Photos: Baton Rouge and Acadiana Area Football Jamborees _lowres

Advocate staff photo by John Oubre -- Tara coach Cooter Mansur

There are life-changing experiences. And there are life-changing actions.

Tara High football coach Cooter Mansur knows something about both.

Mansur underwent two heart surgeries in June to alleviate 95 percent blockages in three arteries.

A look at family history prompted his wife, Episcopal Athletic Director Myra Mansur, to push the 54-year-old coach to have a stress test. Suggestions by friends who are part of Baton Rouge Ancient Athletes group led Mansur to ask for a nuclear stress test, which was crucial.

“Yes I do look at life a bit differently now,” Mansur said. “I know I’m very lucky. I don’t get quite as irritated with things and with people like I used to. What it comes down to is everybody is trying to do the best we can, so the better thing to do is get everyone to work together.”

Working together applies both to the Trojans and Mansur’s nonprofit foundation, Save the Game.

Here’s what you need to know about the Trojans. The numbers are up with approximately 65 players currently out for the team. Tara figures to gain several players now that the EBR School Board repealed its 2.0 GPA requirement sports and extra-curricular activities.

Mansur’s goal of having a 100-player program for grades 9-12 is within reach. Former Southern player Keidrin Davis (offense) and veteran coach McKinney Evans (defense) are the coordinators.

Save the Game is where life-changing actions factor in. Mansur started the nonprofit after coming to Tara. The impetus for it was simple.

“At one point, I had 15 kids who couldn’t play football because they couldn’t afford to buy cleats,” Mansur said. “So I went to my friends, the Ancient Athletes, for help.

“They’d bring old cleats to a softball game to donate, or they took the shoes off their feet and dropped them in the bucket. The next week, they’d bring new cleats and drop them in.”

Tara now has more than 100 extra pairs of cleats.

Mansur has bigger ideas that involve more than just Tara. The goal is for Save the Game to provide much-needed financial and safety-oriented assistance to schools in Baton Rouge and beyond.

“I coached for 15 years and was in private business for 15 years before I got back into coaching full time,” Mansur said. “I saw an immediate need for all schools. You need funding. We want to make sure that any child who wants to play any sport at a high school gets the chance to do it. Boys or girls, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a public or private school.

“We don’t have revenue sharing from TV and conferences like colleges do. All of our money has to be raised. Some schools don’t have baseball because they can’t afford the equipment. Some can’t afford to pay officials because there’s no revenue. There are safety needs, especially with the new concussion guidelines. Helmets are expensive to start with, and they have to be reconditioned every two years. It’s $100 a helmet to recondition, and that’s $7,000 if you have 70 helmets.”

Some weight-training equipment was recently donated, and Save the Game organizers are in contact with several East Baton Rouge Parish schools to assess their needs.

A Save the Game Kickoff Party for 2015-16 is set for 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 3 at the TimeOut Lounge on Bennington. Those who attend will learn about Save the Game and have opportunities to donate or volunteer.

“We’re trying to do a study and see where the biggest needs are,” Mansur said. “Our reach has been limited so far, but we’re looking to expand.

“We’re checking to see if groups like the NFL would help us with a financial capacity. We’ve talked to coaches in other parts of the state. We’re all fighting the same battle.”