April 9, 2020

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LA High School Football

LSU’S PATRICK PETERSON AND TYRANN MATHIEU NAMED TO NFL ALL-DECADE TEAM

BATON ROUGE – Former LSU football greats Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu have been named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 2010s, the NFL and Pro Football Hall of Fame announced on Monday.

Peterson and Mathieu, both All-America defensive backs at LSU, were among 52 players along with two head coaches named to the 2010s All-Decade Team.

Peterson, drafted No. 5 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, has played his entire pro career with the Arizona Cardinals, earning first team All-Pro honors on three occasions and being selected to the Pro Bowl eight times. Peterson has started 138 games in his career, recording 25 interceptions, 438 tackles and 10 tackles for loss. He’s also scored five touchdowns, including an NFL-best four in punt returns for scores as a rookie in 2011.

Mathieu, who helped Kansas City win Super Bowl LV in February, had four interceptions and 89 total tackles for the World Champion Chiefs in 2019. During his seven-year NFL career, which spans stops in Arizona, Houston and Kansas City, Mathieu has 25 interceptions and 472 tackles.

Mathieu has twice been named first team All-Pro and has made one appearance in the Pro Bowl.

Peterson and Mathieu were both national award winners at LSU with Peterson claiming the Bednarik and Thorpe Awards in 2010, while Mathieu won the Bednarik Award in 2011 after helping the Tigers to a 13-0 regular season mark and the SEC title that year.

Mathieu went on to become a third round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2013. 

Peterson and Mathieu are part of an LSU group of defensive backs dubbed “DBU”. During the decade that spans 2010-19, LSU had 15 defensive backs selected in the NFL Draft, which includes five first rounds picks, a group that consists of Peterson (No. 5 overall in 2010), Morris Claiborne (No. 6 overall in 2012), Eric Reid (No. 18 overall in 2012), Jamal Adams (No. 6 overall in 2017) and Tre’Davious White (No. 28 overall in 2017).

-Michael Bonnette

Diamond In The Rough: Donovan McCray

Donovan McCray is a running back and outside linebacker for Mentorship Academy High School from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. McCray is 5’10” with a weight of 195Ibs and runs a 4.64 40 dash. Donovan received the WBRZ fan choice award and 1st team all-district for running back last season. He also has maintained a 3.3 GPA throughout his high school career. Donovan has a very high work ethic ad loves being in the gym and lifting weights as a way to wind down and relax. He benches 295 and squats a 425. McCray is a well-rounded player on the field and has a nose for the ball being on both sides of it. 

How long have you been playing football? Do or did you play any other sports?

Since I was about  5 years old. Football was my number one sport, but I played basketball partly. 

What about football made you love it so much? 

The contact and the physicality. It’s just a fun sport. I also like to take my aggression out and with football it’s easy.

Were you always a running back or have you played any other positions? 

All career played linebacker until 8th grade, then I transitioned to both positions. 

What sets you apart as a player? 

My pass catching ability and my vision.  I see a lot of openings, balance,  and my unwillingness to go down and be tackled. My physicality, you won’t want to tackle me. 

Do you have any pre or post game traditions? 

No, just music and get in the zone. 

Do you have a favorite athlete, or one you look up to? Why?

Derrick Henry, he played for my favorite team in Alabama. I like how he can be dominate force on field, control the age, set the tempo. I like that play style and try to mimic it. 

How do you deal with adversity on and off the field? 

Depends, regroup with my team and talk about what went wrong. Watching film to see our mistakes and fix them. This helps to plan and execute better in the future. 

Who or what are your biggest motivators? Why? 

My mom, because no matter what or how hard it is, she makes sure my sisters and I are okay.  She tries to make everything happen and it’s only her with us. She just does a wonderful job and  I want to give back to her so she can have what she wants and needs.  

What lesson has football taught you that will remain with you? 

First of all, there’s no “I” in team. You must work with your people to achieve that goal and put differences aside. Basically, teamwork, unity, selfless, discipline, and listen to your coaches and teammates feedback to gain success.  

Diamond In The Rough: Christian Howard

Christian Howard is an upcoming senior, graduating in 2021 from Donaldsonville, Louisiana. Christian is an Offensive Tackle and Defensive End for the Varsity football team. He stands at 6’1” and weighs 255Ibs and runs a 5.01 40. Howard is a versatile player being that he plays on both sides of the ball. He is always being relied on by his team and shows great leadership. Christian doesn’t let anyone, or anything stop him from reaching his goals. During his junior season Howard received all-district for O-Line. Howard also excels in academics and has managed to keep a 3.0 GPA. 

