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Football: Special UL senior class to be honored

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, November 22, 2014



As he savored a 34-27 win last Saturday night at in-state rival UL Monroe that pushed 7-3 UL’s current win streak to six in a row, Ragin’ Cajuns senior running back Alonzo Harris was asked if he could wrap his mind around the fact that one week later he’d be playing his final game at Cajun Field.

The four-year starter from Alabama could not.

"I don’t think it will actually hit me until I am walking down the tunnel, with my family, and see … all the fans," Harris said.

That day is here.

Harris and 19 other Cajun seniors will be honored on the field prior to this afternoon’s game against Appalachian State, and as they are the clock will be clicking on a group that will go out as UL’s most-successful four-year class.

Not long ago, quarterback Terrance Broadway was talking with senior defensive linemen Christian Ringo and Justin Hamilton about playing for the final time at home – where the Cajuns are 18-3 since 2011.

"We feel it is gonna be something special, something we’re gonna remember, something we’re probably gonna wish would not come to an end," Broadway said.

"But, when it does," the QB from Baton Rouge added, "we just have to make every play that we can to cherish our time that we have with 60 minutes left at Cajun Field."

Linebacker Boris Anyama thinks back to when he first arrived at UL from Texas.

A fifth-year senior, he was recruited by the former staff of ex-Cajuns coach Rickey Bustle. But he also is of those who managed to survive and thrive through the transition to current coach Mark Hudspeth.

The key for the holdovers who made it?

"We all knew how it felt to be at the losing end," Anyama said, "and we all had that hard-working mentality of ‘you’ve got to grind’ to be successful and come out on top."

Anyama recalls some close games in UL’s final year under Bustle, which ended at 3-9 with three loses by seven points or fewer and a 23-22 season-ending win over ULM to avoid an eight-game losing streak.

"It wasn’t like we really were that bad," Anyama said.

"It’s just that we needed that little more push, the little help just to get us over that hump. And when Coach Hud … and them came in, that’s exactly what we got."

The change from losing to winning ways was largely about timing, offensive guard Daniel Quave suggested.

"It was just perfect that we all just came together," said Quave, a Mississippi native and another holdover from the Bustle regime.

"Coach Hud … came here and brought the different motivation that we had lacked, and it brought a sense of hope … and we just kind of took that momentum and made it what it is today."

Since Hudspeth arrived, UL has enjoyed three straight 9-4 seasons with hope still for at least that one more time.

The Cajuns also have won three straight New Orleans Bowls – one each over San Diego State, East Carolina and Tulane – and appear headed for a fourth consecutive postseason game.

Last year, they shared a Sun Belt Conference championship with Arkansas State.

"All that came with just the hope," Quave said. "You know, everybody bought into the dream – and we all just decided to make that dream a reality."

Doing so, however, required some faith.

The seniors playing their last home game today, Hudspeth said, "trusted us when we didn’t have anything to offer."

"We didn’t have bowl games, we didn’t have new facilities being built, we didn’t have Adidas, we didn’t have (seating in one end zone like now) and all that," said Hudspeth, who admits he always gets "choked up on Senior Night."

"(But) they trusted us when we said, ‘Come here, we’re gonna do these things.’ "

Now they have.

Cajun Field was expanded this year to accommodate more than 36,000, and additional expansion is planned.

Construction also is under way on a new Athletic Performance Center that will house UL football players, coaches and others.

"That’s where I’m kind of upset: The building is going up when I’m leaving," Anyama said.

"It’s nice to see. Just walking around, (seeing) construction – I’m like, ‘Mannnnn.’ I mean, I didn’t do this – but I had something to do with it."

They all did, in their own special way – whether it’s the big fellas up front, like Ringo and Hamilton; the locals, like Jake Molbert, Trevence Patt and Hunter Stover; the starters, like Larry Pettis, James Butler, Corey Trim and Terry Johnson; the key contributors, like Sean Thomas and Trae Johnson; the dependable backup, like Jarad Martin; the one from afar, like Aussie punter Daniel Cadona; the injured, like Marvin Martin; or the special-teamers, like Christian Sager and Marcus Jackson.

Anyama still wears a gray, torn shirt from his first season at UL to remember what things were like back at the beginning.

"These young cats, they always see me with a one-cut-sleeve shirt on," he said. "They’re like, ‘Why you do you wear that shirt. Why don’t get a new one?’ I’m like, ‘Man, if only you knew.’ "

Times were tough, especially for today’s fifth-year seniors.

But for Alabaman Harris, Louisianan Broadway, Texan Anyama, Mississippian Quave and all the rest, the bumps overcome pale when compared to have smooth the ride has become.

"I’m just thankful and blessed to have the opportunity to play," Anyama said. "I’m enjoying the opportunity, you know?"

Anyama vows not to let the meaning of the day get in his way against Appalachian State.

"When I’m on the field," he said, "I don’t really think too much about the emotions. … I just play, because the play you’re on could be your last play. So I run like there’s no tomorrow."

Quave, however, admits he’s bound to be moved when he makes his 50th straight start tonight.

That’s a whole lot of blocking for Harris, Broadway and the rest, and it’s a start in each and every Cajun game over the last four years, all since he was redshirted in 2010.

"You get so caught up in preparing for each game week in and week out that you kind of lose thought of it and, honestly, how special it is," Quave said. "Hearing 50 – it’s kind of blowing my mind, because it kind of feels like I’ve only played five.

"It can be emotional, because you really left a lot of blood, sweat and tears here. And to know that it’s coming to an end, it’s like a part of you is always gonna be here – for the better.

"And to know I sacrificed so much for this program and the university," he added, "it’s really a humbling experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything."

Asked if he was prepared to see his mother crying when he goes out to see her today, Quave indicated he was.

But Patricia Quave and the other moms won’t be alone.

"I’ll probably tear up before her, to be honest," Daniel Quave said.