accident site near Merton, Wisconsin, northwest of Milwaukee, to Lambeau Field. For many of us that might not be enough distance. But Delahoussaye said he’s looking forward to the trip.
The accident seems to have given Delahoussaye a fresh perspective on life. He’s eager for the season and for each tick of the clock.
“It really opened my eyes,” said Delahoussaye, who said he soon plans to reveal how he will memorialize Sadler and Foltz this season.
“You realize that not every day is guaranteed. It made me realize I need to enjoy every single second on this earth because we don’t know when it’s our last.”
So, Delahoussaye said he’s going to take pleasure in this season. He didn’t say it exactly, but it sounded like he feels he owes it to Sadler and Foltz, two young men who were joking and laughing and making fun of Justin Bieber until the moment of the accident, to be joyful himself.
“I’m hitting the ball well, relaxed and having fun,” Delahoussaye said. “I don’t really look at it as a second chance but as a blessing. Nothing is guaranteed, so I’m going to go out and have fun with it.”