About how long would you say you’ve been playing football? 

Since I was probably in the sixth grade. 

What about football made you love the sport so much? 

I feel like football is a way to get my  mind off my problems at home. It helps keep me focused and stay on track. I wouldn’t be me without it. 

Are you involved in any other sports or organizations at school? Outside of school? 

I was playing basketball, but I quit because I just want to play football. 

How is it playing on both sides of the ball? 

It feels good! I feel like I’m always needed, relied on.  

Do you do anything specific or particular before each game? 

My cousin Rashaad Landry and I pray together before each game. Also, my mom and grandma always send me pre- game texts.  

Are your mom and grandma a big impact in your life?

Big, big impacts, they are always there for me since I had no father figure.  They support me through it all.

What is your favorite thing about football season?

I love it all, but my favorite is homecoming. It’s a scene I feel like I see people from everywhere like Florida, and other places. To me it’s so fun and it’s something to always look forward to because it’s annual. 

What do you do during off season?

I train with my two trainers Michael Landry and Cortez Mitchell. 

What does your training usually look like?  

We do speed and agility on weekends. On M/W/F usually lifting weights and T/TH we are outside working on my skills; hand work, tackling, placement, etc.

Have you had to overcome any hardships? 

At one point I didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school; like play football still. I had people telling me I wasn’t going to play after high school, and I wasn’t going to make it. I felt like I had taken care of everyone and keep my mind on the right track. 

What lesson did it teach you? 

It taught me I can make anything possible. You shouldn’t let anyone decide your destiny or future. If you do that some people will try to control your mind. I had my head down and then I reminded myself don’t give up.

How does football help you off the field? 

It helps me stay focused. I know need to keep my grades straight and be good at home. It helps  keeps me out of trouble. Without football I’d probably be on the streets. That’s just how it is out here, and I want to be different.

So, what are your plans for college? 

I was thinking JUCO  at first but, I’ll go where I feel like I’m at home. If  it’s a D1 or D2 school I want to stay as close to home as possible. Maybe LSU, Southern, ULL, Southeastern, just somewhere close. 

Who do you look up to most? 

I’d have to say Michael Landry because he was just a coach at our school then, he came into my life. I started to understand his life and listen to his stories and he started to understand my life. He played in the NFL and chose his path. Yes, some people make mistakes, but follow who makes the lesser mistakes. He’s a great role model and no I don’t want to be just like him but a little different and have my own path. 

What are you looking forward to most about your senior season? 

I’m just ready for it to start. I know I’m going to be a big impact and leader for my team. But, I’m not ready for the last game. I don’t want it to end so fast like this year did, ended quickly. My #1 goal next season besides winning the championship is to beat St. James.

How do you plan to obtain that goal? 

Over this off season before this outbreak we worked out every day. So many of us were getting it rolling just pushing each other to be better. 

Do you and your teammates have a close bond? 

Very close, I plan to keep my bonds after high school. I also plan to come back any chance I get to see everyone. 

Diamond in the Rough: Rickie Collins

Rickie Collins is a class of 2023 quarterback for Woodlawn High School in Baton Rouge, LA. Even at such a young age, Collins possesses a great build for the quarterback position, standing at 6’2 and 170 lbs. An upcoming sophomore, Collins is equipped with an absolute cannon of an arm, with great touch and accuracy to make up his arm strength. If not through the air, Rickie has little problems finding open running lanes and torching defenses with his speed. It is normal for Freshman quarterbacks to have problems adjusting to the steep learning curve of the position, but watching Collins’s film, it is evident that his football IQ is beyond his years. Whether making the correct reads through the air or in the option game, Collins rarely struggles with his quick decision making. Along with an exceptional football intelligence, Rickie maintains that attitude in the classroom, boasting a 3.6 overall GPA.

What did football teach you about yourself or life once you began playing?

It showed me how to bond and build a brotherhood, and how people can become family to you.

Who or what has been your biggest motivation or role model in the sport?

My motivation is not to fail and I’ll say my role model is my grandfather. He taught me pretty much everything I know.

Do you have a favorite memory from your playing career?

 My favorite memory of my whole career I’ll have to say is this year. I’ve learned so much in this past year.

Are you involved in any other sports or activities at school besides football? If so, how do you believe those experiences have helped you on the football field?

I also play basketball and baseball and it helps me on the field by adjusting to different atmospheres. 

As a quarterback, what is it like being in a leadership position? What is the most rewarding aspect and what is the most challenging?

