When Jabbar Juluke walks into the stadium for most of Louisiana Tech’s games, he is just another member of the Bulldog’s staff. But it will be much different Saturday.
Juluke’s arrival at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for Saturday’s R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl will be the return of a very familiar face on Poydras Street.
Louisiana Tech’s running back coach was the head coach at Edna Karr High School for a decade before making the move to Ruston in 2012. And his return to New Orleans, along with Louisiana Tech, on Wednesday showed to the team just how much he was beloved during his time here.
“He’s like a rock star,” Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz joked. “He’s been shaking hands with everybody since we made it here.”
Juluke said he’s been very happy to be a member of Holtz’s coaching staff, but it will be good to return to his roots during this week.
“I’m excited. I’m glad to be back home,” he said. “Just being back in New Orleans and hearing the jazz music gave me goose bumps. And getting an opportunity to play at the Superdome again is very exciting.”
During his time at Karr, Juluke compiled an 80-39 record and led the Cougars to the Superdome three consecutive years with trips to the Class 4A state championship game.
Juluke’s final year with the team, they finished the season 14-0 and capped things off with a 2012 Class 4A state title. He said it was an extremely tough decision to make, but he knew taking a job with a college team would help him further his career.
“When you have built relationships and camaraderie with people that have supported you and the things you’re doing, it was very difficult,” Juluke said. “I also had to think about my family and the opportunity I had to change their lives. And as a football coach, you always have to look to grow.”
Holtz said that Juluke’s addition to the coaching staff has already made a huge impact in his short time there.
“He brings energy, and he’s an outstanding person,” Holtz said. “Not only that, his familiarity with Louisiana and the recruiting that goes down has helped us immeasurably.
“He’s been a huge asset to our program.”
ASU’s Mondie gets first bowl
Many players for both teams will be experiencing their first bowl game Saturday, but very few will be as excited about it as Arkansas State defensive tackle Robert Mondie.
Mondie was playing at the University of Alabama-Birmingham last year in what was supposed to be the school’s final year with a football program. The Blazers finished with a 6-6 record last year, making them eligible to be chosen for a bowl game.
Many of the players on the team thought they would have one more opportunity to take the field and play together, but that was snatched away when none of the bowl games chose to invite UAB, ending the team’s season.
“I still remember that day, it was devestating,” said Mondie, who played at Coahoma Junior College in Clarksdale, Mississippi, before transferring to UAB. “We were all sitting in a room, and it just hit us that we were never going to play together again.”
With UAB dismantling its program, all of the players on the team were given an opportunity to transfer to another program and be eligible to play immediately. For Mondie, deciding on a new school was the easiest part of the whole process.
The 6-foot-2, 321-pound lineman’s brother, Devin Mondie, played his freshman season at Arkansas State while Mondie was at UAB. And Robert figured the unfortunate situation at UAB would allow for him to have a reunion with his little brother.
“It was pretty much a no-brainer for me,” Robert said. “(Devin) told me he really liked the coaching staff and thought I would be a great fit with the team. They’ve really embraced me, and it’s been a fun year.”
During his first season with Arkansas State, Robert has been a stout run defender for the Red Wolves. He compiled 23 tackles, with 4.5 coming for loss.
More than anything else, though, Robert is looking forward for his opportunity to finally play in that bowl game that was snatched away from him last year.
“I can’t wait to get out there. I’m going to be like a kid in a candy store,” he said.