Amy LaCouture knows what it’s like to carry a 300-pound defensive lineman up and down a flight of stairs.
About eight months ago, she and her husband David did just that. Fresh off surgery for a torn knee ligament and his right leg in a cast, Christian LaCouture needed his parents’ assistance in reaching the second floor of their home.
He couldn’t stay on the first floor after Baton Rouge’s catastrophic flood washed 3 feet of muddy river water into the house. In fact, Christian, his parents and the family’s 200-pound mastiff all slept in one second-floor room for several weeks.
These were low times.
On Monday, there were good times.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron announced LaCouture would wear the illustrious No. 18 jersey for the Tigers next season, maybe the highest team-issued honor an active LSU football player can receive.
The news sent his mother Amy into tears. It sent her son to the same emotional end. The home renovation and rehabilitation seems all “worth it” now, Christian said.
The family’s house is completed, and he’s wearing 18.
“It brings you to tears,” LaCouture said Monday in an interview with The Advocate. “I can’t put into words how I’m excited and happy I am to represent that number.”
Jersey No. 18 is an LSU tradition born in 2003 when quarterback Matt Mauck guided the Tigers to their first national championship since 1958. His number became synonymous with success “as well as a selfless attitude,” the school’s media guide reads. Mauck passed the jersey to running back Jacob Hester, who helped the Tigers capture the 2007 national title. Each season since a Tiger player is voted to wear No. 18.
They were all duped — all of them except Mom.
LaCouture was a prime candidate to receive the honor.
The two-year starter put off the NFL twice, deciding to return to LSU after his junior season in 2015 and this past season in 2016. He missed all of last season after rupturing that ACL during preseason camp. He announced in December that he’d be returning for a fifth-year of eligibility.
He’s expected to fill the starting defensive end spot vacated by Davon Godchaux, Orgeron said earlier this year.
The announcement of Jersey No. 18 came in an unusual way.
Orgeron announced the news at a small, private luncheon at Drusilla Seafood Restaurant, informing a room full of invited guests, of his new No. 18. The school normally makes that announcement in a team meeting during preseason camp in August.
LaCouture was stunned when he learned the news during lunch with his girlfriend. He and Orgeron had briefly discussed him wearing 18, but it was far from official. Friends began to text him as news filtered out of the luncheon, and his mother called him screaming.
“ ‘You got 18!’ ” LaCouture said his mom yelled into the phone.
“We were screaming. I was like a kid on Christmas. I jumped up and ran around," he said. "(My girlfriend) was like, ‘What’s wrong?’ ”
LaCouture, a 6-foot-5, 300-pounder originally from the Boston area, joins exclusive company. Tre’Davious White, projected as high as a first-round NFL draft pick this year, wore the jersey the last two seasons. He was elected to wear the number as a junior in 2015 and kept the number last season as a senior.
Other players to wear No. 18 include Richard Dickson (2008, 09), Richard Murphy (2010), Brandon Taylor (2011), Bennie Logan (2012), linebacker Lamin Barrow (2013) and running back Terrence Magee (2014).
Don’t call Will Clapp inexperienced at center.
“It’s really an honor when you look at some of the people who had that number,” said Amy LaCouture, also mother to daughter Taylor, a sophomore at LSU. “It’s a real humbling thing to have your child considered in that light.”
It’s the exclamation point on a trying eight months for this family of four.
Three days after Christian tore his ACL during an August practice, the LaCoutures’ home in the Centurion subdivision of Baton Rouge was one of thousands in the area that flooded. The LaCoutures moved to Baton Rouge about a year after their son enrolled in school at LSU. They bought the house under the understanding that it wasn’t in a flood zone.
“We got 3 feet of water,” Amy said Monday. “Lost pretty much all of our contents.”
The family paid $200,000 of the $250,000 in restorations for the damaged first floor. They took out loans and drained their savings. Christian got $20,000 from a Go Fund Me account he started, and FEMA chipped in $30,000.
“It’s been a huge financial strain,” Amy said, “but I tell the kids, we’re all healthy and we have each other.”
And, now, Christian has 18.
“I know the No. 18 message talks about on and off the field, being a leader and it also talks about going through adversity,” LaCouture said. “I think with my knee, three days later the flood ruining my family’s house … I’ve gone through adversity.”
LSU No. 18s
- 00-03: Matt Mauck
- 04-07: Jacob Hester
- 08-09: Richard Dickson
- 10: Richard Murphy
- 11: Brandon Taylor
- 12: Bennie Logan
- 13: Lamin Barrow
- 14: Terrence Magee
- 15-16: Tre’Davious White
- 17: Christian LaCouture