 I love that pressure, I love the spotlight, I love carrying my dogs on my back. The thing I love the most about it is that I’m the person everyone comes to and when you put your teammates in position to make the big play is extremely satisfying. 

Do you have a favorite athlete, college or NFL, that you look up to?

The athlete I look up to most is Deshaun Watson. Just the swagger in the leadership he brings to the games is something I try to model myself after.

What current player, college or NFL, do you believe your playstyle reflects most?

 I think I play closest to pat Mahomes because he just has that unique play making ability that I possess.

Outside of sports, do you have any hobbies or passions you pursue in your free time? What about them do you enjoy most?

 I just like spending time with my family and bettering myself as both an athlete and a person.

For the 2020 season, what are some personal goals that you look forward to accomplishing? Has your team set a specific set of goals for the upcoming season as well?

 Some personal goals I have is sharpening my foot work, sharpening my reads. get stronger mentally and physically, and become a better teammate. We just try to make each other better and get to the dome and just build our program as a powerhouse 

What advice would you give to younger football players who hope to one day play high school football?

 I’d say I’m this lost breed that I bring my own little flavor to the game and I’ll tell them to get their books, stay humble, be respectful, grind and out work the next man.

Tell me a bit about the challenges of a school that has recently moved up to 5A football.

They are bigger, stronger, faster and smarter but that’s why we’re going to get bigger stronger and faster and out smart our opponents  

What are some of the biggest impacts that first year head coach, Marcus Randall, has brought to the program?

 Coach Randall brought this swagger and this work ethic that we all feed off of as a team. He brought an entirely different knowledge of the game being a college and professional football player. Our guys soaked up that knowledge like a sponge.

With the new Coronavirus epidemic sweeping our country, a lot of teams nationwide have not been allowed to practice during the spring. How have you guys addressed this and hope to overcome it?

We told our guys do your push ups sit ups and run your mile a day to stay strong and in shape. We also told them to up your knowledge on the game and get stronger mentally as well

Finally, what do you believe to be the most rewarding part about playing the sport and being a part of a team?

It’s just a different feeling seeing your brothers succeed. The team getting better and  stronger is a great feeling .

Diamond in the Rough – Wyatt Coffey

Wyatt Coffey is a 2021 linebacker that plays for Archbishop Hannan in Covington, La. The junior explains to me that despite having over 80 tackles last season that playing the linebacker spot was not his primary position, and that he stepped up to fill a need for his team. He hopes to rejoin the running back room next season and be a two way starter on both offense and defense. Coffey has displayed immense strength in the weight room, posting impressive numbers including a 525lb Squat, 335lb Clean, and a 475lb Front Squat.

As impressive as these numbers are, even more impressive is the fact that Wyatt has done all this without the use of a right pectoral muscle. The 5’11 190lb junior was born with a rare genetic disorder known as Poland’s Anomaly which affects between one in 10,000 to one in 100,000 births. Coffey tells me that he uses his disorder as motivation on and off the field, and that he is blessed because in some cases children can be born without fingers or even right limbs. In the classroom the junior currently has a 3.9 GPA and 28 ACT.

When did you start playing football?

I started playing in third grade at Pelican Park, my dad was my coach. I played quarterback, my dad has kind of everything I know. He taught me my passion for the game, my football IQ, he’s been there every step of the way from little league to preparing for college.

What do you love about football?

 I love to hit people, that’s one of my favorite things to do. I like the tactics of the game. Just setting up routes and coverages and seeing what works on what. I love just as much the physical as much the mental part of the game. It’s all super important to me.

Did you play any other sports growing up?

I treat weightlifting as a sport, just because it helps out your football quite a bit. I wrestled and run track since seventh grade. Track for speed and wrestling for conditioning.

What motivates you the most?

My dad helps me a lot. I like to chase his numbers as far as weightlifting goes. He played football at Navy too so I chase his tackles. He is always there for me when I need a push to keep going or get better. Whenever I settle for something, he makes sure I am not at the top yet, so he has been my biggest motivator for me.

Speaking of chasing, your dad sent me a video of you power cleaning the other day, and it ties the record high school record of now NFL running back.

So my dad went to Catholic High School and Derrius Guice is on the board right underneath my dad for power clean, and I’ve been chasing his power clean for some time now and I just tied it at 335 last week. So, I am pretty excited about that. But, yeah Derrius Guice is a big motivator for me. I see myself as pretty equivalent in the weight room, so I am trying get to where he is now.

Going back to this previous season, what were your goals?

I wanted to play a little running back, but that didn’t work out this year, I am expecting it to work out this year.

What would you say is a strength in your game play?

