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“Blackjack” Landry statue unveiled at Cajun Field 9/29/12

"Blackjack" Landry statue unveiled at Cajun Field 9/29/12

Tim Buckley, Daily Advertiser, Sept. 29, 2012

Several godchildren of Bill "Blackjack" Landry, a former UL football equipment manager from 1963-1998, gather around a statue of Landry for photos during a dedication ceremony Friday at Cajun Field in Lafayette.  By Leslie Westbrook  September 28, 2012
Several godchildren of Bill "Blackjack" Landry, a former UL football equipment manager from 1963-1998, gather around a statue of Landry for photos during a dedication ceremony Friday at Cajun Field in Lafayette. By Leslie Westbrook September 28, 2012

It was the day of Bill "Blackjack" Landry’s funeral in August 1998, and Lynn Williams couldn’t figure out what happening.

UL Ragin’ Cajun football players, sweating through the heat of two-a-day preseason practice, knew a few equipment staff members planned to hang back and miss the service so their needs could be met.

Yet when the call was made in the locker room to collect all things dirty, not one pair of pants, not one jersey, not even a single sock was presented for a between-sessions wash.

"’No,’" one player said, as Williams tearfully recalled this week. "’All y’all are going.’"

Landry meant that much to UL — then the University of Southwestern Louisiana — and everyone associated with it.

Fourteen years later, the dedication of the Cajuns’ football equipment manager and laundry-washer from 1963 until his passing has been reciprocated in a fashion bestowed upon no other program member.

An 8-foot bronze statue of Landry standing outside Cajun Field was dedicated and unveiled Friday night, when ex-Cajun players, friends, family members, alumni and team supporters — many of whom funded the project — gathered to remember the man so beloved.

A fundraising drive remains under way to fully endow the Bill "Blackjack" Landry Memorial Scholarship, dedicated to UL student equipment managers and trainers and presented for the first time this fall to Michael Decou of Teurlings Catholic.

"The greatest guy you’ll ever meet," Williams, who started working with Landry as a student in 1980 and who serves today as UL’s co-equipment manager with his brother Lyle, said of Landry. "He had a heart of gold."

"The outpouring of support for this project," ex-Cajuns coach Sam Robertson added Friday, "shows how many people he positively impacted."

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As Landry reached the tail end of his fight with colon and liver cancer, he summoned John Broussard to his bedside and told him to take something to remember him by.

Broussard, who now plays deep snapper for UL, grew up around the program as the son of one of its assistant coaches.

"He was family," said ex-Cajun Gerald Broussard, now UL’s radio analyst.

"From what I remember, he was the nicest man you could ever know," John Broussard added. "My dad loved Blackjack."

Landry — Blackjack, or B.J., to those who knew him best — gave young John a T-shirt he still clings to.

"He means more to this program than almost anybody," John Broussard said. "He did everything for everybody. "» And he took pride in what he did. Behind the scenes, he was an unsung hero."

"People come up and say, ‘What’s a Ragin’ Cajun?’ If you can point at Blackjack, that’s what a Ragin’ Cajun is," Gerald Broussard added. "You don’t know what it is, but you know it when you see it."

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Troy Wingerter, another longtime ex-Cajun assistant coach who now is the program’s football operations director, played in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

He remembers Landry as a man who kept close guard over any and all university equipment.

"B.J. "» didn’t give up gear for anything," Wingerter said. "My jock had popped right as we were going out (to the field one time), and I ran in and I said, ‘B.J., B.J., I need another jock.’"

Asked Landry, in what Wingerter sounds out as a slow drawl: "Where’s your other one?"

"’It broke,’" Wingerter recalls saying. "’I threw it in the garbage.’"

Said Landry, who dealt with slurred speech and impaired motor skills: "Go get it." Wingerter literally had to trade in the old one before being handed a new one.

It was always that way with Landry, who doled his own form of justice.

"Anybody who’s ever played here under B.J. knew that if you made a mistake, all your stuff was going to end up being B.J. red," said Wingerter. "It was that color ‘pink.’

"My stuff was only pink once."

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Wingerter knew not to mess with Landry, whose favorite pro franchises were the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Yankees and the Boston Celtics.

He wasn’t alone.

"You didn’t talk (bad) about any of those teams," said Williams, who to this day has near his desk a photo of Landry simultaneously wearing gear of all three clubs.

"Say anything about the New York Yankees or Ron Guidry and you would have a fight on your hands," Raymond Blanco, a former assistant coach and Dean of Students, said when statue fundraising efforts began.

Williams remembers when, as a naïve freshman, Landry convinced him he was related to then-Cowboys coach Tom Landry.

He wasn’t, Williams said, but "B.J. got on the phone "» and actually got Tom Landry. From then on, we always thought, ‘Shoot, B.J’s God.’"

In the minds of some, he at least was quite close.

"When you say, ‘Blackjack,’ it meant unity," said Blanco, the man responsible for bringing Landry to then-USL. "I can’t tell you enough about Bill. Bill was a saint."

A funny one, too.

Blanco told a few hundred fans Friday, including many of Landry’s 16 godchildren, how his spinning car once wound up in a highway median. Landry was the passenger.

"I said, ‘Bill, why didn’t you wake me up?’ " Blanco said. "(He answered), ‘Because you drive that way all the time.’"

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Landry was a tireless worker who frequently rode his three-wheeled bike.

"First in, last out," Williams said. "He was the first one at work, and he was the last one to leave, and that was for the entire time he was here."

Wingerter can’t count how many he arrived for morning practice, only to see Landry rolling away.

"We were coming in," he said, "as he was leaving at 5 from doing laundry."

The office that now serves both Lynn and Lyle Williams once held the team’s washers and dryers.

UL students didn’t deal with dirty uniforms then, but Landry took great pride in doing so — evidenced its identifying sign.

"B.J. took a red marker one day," Lynn Williams said, "and scratched out the ‘U.’ It became the LANDRY room."

Landry once was so desperate for a new washing machine he dressed in coat and tie and pled to the then-university president.

"The character of a university is often determined by its buildings and programs. But, the soul of a university is its people," UL’s current president Joseph Savoie, said at Friday’s dedication. "Those who demonstrate uncompromising loyalty and love through good times and bad create the essential spirit of the place.

"In this regard," Savoie added, "Bill ‘Blackjack’ Landry is an icon for the ages."

It speaks volumes that the only statue now at Cajun Field is not a former coach or player, but — in the words of Wingerter — "a left-handed equipment guy who washed laundry 24 and 7."

"And if you ask me," Wingerter said, "that embodies who we are as a university.

"We’re gonna work harder than anybody else, and that guy’s heart represents every other person’s heart who is here."

To donate

Donations to the Bill "Blackjack" Landry Memorial Scholarship fund can be made at the UL Foundation website (click "Donate">Athletic Development/Sports>type "Blackjack Memorial Athletics Fund" in the box titled "additional designation"), mail (P.O. Box 44290, Lafayette, LA 70504) or by phone (337-482-0700).

Athletic Network Footnote:

Click here for the Bill "Blackjack" Landry Statue Dedication page.