Casey Narcisse fell to the ground early in last year’s loss to Prairie View A&M, removed his helmet and withered in pain.
An ambulance transported the Southern defensive tackle to a nearby hospital, and the game was over by the time he returned to Independence Stadium and met his teammates in the locker room.
One of the images that stuck with Narcisse was the sight of teammate Brandon Turner, who’d suffered his own knee injury in the early stages of the same game.
“He was limping, on crutches, crying just like me,” Narcisse said. “We looked at each other and we knew it. We knew what each other’s injury was.”
A torn MCL had cut short Narcisse’s sophomore season. Turner’s injury was worse. He had torn the ACL and MCL in his left knee.
“I was crying because I knew how bad it was,” Turner said. “As soon as I did it, I heard a big pop. I told the trainer to try and wrap my leg up, wrap my knee up - do something. I couldn’t even put any weight on it, but I still wanted to go back in.”
The pair of defensive tackles return as juniors looking to keep the injuries - and the tears - at bay.
Other than Narcisse and Turner, the Jaguars have only senior Dexter James as a defensive tackle with college experience.
Narcisse is a 5-foot-10, 284-pounder from St. James who had 15 tackles and one sack as a regular starter last year. Turner, a graduate of Lawrence Central in Indianapolis, is a 6-5, 280-pounder who had seven tackles and 2.5 sacks last year in only three games.
Because the Jaguars lack numbers at defensive tackle, and because the linebacking corps is a strength, Southern plans to show plenty of 3-4 looks this season.
Either way, the health of Narcisse and Turner is key.
“We’re a lot farther along than we were at this time last year,” Narcisse said. “We have a couple of mental things we need to correct, but the defense is coming along. We’ve got a couple of wrinkles we’ve got to iron out and we’ll be OK. The season looks very promising for us.”
Narcisse and Turner both look forward to turning the page.
As the Jaguars staggered to a 2-9 finish, the pair of sophomore defensive linemen were forced to watch the final month of the season from the sidelines.
Turner’s injury required reconstructive surgery and called for seven months of rehab.
Because he couldn’t suit up with his teammates during the spring, Turner kept busy videoing practices as the team’s camera man. Turner said he enjoyed getting some work with the camera, but he is much happier this fall mixing it up with the offensive linemen.
His knee feels fine, too.
“It’s all good right now,” Turner said. “No pain. Just the occasional swelling after a long, hard practice, but other than that, I feel great.”
Narcisse hoped to return from his injury last year in time for the Bayou Classic. He had started running again, but was not cleared to play.
At spring practice, Narcisse said Turner was his biggest cheerleader.
“He was right there cheering me on in the spring as I returned to practice,” Narcisse said. “I was cheering him on in his rehab. We’re all like brothers out here.”
That’s why neither player wants to see the other hurting again.
“I love this game,” Narcisse said. “If I have to sit out again, it’s going to kill me.”