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Football: Why two Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns football freshmen kept their signings a secret for six wee

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, June 13, 2021

Click here for the Advertiser’s drone footage over the UL athletic fields.

Ja’Marian Peterson and his high school teammate, Montrell Johnson Jr., were the final two additions UL football announced on National Signing Day.

When coach Billy Napier initially spoke with media members about the 2021 class on a Wednesday morning in early February, he never mentioned the two by name.

Peterson never even made his intention public before the big day arrived. 

Once they were finally announced, Peterson and Johnson, two former Arizona commitments who reported last week to UL for summer workouts, seemed like unexpected bonuses for a signing class that already was sound without them.

But there was no surprise about their addition. Peterson, a linebacker, and Johnson, a running back, signed with UL in December.

“The Cajun coaches knew. Montrell knew, of course. And maybe a few other teammates knew,” Peterson said. “But that’s about it. Not many people knew.

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“You have to trust who you tell – and, man, it was hard for me, because I was so excited when I signed in December. I wanted to tell everybody. But I knew I wanted to keep that as a surprise.”

Peterson told only people he knew could keep a secret.

“So my family – I kind of asked them to limit their time on social media,” he said. “Some of the friends I told – those people don’t really use social media like that.

“I feel like it was harder on me (than the people he did tell), because I was really excited. I didn’t want anybody to know – but, at the same time, I wanted the world to know.”

Napier just laughs

For Napier, keeping Peterson and Johnson under wraps is something he would proudly laugh about later.

He  makes no apologies either.

“I think it’s more commonplace than you would think,” he said.

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Napier didn’t say anything during public comments on signing day because he was speaking late in the morning, and the two new Cajuns had a mass signing ceremony scheduled at their school – De La Salle High in New Orleans – that afternoon.

At the event, Peterson played out the hat game before picking UL’s over ones from Mississippi State, Purdue, Memphis and Boston College.

“It was genuine surprise (for many in attendance),” he said. “I heard the emotions cry out once I took my jacket off and … had my UL collared shirt on.”

Not the first time

The two simply wanted it to be kept as quiet as possible, and Napier  went along.

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“It’s just an agreement we had with the young man and his family, you know?” said Napier, who did the same thing when defensive lineman Mason Narcisse of St. Charles Catholic signed  after the 2019 high school season.

“They’ve got a certain way they’d like to go about it. We’re just trying to respect them. They keep it tight-lipped because they want to have that celebration, or that part of the experience, and certainly we agree with that.”

UL didn’t announce the signing of Narcisse, who at various times also was committed to Louisiana Tech and Tulane, until February 2020. In mid-January of that year, the recruit announced he had committed to UL.

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But Narcisse actually had already signed in December.

For Peterson and Johnson, hush was the word because rather than publicize their early signings in December they genuinely wanted to wait just so they could do it at the same time as other De La Salle players in February.

“I decided to announce it with my teammates,” Peterson said, “because I didn’t want anyone to feel left out.

“We all came in together – so I wanted to go out together, you know?”