As the state’s oldest public high school, Warren Easton has certainly had more than its share of memorable days.
But athletically, maybe nothing that happened at 3019 Canal Street was more significant than Wednesday when 10 Easton football players signed with Division I schools.
For comparison’s sake, that’s more than St. Augustine and John Curtis had combined.
Not bad for a program that peaked in the 1950s, which was also the last time someone from Easton signed with LSU.
On Wednesday, Tyron Johnson became a Tiger. He’s also the nation’s top-ranked wide receiver and the overall No. 1 prospect from Louisiana.
“I wanted to be different,” Johnson said of his coming to Easton four years ago. “Everybody was telling me to go to St. Aug or Karr, but I wanted to be my own person.
“Now there ware 10 of us signing. It’s been great playing with all of them.”
Tulane landed the most Easton players — cornerbacks Jeremie Francis and Dedrick Shy and running back Devin Glenn.
Arizona had two — linebacker Kendall Franklin and wide receiver Darrell Clark.
Others from Easton signing Wednesday were athlete Deshawn Capers-Smith (Texas A&M), linebacker Arthur McGinnis (Oklahoma), linebacker Calvin Lunkins (Southern) and safety Darren Holmes (Howard).
The signing took place in the auditorium of the 101-year-old building highlighting film of each of the 10 participants shown before the ceremony itself with family members beaming at the front table and the student body cheering each one.
“I said I wasn’t going to get emotional today, but I did a little bit,” said Easton Coach Tony Hull, who in seven years has built a team the struggled to make .500 most years to last season’s Class 4A runner-up. “Easton’s football history hadn’t been too good in recent years, but we came in and sold students on the fact that this was a great school academically and that they could help make it one in football, too.
“We told the parents, ‘We’re going to make sure your sons not only graduate, but are prepared to go on to college. And then we found some kids like Tyron and Deshawn, who didn’t just follow the crowd to other schools.”
Easton’s athletic rise also shows the changing school demographics in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Easton, McDonogh 35, Karr and McMain are the only public high schools remaining much as they were before the storm. And with attendance zones a thing of the past (Easton was considered a magnet school for several years before Katrina and wasn’t subject to zone restrictions), students no longer have a traditional neighborhood school to contend.
It’s telling that none of the parents of Wednesday’s 10 signees are Easton graduates. Hull went to Sarah Reed, which had now been transformed into KIPP Renaissance.
“There’s a new thinking about public schools in New Orleans,” Hull said. “I think we’ve benefitted from it.But there’s a lot of competition out there to get the best athletes.”
And for some of Wednesday’s signees, the competition didn’t end Saturday.
Capers-Smith and Johnson have known each other since they began playing football on the playground level where they were sometimes teammates and sometimes opponents.
At Easton, Capers-Smith was the Eagles quarterback. But he’ll be playing defensive back at A&M, meaning that he and Johnson could be going head-to-head as early as this season’s game at Tiger Stadium.
“We’ll be pulling for each other all season, but on that day, that’s when the enemies come out,” Capers-Smith said. “But that just shows how much hard work we’ve put in to get us to this point.
“It felt really good sitting up there together today. We’re all proud to be from Warren Easton.”