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Spotlight on Former Athlete: Tim Sensley – Football 1991-95 & Track & Field 1991-96

Sensley double threat in football, track

 

 

By Bruce Brown

 

Written for Athletic Network

 

 

Tim Sensley made quite an impression in his first game at Cajun Field.

 

The redshirt freshman defensive back from Clinton paired with teammate Lerodric Gilmore for a blocked punt against UL Monroe in the 1992 home opener, with the speedy Sensley returning the block 16 yards for a touchdown.

 

That play helped the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 31-23 victory, one of only two wins that season. But, with talent like Sensley on board, UL’s fortunes quickly improved.

 

The 1993 Cajuns finished 8-3 and won the Big West Conference title, in 1994 UL was 6-5 with another BWC crown and the 1995 squad – helped by Sensley’s team-high four interceptions – was 6-5 with a runner-up showing in the Big West.

 

The Cajuns were a perfect 5-0 versus in-state competition during that stretch.

 

It was also the dawn of a new era in track and field at the school, as Cajun men’s and women’s squads dominated competition in the Sun Belt Conference. Sprinter Sensley helped UL to four men’s outdoor titles and to three indoor crowns in four tries.

 

I was so fortunate to play for two conference champions and to make all-conference under coach (Nelson) Stokley, and then to be on winners in seven of a possible eight track championships under Charles Lancon,” Sensley said.

 

I was part of a winning era of Cajun athletics.”

 

UL basketball went to the NCAA Tournament in 1992 and 1994 to amplify that strong era.

 

It was similar to the 2013-14 school year at UL, when the Cajuns posted a third straight 9-win football campaign and New Orleans Bowl victory, men’s basketball won the Sun Belt and reached the NCAA, baseball finished 58-10, one step shy of the College World Series, softball reached the WCWS and men’s tennis won the SBC.

 

 

Sensley’s success was no accident. Talent combined with hard work to build upon a stellar prep career at Clinton High.

 

In his junior year at CHS, Clinton was the No. 1 seed in football playoffs but was upset in its postseason opener. That year also saw a state runner-up finish in track. As a senior, Sensley was an all-state return specialist and all-district quarterback and defensive back, in addition to the state champion in the 100 and 200 and 4×200 relay.

 

I was a football guy who ran track,” he said. “I loved both equally. I remember talking with (UL track assistant) Tommy Badon, and him saying he wished they had me for the whole track season.

 

There are a lot of similarities between the two sports. When I played cornerback, we played a lot of ‘man’ coverage, so it was you against the other person, like it is in track – you vs. somebody. At corner, you’re out there on an island and you have to have selective amnesia.

 

In track, it was the same situation. It didn’t matter what size school you were from; if you’re fast, you’re fast.”

 

Sensley was fast – he was unbeaten in the 200 as a prep senior, with a best time of 21.2 – but was shocked at how much better he needed to be to compete for the Cajuns.

 

As a freshman,” he said, “I couldn’t get on the 4×100. Coach Badon changed my running style, and it helped me in the long run. He would meet me at 5:30 (a.m.) for workouts. He cared. It was great to be part of someone who was committed to his craft.”

 

Sensley was redshirted in football as he adapted to the notion that he was a full-time defensive back under secondary coach Mike Doherty. He had returned two (of four) interceptions for touchdowns in a 14-6 prep playoff win over Jackson, but was reluctant.

 

Doherty developed Sensley’s skills and joined him with Orlando Thomas, Britt Jackson, Fernando Thomas and Damon Mason for one of the best secondaries in the country.

 

Coach Doherty was the best defensive backs coach I ever played under,” Sensley said. “He was a drill sergeant who got the best out of you. He was a blessing to me. He was an NFL coach on the college level, a real student of the game.

 

He always told us we can’t mess up, because if we do, the (other school’s) band plays. We played hard for him.”

 

Those Cajuns also boasted offensive stars like Jake Delhomme, Brandon Stokley, Donald Richard, Marcus Carter, Troy Tauriac, Ron Thomas, Kenyon Cotton, Marcus Prier and Steve Mocek, and practices were often intense.

 

I was fortunate to play with a bunch of guys who were willing to compete with each other,” Sensley said. “After practicing during the week, we were ready for Saturday. They were no better that Marcus Carter. We went against great route runners.

 

We didn’t give an inch in practice. There were skirmishes, but we left it on the football field because we were family.”

 

The 1993 Cajuns didn’t get a bowl game berth, despite the 8-3 record and BWC title, but they turned the corner to competitiveness.

 

Our last game, we were 7-3 and playing La. Tech,” Sensley said. “LSU was 5-5, but with a win would get the Independence Bowl. I understood that, know about crowd support. But when I look at that (Cajun) team, we showed we had guys who could have competed in a bowl.

 

It left a bad taste in our mouths, because we felt we were overlooked.”

 

 

Sensley played in the NFL for a year each with the New York Giants and Carolina Panhers before moving on with his life.

 

It was an eye-opener,” he said. “It reminded me of leaving high school for college, only more so. Everyone there had been ‘the man’ on their team. It was more about the mental than physical tools to compete.

 

You had to be fundamentally sound. There was no room for error, because on that level you’re going against the elite. You learn that just because someone is big, he’s not necessarily slow.

 

In film study, you’ll look at the same play 10-20 times. You want to see if the receiver gives anything away with his head or hands. You can’t play tight. You have to be relaxed and believe in your skills.

 

You have to be a student of the game. In a split-second, you revert to film and tendencies.”

 

When his brief pro career was over, Sensley was ready. He graduated UL with a degree in industrial technology, in addition to graduate hours.

 

I was from a small town, and used the gifts I was blessed with,” Sensley said. “It was a business. I did it by self-discipline, motivation and time management. I accomplished something.”

 

Sensley and his wife Carol are parents of daughters Camryn Nicole and Brianna Michelle. Since 2006, he has been at Hamilton Christian Academy in Lake Charles, serving as assistant principal and coach in basketball and football among other duties.

 

It’s demanding on me (dual duties), but I got the bug,” he said. “Last year I was head football coach and we made the first round of the playoffs. We’re getting three guys recruited this year.

 

I instill in them that academics is important. Not everybody makes it to the big dance, or stays too long. What are you going to fall back on? I develop the young man first, the athlete second.

 

My emphasis is on the game of life,” said Sensley, who holds study hall, then practice, each day. “I tell them, ‘Don’t accept losing, but don’t be a sore loser.’ Athletics is a microcosm of life.”

 

Sensley talks like someone with a clear focus, anchored by a wife who “truly completes me” and elite gymnast daughters.

 

A regular at UL track and field reunions and close follower of Mark Hudspeth’s job with the Cajun football program (“I’m proud of what they’re doing now”), Sensley retains close contacts with many from his UL days.

 

I made lifelong friends and have no regrets,” said Sensley, whose family has spent the last six Christmases visiting with UL track All-American and U.S. Olympian Hollis Conway and his family.

 

The older I get, the key thing is family,” he said. “We realize who we are and what we need to do. We have to stay rooted, grounded in God.”

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Tim and his 1993 teammates are pictured below.

Click here for the AN profile of Tim Sensley.

Below are Carol & Tim Sensley and daughters with Coach Tommy Badon at the 2010 Track & Field Reunion.

 

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Click here for the chronological listings of the Spotlight on Former Athletes.