I like to study film quite a bit, and so I kind of notice plays before they develop. So, I get there a lot faster before the normal linebacker would. Which is kind of helpful with speed, I also like to hit people, I get there before everyone else so I can hit him hard. I guess football IQ is another strength that only shows up on film.

Who would say you model your game after?

Chaisson from LSU, as far as defense. He can rush off the edge, but sometimes drop back. As far as offense goes probably Saquan (Barkley) and Derrius Guice

At the end of this year, what you want your coaches and teammates to say about you?

I really would want them to see me as a guy that leads by example and not by words only. I’m not only going to tell people to do something but I’m going to do it myself. I want my coaches to see me as a gateway to help them be a voice for player to player contact. Overall be a leader for the team and be someone that the guys can go to.

If you weren’t playing football, what sport do you think you would be playing?

Probably Olympic weightlifting. That’s the next thing I would go to, my dad was also an Olympic weightlifter, that’s also another passion I do have.

On a scale of 1 to 10 what would be your ideal performance number?

I think about an eight and a half. Because at that point I feel I’m still very passionate and level headed but I’m not too over the top and too excited to where I can’t see everything that’s happening around me.   

Diamond in the Rough: Lanard Harris

Lanard Harris is a class of 2021 defensive back out of Woodlawn High School in Baton Rouge, LA. Harris stands 5’11 185 lbs with a bench press of 290, a squat of 385, and a 40 yard dash time of 4.49. Along with DB, Harris is an exceptional receiver, posing as a go-to deep threat anytime he steps onto the field. On special teams, Lanard should be avoided at all costs for opposing kickoff teams. Harris has a dangerous return ability with little problems finding correct lanes and can take it to the house once in open space. A special defensive back all in all, Harris can just as easily pick off quarterbacks as he can lower his shoulder to provide monstrous hits on opposing ball carriers. Harris has an uncanny nose for the football and is an overall ball-hawking defender.

At what age did you begin playing football and what initially interested you about the sport? 

I started playing football at the age of 5 years old. What initially interested me about football was watching family play and seeing stars in the NFL play. It looked fun and I wanted to try it. 

What did football teach you about yourself or life once you began playing? 

What football taught me about myself is that I’m a hard worker, and there may be hard times but to never give up. Once I saw the talent and the ability to do the things I could do, it showed me that football was my way out and there to make my dreams come true. 

Who or what has been your biggest motivation or role model in the sport? 

My biggest motivation is Ray Lewis and my role model is Jamal Adams. 

Do you have a favorite memory from your playing career? 

My second to last game against Catholic High. I scored 4 touchdowns but they called 2 back. Also, in my last game against McKinley High School, I took the football out of the running back’s hands from the 25 yard line and scored a 75 yard touchdown.    

Are you involved in any other sports or activities at school besides football? If so, how do you believe those experiences have helped you on the football field? 

Yes, I am involved in Track and Field. These experiences have helped me with my speed and the ability to perform better on the field. 
 

As a defensive, what is it like being in a leadership position? What is the most rewarding aspect and what is the most challenging? 

Being in the defensive back leadership position, it has always pushed me to do better because I know there’s always somebody on the team looking up to me. So, I must set an example in the classroom most importantly, on the field, and off the field! 

Do you have a favorite athlete, college or NFL, that you look up to? 

My favorite athlete is Xavier Mckinney from Alabama State University. A college that I look up to is LSU because it is a great school educationally, have an amazing coaching staff, and great players. Also, they are the 2020 National Champions 

What current player, college or NFL, do you believe your playstyle reflects most? 

Xavier Mckinney because we both play Safety; we are both aggressive and quick. 

Outside of sports, do you have any hobbies or passions you pursue in your free time? What about them do you enjoy most?  

Some of hobbies are playing video games, going out with friends, and doing extra work to help me get better in school. 

For the 2020 season, what are some personal goals that you look forward to accomplishing? Has your team set a specific set of goals for the upcoming season as well? 

Some personal goals I have is to make all-state, become the number 1 player in LA, and sign to a D-1 college for football. Yes, my team has set some high goals for the season that we plan to achieve them. 

What do you believe separates you from other high school lineman in the state of Louisiana?  

What makes me different from other DB’s is my speed, my aggressiveness and the way I play. 

What makes you unique to your position?  

What makes me unique is my speed, my fast reactions, my weight and, strength. 

What advice would you give to younger football players who hope to one day play high school football? 

Some advice I would give is always put school first and sports second, always work hard and never give up. Also, to always stay focused. 

Tell me a bit about the challenges of a school that has recently moved up to 5A football. 

