Luke Johnson: UL-Lafayette quarterback Terrance Broadway gets one last stage in New Orleans Bowl _lowres

Advocate file photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- UL-Lafayette quarterback Terrance Broadway -- holding his infant son, Terrance Broadway II -- gestures skyward after being named the MVP of the 2012 New Orleans Bowl after a 43-34 win over East Carolina in December 2012 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Bowl chairman Ron Gardner is at left.

This time around, he’s unencumbered.

There will neither be a protective cast nor protective play-calling. There will be no hesitation when a Nevada defensive lineman comes chugging at him with cruel intentions.

UL-Lafayette quarterback Terrance Broadway will be free.

The days leading up to the 2014 New Orleans Bowl are a sharp contrast to those murky days a year ago, when Broadway was saddled with restraint and the weight of uncertainty.

“When we got here in New Orleans, we really had no intention of him playing,” said coach Mark Hudspeth. “The week before, he just couldn’t do it.”

He was cleared to play less than a week before the Cajuns faced Tulane in the Superdome. Once he received the OK from the team doctor, it removed all doubt from his mind about whether he’d find himself on the Mercedes-Benz Superdome turf — that was the easy part.

“I just put it on the line and said the worst I could do was re-break it and be back in surgery the next day,” Broadway said. “It really wasn’t a question that I would go out there and play.”

But mental hurdles remained.

He remembered having an “uh-oh” moment when he went through his first full practice the Wednesday before the game, his first time throwing with the clunky cast on his throwing arm.

Three days before the Cajuns would attempt to win their third straight New Orleans Bowl, their starting quarterback had to make a few tweaks to how he threw the ball.

Their coaches would also have to re-think the way they attacked the Tulane defense, not only in the passing game. They scrapped the large majority of designed quarterback runs in order to protect Broadway’s arm.

“Because of the limitations, that was a concern,” Hudspeth said.

To recap, the guy playing the most important position on the field had broken the most important part of playing that position — his throwing arm — and had to alter the way he played to be somewhat functional.

It sounds crazy. With the benefit of hindsight, it really was crazy.

A doctor can clear a guy for contact, sure, but he can’t clear someone to run an offense.

But there are other important aspects that go along with playing the position, beyond the throwing skills and the blend of elusiveness and power that have made Broadway such an effective and integral part of the Cajuns offensive attack.

Really, it might’ve been crazy to put Broadway in the game, but then again Hudspeth might’ve been crazier not to. His players needed the presence of their on-field leader.

“We felt like, with the leadership and the confidence that the team would have, the shot in the arm knowing that Terrance was going to play, that boost might’ve been enough,” Hudspeth said. “Boy, it was just enough.”

Perhaps jolted by the return of their leader — Hudspeth and his staff made the call to start Broadway two nights before the game — the Cajuns jumped out to a 21-0 lead, then held on for a 24-21 win.

Broadway didn’t have a great statistical game, but nobody was really expecting him to. He’d done his part simply by being there, on the field, leading.

Fast forward a year later, and Broadway still needs to be that guy. He’s what senior guard Daniel Quave called the “commander.” But he’s also a year removed from his broken arm and ready to deploy all the elements of his arsenal.

Much of the attention, and rightfully so, has focused on the other starting quarterback in this year’s matchup. Nevada’s Cody Fajardo is a top-notch talent and his eye-popping career numbers merit every bit of praise they’ve gotten from the coaches and media assembled here this week.

But don’t sleep on the guy who won his last bowl matchup with a recently healed broken arm. Heading into his final collegiate game, Broadway is whole again with everything left to give.

You can expect to see it all out there Saturday, unrestrained.

“He’s healthy, he’s way more confident, he’s not worried about just protecting himself,” Hudspeth said. “He’s going to go out a winner, and he’s doing everything he can to do that. There’s no holding back for him now.”