For Jardin Gilbert, contributing as a multi-sport standout has been a benefit for the University High football and basketball teams. It's also a family tradition he is proud to continue.
Gilbert’s father, Willie Depron, starred at White Castle High in the late '90s. He continued his athletic career playing basketball at Nicholls State, an experience that has helped him guide Gilbert, a junior who has attracted interest from Power 5 schools as a defensive back.
“He’s proud of me,” Gilbert said of his father. “He doesn’t make me do anything I don’t want to. He just says if I’m going to do it then I have to give it my all. He just wants me to have a good work ethic so I can be the best athlete I can be.”
Being the best is nothing new for U-High (9-3), seeded third in the Division II playoffs. The two-time defending state champions travel to New Orleans this week for a semifinal against No. 2 De La Salle (8-2).
Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Tulane’s Yulman Stadium.
Gilbert’s season began slowly. He missed the first two regular-season games waiting for an ankle injury to heal. Once back, he only played wide receiver at first before eventually working back into his role as a safety on defense.
A two-way player on a team with plenty of athletes to go around, Gilbert has made big plays on both sides of the ball.
In his first game back, a 30-25 loss to Catholic, Gilbert caught five passes for 131 yards and a touchdown. In the Cubs 34-20 win over Parkview Baptist, he caught an 84-yard touchdown pass and later came up with a key fourth-quarter interception.
Taking time and not rushing back was important.
“We worked him in slowly, just playing offense,” U-High coach Andy Martin said. “Since he’s (moved to defense) he’s had a major impact all over the field, not only with interceptions and tackles, but with leadership. It's been awesome for the rest of our guys.”
The Cubs lost all but two starters from their defense of a year ago, and first-time starters included freshmen Jeremiah Vessel and Jaiden Ausberry. Veteran leadership from Gilbert helped them become comfortable in a defense that has improved as the season progressed.
U-High opened the playoffs with a 49-0 win over Lusher Charter. Last week, the Cubs held Vandebilt Catholic to 151 total yards in a 35-14 quarterfinal win.
“We have two freshmen,” Gilbert said. “Whenever they mess up, they tend to get their head down, but its just because its their freshman year and their first time facing adversity. All it takes is saying, ‘Come on. Keep your head up. You’re doing good.’
“Actually, those two don’t play like freshmen. They play like juniors and seniors.”
Gilbert is beginning to draw the attention of college recruiters. Among the schools showing interest are Arizona State, Baylor, Colorado, Houston and Miami, but it's a process that is just beginning for Gilbert.
“There is no one school that has caught my eye,” he said. “I’m just enjoying the recruiting process.”