Some challenges Woodlawn High has faced since we have moved up is better and bigger teams, along with more competition. 

What are some of the biggest impacts that first year head coach, Marcus Randall, has brought to the program? 

What Coach has brought is a better coaching staff, more players and, created a better team. Basically, he just turned the whole program around and made it better. 

With the new Coronavirus epidemic sweeping our country, a lot of teams nationwide have not been allowed to practice during the spring. How have you guys addressed this and hope to overcome it? 

We addressed this by doing what we can do individually until all this is over. 
 
 

Finally, what do you believe to be the most rewarding part about playing the sport and being a part of a team? 

The most rewarding part is traveling, playing against the best of the best, winning games, and seeing the team come together as a family.  

Diamond in the Rough: Christian Williams

Christian Williams is a class of 2021 defensive backs and wide receiver from Parkview Baptist High School in Baton Rouge, LA. Williams stands at 5’10 176 lbs with a bench press of 205, a squat of 375, and a 40 yard dash time of 4.5 seconds. Williams is a three year varsity starter for Parkview and a two year varsity starter at dual positions. Over his playing career, Christian’s success and accomplishments on the field earned him multiple accolades, including: 2017-2018 TCA Defensive MVP Award, two-time All-Saban Team Award, FBU Top Performer, and The Show! By Nextgen All-American Selection. When reviewing William’s tape, it is evident to why the upcoming senior is held in such high regard. At the defensive back position, whether playing corner or safety, Christian is great at both man and zone coverages. Receivers rarely find success against this ball hawking defensive back. In the run game, Williams shows an almost linebacker-like mentality; immediately flocking to ball carriers with full force. Williams is one of the most versatile athletes in the state, and with another year under his belt, Christian has the time to grow into an even more explosive player, making him a prime target for colleges nationwide. 

Talk to me a bit about what got you into the game of football and around what age you began to take an interest in the sport.

I was around 7 years old when I began to play and take interest in football. It was mainly due to watching my godfather Jonathan Zenon (former LSU and NFL corner) play, along with watching Jessie Daniels. (Daniels is Christian’s uncle, who played DB for the 2003 National Champion LSU Team. Christian wears number 31 in his uncle’s honor)

What was it like watching your godfather and uncle play for a school with the caliber of LSU? What did it mean to you as a young player?

Well, it instilled that physicality and teamwork mentality on me at a very young age. They are like big brothers to me, and helped me work well with coaches and the older players on my terms due to the maturity and insight he brought to the table.

What are some things about football that immediately felt natural to you once you began playing?

It was really just quickly understanding the right and wrong ways to do things. Whether that was how I was running my routes as a receiver, or properly forming tackles as a defender, I adapted fast to those aspects of the game. I believe that’s why I’m able to be a versatile athlete today and can easily play both sides of the ball as a starter.

Still speaking on your early playing days, is there anything that the sport immediately instilled in you from a young age?

Definitely. Football is a sport that teaches responsibility and character skills because of how mentally and physically tough it is. You have to learn those lessons quickly if you want to succeed. I believe it also really helped in my communication skills as well and how I interact with people due to the importance of communication in football.

At this stage in your playing career, what are some things that you are focused on moving forward?

Leadership skills for sure. By doing things like staying out of trouble and maintaining good grades in the classroom, it sets an example for the younger guys which helps the team out a lot. Football is not a sport that lasts forever, so learning these lessons at a young age is extremely important to me. 

Can you talk to me a bit about some personal and team goals that you and your teammates have set for the upcoming 2020 season?

Personally, I just want to do whatever it takes to help my team make the playoffs and reach our highest potential. As far as the team, we’re really focused on getting faster and stronger. We want to get better as a unit each and every practice, which we know will translate into the season. 

What sets you apart from other players across the state at your position or positions? What have you done to achieve this?

My work ethic for sure. I spend a lot of time working out after school and also putting in extra work after practice. Doing things like working on hand-eye coordination by going out and catching tennis balls are some little things I like to incorporate to make me a better athlete. It’s working on these fundamentals that I think really separate you and show serious improvement to your athletic ability. 

Are there any specific rituals or routines you feel you must do before a big game?

I always want to make sure I watch some film before a game in order to key in on certain plays or players to improve my matchups. Music is also important to me before a game. I enjoy listening to rap to get me energized and ready, but also enjoy listening to some slower paced music to really help prepare my mind and put it at ease. 

Once on the field, what motivates you, play in and play out? It can be a person, a goal, or anything really. 

What motivates me most is trying to make it as far in this sport as I can for my mother. I want to show her the same love and support she has given me my entire life and playing career. 

