On the first day of the 2013 college football season, I lazily sat on my family’s living room couch – adult beverage in one hand and iPad in the other.
But as I glided through stats on my device’s touch screen, the name that I heard from the room’s surround sound speakers caught my attention and immediately caused me put the iPad down and beam with pride.
That name was Elijah McGuire – the former Vandebilt Catholic standout football player who has since graduated and moved to UL-Lafayette.
On this day, the Ragin’ Cajuns were opening their season with Arkansas, and UL’s offense was in possession of the football at the time in the game.
That’s when McGuire made his mark before a nationally televised audience, catching a long pass down the field to put the Ragin’ Cajuns into scoring position.
The catch marked the official beginning to the new chapter in McGuire’s life.
For me, it was a source of pride, because I’ve been able to be there for most of the ride, having covered the young man throughout his high school career and now again into college.
The beautiful thing is that his story is just one of many that I’ve been blessed to see blossom from late childhood to adulthood – there have been countless other young men and women that have done magnificent things to better themselves in life.
As I approach my fourth full year as the proud sports editor of this great locally owned community newspaper, I have found myself in deep thought about the things that I enjoy most about my work.
And through my pondering, I’ve realized that I am heavily driven by seeing young men and women fulfill their dreams and do the things that they want to do in life.
I’ll now tell you a few of the stories I’m talking about – in addition to McGuire, whom I’ve briefly detailed.
In my career here, I’ve seen college players fulfill their dreams and become pros. At Nicholls State University, basketball players Anatoly Bose, Fred Hunter and Sumar Leslie have all made that massive leap – a dream come true for any athlete.
The school has also sent a handful of baseball players to the next level in my time. A couple of Colonels’ football players in the past few years have also been fortunate enough to see their playing days extend to the next level of competition. Likewise, Terrebonne High baseball player Justin Williams has also pushed himself to pro level, as well.
These stories are always fun as a sports reporter because of the sheer happiness that is present within the room during the entire process. For every, single one of them, signing that contract for the first time marks a dream come true – an all-around awesome thing to witness.
These men and women all beam with pride on the outside, but know on the inside the story inside of the story – which is that each standout athlete deposits dozens of drops of blood, gallons of sweat and ounces of tears onto their playing fields to make it all come to light.
Through my work, I see it all unfold and quietly hang in the background watching their bodies transform from young adults to grown men/women.
It’s a transformation that is really, really gratifying and fulfilling to see. It’s also a transformation that continues to happen each day as I watch LSU senior Theresa Plaisance mature from the terrific kid that I knew at Vandebilt to a great young woman that will make a huge splash in the WNBA and international ranks. The same can be said for LSU halfback and former Patterson star Kenny Hilliard, who has matured quickly during his time with the Tigers and is someone our local children can look up to as he pushes toward the NFL.
But as we all know, sports are only a profession for a select few within an area – most of the student athletes that I cover hang up their uniforms at a pretty young age to chase their lives within the workforce.
Through this inevitable migration, I’ve also been blessed to see some very special young men and women go on and do amazing things.
I’ll again start with Nicholls State. When I first got back into this area out of college, a young woman named Jasmine Hoskins was a starter for the Colonels’ basketball team.
Hoskins was an undersized post player for the team. Basketball was incredibly tough for the young woman, who returned to her dorm from practice each day battered and bruised because she always had to guard players bigger and stronger than her 5-foot, 11-inch frame.
So for that reason, Hoskins would be the first person to admit that pro ball wasn’t in the cards for her career. But Hoskins always had the dream of being a nurse – a dream that she conquered this past year when she graduated from Nicholls and got her start in the world of medicine.
Balancing both a sport and a tough curriculum was not easy. But I got couldn’t help but smile when I saw Hoskins in her cap and gown this past May.
Or how about Sierra Lyons – the local athlete who may be doing the most important job of anyone in our area – mothering a young child.
Lyons was a terrific student athlete at Terrebonne High School who excelled in volleyball and basketball and won a state championship in track.
Because of her dominance as an outside hitter, Lyons was blessed enough to go to Xavier to play college volleyball. During her freshman year with the team, she was an All-Conference standout – one of the best players in all of Louisiana.
But instead of rolling through four dominant years at the New Orleans college, Lyons was dealt a more challenging hand when she found out that she was pregnant.
Lyons moved home, delivered a beautiful young daughter and sat out a year a competition. She then returned to action last year as a member of the Nicholls State University team.
But Lyons left the team before this season to focus on her studies and family. She said she now gets her fix by playing recreational ball. She also gets to go home to her daughter Londyn each night – something that life as a college athlete couldn’t afford.
I remember both the day that Lyons told me she was pregnant and the day that young Londyn was born. Much time has passed, but she is now an always-smiling, beautiful toddler that is well on her way to growing up and paving her own path in this wonderful game that we call life. Knowing the genes that she’s been blessed with, little Londyn will probably be a sports star in about a decade’s time. Knowing that mother Sierra is a great parent, I also anticipate the young lady to be a great person, as well.
Hopefully when she makes that leap, I’ll be blessed enough to see it all unfold – detailing every peak and valley along the way.
It’s that ability to see young men and women progress, mature and blossom that is the absolute best thing about my job.
I wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world.