Keytaon Thompson stepped foot on the Landry-Walker campus four years ago as a "6-foot-2 bean pole," said John Johnson.
Johnson, Landry-Walker's offensive coordinator, called Thompson a "Giraffe" back then, a moniker descriptive of Thompson's height and the way he walked.
Big, long strides. A hump in his back with his head hung down.
"But even back then, we knew he had an 'it' factor about himself," Johnson said. "Of course, he wasn't anything close to what he is now as far as being polished. But we saw a kid who played like a man among boys."
Fast forward four years, and Thompson is sure to be remembered more for how he walked out of Landry-Walker than how he walked when he arrived.
He leaves as the most decorated athlete in the school's brief history. The 6-4 senior quarterback was named Louisiana's Mr. Football by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association after putting the finishing touches on a career that will be talked about in Algiers for years to come.
Thompson finished the season completing 198 of 331 passes for 3,825 yards and 46 touchdowns. He rushed 152 times for 1,434 yards and 26 TDs. He saved his best performance for last, delivering his school its first state championship when he threw five touchdowns and ran for another (473 yards total) in a 50-21 victory over West Monroe in the Class 5A state championship game.
"He's probably the best quarterback we've faced since I have been at West Monroe," Rebels coach Jerry Arldedge said after Thompson's finale. "I can't think of one better."
It was the exclamation point on a career that ended with Thompson throwing for 7,642 yards and 94 touchdowns and running for 4,634 yards and 58 TDs. That's 152 touchdowns in four years. The numbers have put him in the conversation with some of the greatest high school quarterbacks to come through Louisiana.
His offensive coordinator has seen his share of those players over the years.
"I've seen as far back as my uncle Leonard Valentine, Mickey Joseph, played against Brock Berlin, and saw Ryan Perrilloux," Johnson said. "When you get a chance to step back and just look back at it, Keytaon was good as anyone in his own way."
Thompson, who will begin classes at Mississippi State on Monday, said it's an honor to be compared to some of the greats.
"I wanted to be one of the best among my peers," Thompson said. "To be compared to some of the best players to play though, I can't say I expected that until I looked at my numbers and started comparing. Then after we won the championship and I heard people talking about retiring my number that's when it hit me. It's humbling."
Thompson is the third New Orleans player in the past four years to be named Mr. Football, following St. Augustine's Leonard Fournette (2013) and Warren Easton's Deshawn Capers-Smith (2014) who won it before Zachary's Lindsey Scott Jr. interrupted the NOLA run last season.
It's the latest honor for Thompson, who was also named Louisiana's Gatorade Player of the Year and last week was named second-team on the MaxPreps All-American team. The family is running out of space to keep all of the awards, an assembly of football, basketball and academic awards he has racked up over the years.
Thompson wasted little time making his mark, entering a game as a freshman backup against rival Edna Karr and throwing a touchdown on his first possession. But it was Thompson's demeanor after the touchdown that tells more about who he is. He walked off the field to congratulatory handshakes and pats on the back from his coaches and teammates.
"He took off his helmet and looked like he had just woke up in the morning," Johnson said. "That's who he is. He is so even-keeled like nothing happened. To play quarterback, you can be passionate, but not emotional. He is the perfect example of that. If it's the greatest touchdown you have ever seen or the rare occasion he has a turnover, the stage is never too big for him. Even at Mississippi State, he'll have to play in Death Valley and at Alabama, and it will not faze him."
It was the same stoic expression Thompson displayed as a sophomore moments after hitting the game-winning basket in the final second to lift Landry-Walker to its second of back-to-back basketball state titles.
"My mom keeps me grounded, always," Thompson said. "No matter how good I do, she always lets me know that I can do better."
While he credits Naffateria Thompson for keeping him grounded, he gives props to his dad, Kintay, for his maturity.
"Just watching him shows me how to be a man," Thompson said. "He doesn't make excuses and finds ways to get stuff done. We have everything we need, and him and my mom taught me not to make excuses."
And his 12-year-old brother Kayden did some teaching, too. It was little brother who taught big brother how to play chess. The matches tend to go back and forth, with Keytaon and Kayden sharing victories.
"Chess is a strategy game," Thompson said. "It's kind of like football. You go in with a team of guys who can do different things, and you put them in position to make things happen. It's almost like coaching a team."
It explains why Landry-Walker coach Emanuel Powell often described Thompson as a coach on the field.
Thompson has made his mark, helping lay the foundation for the school that was formed when O. Perry Walker and L.B. Landry merged in 2013, Thompson's freshman year.
Thompson said he is confident his success will continue on the next level. He's aware of the expectations that come with being a dual threat quarterback from Louisiana and heading to Mississippi State, following the same path as former MSU quarterback and Haughton High School standout Dak Prescott.
"I'm just thankful for everything," Thompson said. "Now that I am at college, I have to start all over and try to get even more accomplishments. Everything so far means a lot and shows all the hard work has paid off. I just have to continue to work hard and believe things like that can happen."
While he looks to make new memories in Starkville, Mississippi, he'll forever cherish the ones he made at 1200 L.B. Landry Ave. He says he'll always remember the three championships (two in basketball, one in football). And he knows the folks in Algiers will remember them too.
He'll get a lot of the credit for helping the school win state titles in three of the school's first four years of existence.
But it's not all that he wants to be remembered for. How does he want to be remembered?
"I want to be remembered as someone who worked hard and was respectful to everyone. I was a humble man who prayed and was just blessed."
Farm Bureau Insurance/LSWA Mr. Football winners
2016: Keytaon Thompson, Landry-Walker
2015: Lindsey Scott, Zachary
2014: Deshawn Capers-Smith, Warren Easton
2013: Leonard Fournette, St. Augustine
2012: John Diarse, Neville
2011: Landon Collins, Dutchtown
2010: Anthony Johnson, O. Perry Walker
2009: Gavin Webster, Lutcher
2008: Blake Matherne, Belle Chasse
2007: Randall Mackey, Bastrop
2006: Joe McKnight, John Curtis
2005: Charles Scott, Jonesboro-Hodge
2004: Ryan Perrilloux, East St. John
2003: Chris Markey, Jesuit
2002: Robert Lane, Neville
2001: Jason Miller, Iota
2000: Byron Robertson, St. Thomas Aquinas
1999: Brock Berlin, Evangel
1998: Bradie James, West Monroe
1997: Adam McConathy, West Monroe
1996: Travis Minor, Baton Rouge-Catholic
1995: Cecil Collins, Leesville