Can you describe to me your playstyle as a defensive back?

I’m really good in zone coverage and I love man-to-man. My coach always instructs me to lock up the best receiver on the field, and I think that speaks to my versatility as a DB. 

What about describing yourself as a player in general, being that you are multi-position?

I am a true athlete and my range of versatility really helps my playstyle. I have the mindset that there is no position I wouldn’t be able to play. 

Finally, do you have any words of advice for kids who are just entering the sport for the first time and may have some hesitation or uncertainty about playing football?

Always keep your head up no matter what. Football is a game of adversity but that adversity will only grow you into a better person down the road. If you are undersized, block it out. Football is a game of heart and that heart is what will determine your success. I would also like to say how important the friendships and bonds you make playing football are. It’s a game where you form life-long brotherhoods and that’s priceless. 

Diamond In The Rough: Cedrick Pellum

Cedrick Pellum is a wide receiver playing at Dallas Madison. He is 6’2” weighs 180 pounds, and you see in his film that he uses his body well. Cedrick is fast and has long legs that he uses to get by defensive backs. At the same time, he is also shifty and is utilized for screens where he often cuts his way through defenders to get in the open, to then blaze past everyone. Cedrick has raw versatile talent, he can do anything that a receiver needs to do, he can go up and catch, gets off the line of scrimmage, he is athletic, runs smooth routes, and he blocks well in the running game. Not only is Cedrick a standout football player, he is a smart kid who works to maintain a strong 3.1 GPA.

When did you start playing football?

I played baseball for most of my childhood, so I did not start football until the 6th grade. This is later than most people start football, I did not start playing wide receiver until I was in 8th grade. I think this gives me more room to grow as a player.

What is your favorite thing about football?

The family and brotherhood atmosphere it gives me, especially the brotherhood I have with my teammates. I did not have a dad growing up, but my coaches have been father figures for me. Football helped give me the support that I did not always have.

What qualities or values differentiate you from your competition?

I am a physical receiver; most corners are not used to that. I think I am better than most at high pointing the ball and bringing it down, my favorite route is an out-and-up for that reason, I get to show my physicality and the go up and get the ball. I really enjoy blocking and laying down hits for my running backs.

At what moment did you realize you loved football?

In 8th grade when I was moved to receiver, I felt that my talent was unleashed. Prior to receiver I played a lot of linebacker, I liked it, it is where I learned to be physical and hit people. My natural skill set is built for a receiver, so I am happy I play it.

Would you still be playing football if you were not moved to receiver?

Yeah, I think so. I played football for two years before the switch and I still enjoyed it much. I love football playing receiver made me love it more, but my love for the game exceeds just playing receiver.

What has football taught you off the field?

Communication, football has taught me how to express myself better, I was not always the best at doing that.

Who is your biggest role model?

My cousin, he is a hard worker who put himself through college and got a master’s degree. Once he got his degree, he moved back home to help out his family.

What is your major in college?

I have always been interested in the criminal justice system; it is a very fascinating field. I am not sure what I want to do yet.

How do you prepare for games?

I keep it pretty simple, nothing weird, I just listen to music. I like 21 Savage and Future a lot.

Do you model your game after anyone?

Julio Jones for sure, I think we play a similar type of game, I wear number 11 because of him. We both play physical, have good body control, and having the ability to go get the ball.

Diamond In The Rough: Darius Lewis

Fast, leaping ability, footwork, catching. These are the necessary tools receivers need to succeed, Darius Lewis excels in every one of them. The senior out of Del Valle has had to switch schools several times in his high school career and has been successful at every stop. Darius has 4.5 40 speed and gets off the ball quickly, and he seems faster in games. Darius complements his speed with shiftiness and precise route-running ability. Standing at 5’9”, Darius uses his height and low center of gravity to break in and out of routes, as well making him hard to tackle with the ball in his hands. When the ball is lobbed up into the air, Darius is an explosive athlete and has an impressive 37-inch vertical leap to get over defenders, highpoint the ball and bring it in.  Darius excels in school and has a 3.2 GPA, to compliment his athletic ability.

When did you start playing football?

I started playing when I was 6, my dad played in the NFL and it has been around me my whole life, it seemed like I had to play. I played running back and corner mostly, my freshman year, I played quarterback. I did not play wide receiver until my sophomore year.

What was the moment that you fell in love with football?

There was not a specific moment, the competition aspect of the game is something I fell in love with. I love competing and working to be better than my opponent.

Did you play any other sports growing up?

