There’s going to be a postgame embrace on the turf at Cajun Field after UL’s contest with Texas Southern on Saturday that likely will go unnoticed by most in attendance.
Players and coaches hug and shake hands after every game, renewing old acquaintances and showing signs of respect after three-plus hours of competition.
This is only UL’s fourth meeting against a Southwestern Athletic Conference opponent and the first one against Texas Southern.
The story behind all hugs isn't the same, however.
Recently, UL sophomore linebacker Lorenzo McCaskill showed a friend a photograph.
The picture included McCaskill and nine of his buddies from his high school days in the Detroit area.
Of the 10 kids in the photo, eight of them are dead.
The only two survivors are McCaskill and Texas Southern wide receiver Donnie Corley.
“All shooting stuff,” McCaskill said. “From the inner city, a lot of people just don’t understand. You either play sports or you go to the other side. You’ve got to pick or choose one and those other guys, that’s what they chose.”
On one hand, McCaskill comes from an area where it’s no longer shocking news.
“I’m used to it … that’s hard to say, but you live and learn from it,” he said.
The thought process concerning the UL wide receiving corps heading into the season opener against Mississippi State on Aug. 31 was pretty clear.
On the other hand, it never really leaves you.
“I still don’t,” the 6-0, 222-pound reserve inside linebacker said. “I think about those guys every single day. You really don’t. You just learn from it.”
There are times when McCaskill wishes he played football closer to home. It’s more than 1,100 miles from Southfield A&T High in Southfield, Michigan to Cajun Field.
“It is (tough),” McCaskill said. “They tell me every single day, ‘I wish you were closer.’ But it’s OK. Everything happens for a reason. I was closer at one point in time.”
It’s also a blessing, and McCaskill knows it.
That realization helps ease the heartache.
“Exactly,” he said. “That was my main reason for coming down here.
“I know I can be in that same predicament (as eight friends who died) in a second as soon as I go home. That’s why I don’t go home as much. I don’t go home. My family doesn’t want me to go home as much.”
So in no way is McCaskill feeling special for being one of the two kids from that photo still around. He doesn’t view his current position in life as heroic.
“I’m not the first guy to have done it,” McCaskill said. “There have been several guys where I came from, guys like Mark Ingram. You have so many other guys who have done it.
“I don’t do it for me. I do it for the people around me. Seeing how happy a lot of people are back home that I’m playing football and doing what I’m doing. That’s what I’m doing it for. I don’t do it for myself.”
It’s the beauty … and some would argue the curse … of being a coach.
Topping that list are his grandparents back home.
“That’s who really kind of raised me,” McCaskill said. “If they’re happy, then I’m happy. I put a smile on their face every single day because my grandmother’s not worried what I’m doing at night time.
“She knows where I’m at. She knows what I’m doing. That’s my main goal is to make my grandfather and my grandmother happy, because she stresses a lot.”
Consequently, McCaskill has learned to embrace the structure and discipline demanded by UL coach Billy Napier and his coaching staff.
“I appreciate it,” McCaskill said. “Coach Napier as a coach, he just understands. He’s strict on you, but he understands as well.
“He knows where you’re coming from. Each guy is coached in a different way. He understands. I couldn’t ask for a better coach.”
Actually, the two disagree on one issue.
Napier called McCaskill’s team-high 4½ tackles against Liberty on Saturday as his best game with the Cajuns.
In the season-opening loss to Mississippi State, it appeared UL quarterback Levi Lewis and the offense might get their first two-minute opport…
“He told me that earlier,” McCaskill laughed. “I don’t really agree. We were going back and forth about that one. Technique-wise and being everywhere I’m supposed to be, I think he’s right. I felt like Arkansas State from last year was a better game to me.
“I don’t think it was a good game at all. I feel like I can get better.”
But don’t get McCaskill’s reaction wrong. It matters greatly to him what his Ragin’ Cajun coaches and teammate think of his actions. A year ago, he was disciplined for a violation of team rules.
As McCaskill prepared for his second August camp, avoiding that sort of situation was high on his list of priorities.
“My main focus was getting back good with these teammates and these coaches,” he said. “Just focus on playing hard and not worrying about my past mistakes. Just putting my head down and working. That was my main focus.
“It happened. I put my head down and just kept working and got better day by day.”
The front end of that process, though, required service hours from McCaskill.
Sure, football coaches like talking about their players.
Working at the city's downtown food shelter soon became a labor of love for the former Ole Miss commitment who ended up at Holmes Community College before joining UL.
“You have to put it (past mistakes) behind you,” McCaskill said. “If you don’t put it behind you, you’ll never take a step forward. You have to move forward day by day.
“I’m still doing a lot of the same things I was doing before. I was doing a lot of work at the shelter. I want to maintain what I was doing.”
He developed a close relationship with a “Mr. Milt” at the shelter. Sometimes, he just goes there and talks … and learns … and reinforces his resolve.
“I know a lot of those guys down there,” he said. “Some of the guys are in and out of jail or homeless. I built a good relationship with them. I used to stay up there for hours every single day. Not even giving them food — just sitting at the table talking to them every single day.
“You can see where you can be at by some of the other mistakes other people make. It’s good to learn from them.”
Mr. Milt now attends all of UL’s home games.
There were many stages in Troy Wingerter’s life where he could never have imagined filling the role he currently holds for the UL Ragin’ Cajuns.
On Saturday, McCaskill will see an old friend in Corley. Corley is a wide receiver who was a four-star recruit who signed with Michigan State out of high school.
He played both ways for the Spartans in 2016 before being booted from the squad after being charged in a sexual assault case.
After attending Coahoma Community College, Corley signed with Texas Southern in February with two years of eligibility remaining.
McCaskill, meanwhile, is firmly entrenched as a primary backup for UL behind senior starters Jacques Boudreaux and Ferrod Gardner.
“Lorenzo was only with us for a couple of games and was injured,” Napier said. “So they’re rookies and they’re getting better. I think (fellow reserve LB Jourdan Quibodeaux) Quib had his best week of practice this week, and I think McCaskill just played his best game as a backer since he’s been here.
“So again, coach Roberts and (graduate assistant) Mike Guiliani have done a great job with that group. I think they’re only going to get better.”
In so many ways, McCaskill is doing better than he ever imagined.
If nothing else, he’s beaten the odds.
He’s got the picture to prove it.