They aren’t five-star prospects like Dylan Moses or committed to a Pac-12 school like Malik Antoine.
But seniors Brennan Boudreaux and Laryon James mean just as much to a University High defense that begins its run Friday for a second straight state title. The No. 1-seeded Cubs host No. 9 Vandebilt Catholic in the Division II quarterfinals.
“We’re playing a team that wants to be physical,” University coach Chad Mahaffey said. “Our linebacker play will be critical.”
That’s where Boudreaux, who lines up at safety also, and James come in.
Those two combined for 167 tackles during the regular season. Boudreaux’s 96, including 14 for loss, lead the team. James has also contributed a pair of sacks and an interception.
“They’ve been really good players for a long time,” Mahaffey said. “They bring a lot of heart to the defense.”
James started on varsity his sophomore year, Boudreaux last year as a junior. They’ve never been eliminated from the playoffs before reaching the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
They don’t expect this year to be any different.
“We have to bring excitement, determination and will,” James said. “Every team is fighting, giving everything they’ve got. We can’t get complacent and think we’re the better team. We have to keep working toward the ultimate goal.”
They admit it feels a little different this time around — “bittersweet” as Boudreaux called it. They have one last run in that University uniform, and it’ll actually start with a Senior Night ceremony because weather postponed it two weeks ago.
That’s a stiff reminder what’s on the line.
“You know in the back of your mind it’s coming to an end,” Boudreaux said. “You have to make the most out of it and fight for another chance to keep playing with your team.”
Boudreaux’s teammates say he’s come a long way from when he started high school. James called him a clown that wasn’t really focused on football.
Then the light came on, and Boudreaux started to maximize his potential.
He’s still the same “goofball,” Mahaffey said, someone that keeps things light. But he’s also a physical presence for University.
“No one knows the dedication and drive that man has,” James said. “I love Brennan. He’s an excellent player, and he’s just a good guy to be around.”
James stepped into University’s lineup as a 5-foot-9, 170-pound sophomore. He looked even smaller lining up next to Moses, who even as a freshman had a considerable size advantage.
A lot of attention still falls on Moses, and that leaves James sometimes in his shadow. But his teammates say he deserves all the same respect.
“People just underestimate him. It’s that simple,” Boudreaux said. “They don’t know how good he really is. Our defense wouldn’t be the same without him.”
There are colleges that have recognized his talent. James holds scholarship offers from Tulane and Nicholls State.
That future can wait though. He’s “just here to ball,” and he hopes that means he, Boudreaux and the rest of the University seniors leave with another ring.
“You don’t want to think of it being the end,” James said. “It’s a new beginning. How do we want to leave our legacy?”