I played pretty much everything, soccer, baseball, basketball, track. I loved basketball, it was hard choosing football over basketball, but I know I made the right choice.

What is your favorite thing about football?

The walk from the locker room to the field, where I am just focusing on the game, getting ready to compete, and taking in the atmosphere of the stadium, fans, the music. It is the best feeling in the world.

What are your hobbies outside of football?

I like to hang out with my friends. I got into graphic design earlier this year, and I am enjoying it, so when I have some free time, I do that a lot. I am still new to it and seeing myself improve throughout these months has been cool.

What has football taught you off the field?

Sports and football specifically, had taught me how to lead, passion and trying to find things that I enjoy. Football, of course, taught me discipline and toughness. I started at Del Valle in August, and I already feel like one of the leaders of this team, I was accepted into this team immediately.

Has football helped you overcome anything in your personal life?

Football takes my mind off all the stresses of life and just have fun for a few hours, whatever happens during a day, I have three hours of football to look forward to. When my grandfather got sick and we moved to Texas, everything about that time was hard, but the team helped me out and was always there for me.

Who is your biggest role model?

My Dad, he played football in college and the NFL and knows what kind of things I am going through, and he is always helping me out and helping me succeed. Another role model is coach CJ Maiden, he was my receivers coach my sophomore year. We had an immediate connection and he is a big reason I am the player I am now. He is still involved in my life, and we talk often. I just talked to him the other day.

What is your intended major in college?

Business management, business is something I have always liked, a company is kind of like a team, everybody has a different job and role, and they all need to do their job in order to be successful. Business also has so many different aspects that I could go into many different professions.

Do you model your game after anyone?

I try to be myself, make my own name. I play the way I am, trying to model my game after someone else takes away from what I can do and what my skill set is.

What is the hardest and easiest part of playing wide receiver?

The hardest part is knowing where everyone is on the field, if you run a crossing route and you lose track of the safety it is easy to get your head taken off. The easiest part for me is catching, it is natural for me, I do not panic, and I am calm and confident when the ball is coming towards me.

What is your favorite route to run, why?

I like to run post corners and any route with double moves in general. I like shaking corners and beating them over the top, catching the ball with no one around me because I ran a great route is awesome.

Diamond in the Rough – Saivion Jones

Saivion Jones is a defensive end from St. James high school in St. James, Louisiana. The 2021 recruit helped the Wildcats capture their first state championship in over 40 years. Standing at 6’5 and weighing in at 250 pounds, Jones has drawn comparisons to former LSU defensive ends like Barkevious Mingo and Arden Key. Jones has elite speed coming off the edge, and a nose for the football. The junior seemed to live in many offensive backfields this past season having multiple tackle for loss and sack games. Saivion has a tremendous first step and in some cases has beaten the offensive lineman across from him with that initial step. The junior tells me he wants to work more during this off season to increase his foot speed. Jones currently has a 3.4 GPA and a 19 ACT.

When did you start playing football?

I’ve been playing since I was about six years old. I started with a little league team called the Rams.

What do you love about football?

I love that it brings a lot of competitiveness, and if you want to compete, that’s where you have to go.

Did you play any other sports growing up?

I played basketball too, I’m still playing basketball. I started playing football first, and then basketball.

Did you play any other positions other than defensive end?

I played tight end too. For basketball, I played center and power forward.

On the football field, what style of play best describes you?

I think a person that likes to get after it, every single play, and just work hard.

Going back to this previous season, what were your personal goals?

My personal goals were for to us have less than five mistakes every game, and to at least have ten sacks at the end of the season. I met all those goals.

Who are some of your biggest influences?

My mom, she is the one that keeps me grounded. She keeps me going.

Do you think attitude is a factor in winning?

Oh yeah! Attitude is a big factor in the game. If you have a bad attitude, it won’t bring you very far in the game of football. But it you have a good attitude it can bring you far.

On game day what was one of your biggest strengths?

I would say my speed, my quickness, the ability to get off the ball and get up field.

What motivates you the most?

The thing that motivates me the most is my school, we hadn’t won a state championship in forty years, so we were hungry for it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, what would be your ideal performance number?

Well, every ones ideal would be a ten, but I would love to stay above a seven at least. I feel like five is just average, and I don’t want to settle for average. I want to stay above average.

At the end of this coming year, what would your coaches and teammates say about you?

That I’m a hard working person.

If you weren’t playing football, what sport would you be playing?

Basketball, probably playing center or power forward.

Diamond in the Rough: Brady Talley

Brady Talley is a kicker out of Saint Paul’s School in Covington, Louisiana. Brady measures at 6’0 145 lbs. Talley is a spot-on kicker as he hits the ball with velocity and drives it through the goal posts. He is consistent and is already displaying the ability to make kicks from 50+ yards. Off the field, Brady has a 4.0 GPA and 33 ACT score.

When did you start playing football and what did you first love about the game?

I’ve loved the game since I was a little kid and I always wanted to find a way to get into the game. I started off spring of my freshman year. I’ve always been a great kicker because of my soccer background, but I didn’t love the game of soccer. I love the game of football, so I just put the two together.

Who are some of your biggest motivators for playing the game of football?

My family. They’re always supporting me, whether it’s encouraging me to work on my craft to be the best I can be or cheering for me on game days.

How do you mentally prepare yourself to go out and take and make kicks?

Being a kicker it’s very much a mind game. I tune everything out and that best helps me to focus on doing my job and not making any mistakes.

What differentiates you from other kickers in the state of Louisiana?

I feel like other kickers try to go off by themselves and not talk to other players. I interact with my teammates, I participate in conditioning, and everything else just like I’m on offense or defense.

Tell me about your most memorable kick.

It has to be my first kick. Although it was an extra point, being able to run out on the field with my teammates and ultimately making the kick was a great feeling.

Which NFL kicker most resembles the way you try to model your kicking style?

Will Lutz. He’s good and consistent and when the Saints needs him he makes kicks. He’s also a great guy off the field. He’s great in the community so I try to be like him.

Many people don’t really pay as much attention to what goes into being a kicker. What would you say is the most challenging aspect of the position?

It has to be that you can’t play every down. You get 1 chance every now and then to go in and make a play. You’re expected to just make the play and have a small margin for error. You have four or five plays a game and are expected to perform.  

 How do you try to show leadership on and off the field?

On the field I’m a competitor. If another kicker makes it from a certain distance, I’ll try to go 2 yards behind that and beat them. Off the field, I’ll try to help other players in school.

After missing a kick, how do you keep yourself motivated in order to convert the next attempt?

Every kick is independent. You can’t change the past but can better the future. I try to always keep that in mind.

What goals have you set out to accomplish personally next season? Team Goals?

I want to not miss any kicks. Although that’s a tough task I try to reach for that so that way I know I’ll come close. As a team, we want to win district. It would be awesome to come out on top in the district and winning a state championship.

What lifelong lessons has the game instilled in you moving forward?

Team work and overcoming adversity. Always work together teammates. The long snapper, holder, and o-line all work together with me to make the kick. Overcoming missed kicks in rainy, windy games all show me that I can use those moments of adversity as lessons to become better.

What do you want to leave behind with teammates and coaches at the end of your high school career?

My school has a long history of legendary kickers and I want to be apart of that. I also want kickers after me to look at me as an inspiration on and off the field.

Diamond In The Rough: Tre Odom

Tre Odom is strong safety out of Lufkin High School. Standing at 6’00” tall and weighing 185 pounds Odom has prototypical safety size with a frame that can put on more weight. In the weight room he has strong numbers as well, squatting 435 pounds, benching 245 pounds, and power cleaning 245 pounds. Odom shows natural football instinct and combined with his impressive athleticism; he is involved with nearly every play. Odom shows versatility with his tackling being able to bring people down from many different angles, and able to hit someone high as well as go low and take out players legs. Tre has committed to ULM.

Tre Odom is featured in this magazine. Click HERE to order your copy.

When did you start playing football?

I started football when I was about four or five. My parents forced me into it, my dad played and wanted me to love the game like he did, thankfully I fell in love with it quickly. 

When did you fall in love with football?

It was my first game, my dad said I would not score a touchdown, I said I would, and he bet me $100 if I scored. When I scored my first touchdown, the feeling I got was amazing, plus I was going to get $100. 

Do you think starting football so young has helped you?

For sure. I think I have a higher football IQ than most players and I have had more time to learn about football in a situational sense. My technique is also more refined, and I played few positions before settling at safety and knowing how other positions play and operate also gives me an advantage.

What is your favorite thing about football?

I am a competitor; I love to win, and I do everything I can to win. Football allows me to show of my competitiveness. The nature of football, I feel allows me to shine more so than other sports.

What qualities or values make you the player you are?

I do not know if this has come from playing for so long, or if it is natural, but I have a knack or for finding the ball, I see myself as a ball hawk. I am also aggressive and a playmaker.

What are your hobbies outside of football?

I have a good relationship with my family, so I like to spend time with them. I also have two horses, named Star and Sunshine, I try to ride them often.

What has football taught you off the field?

Discipline, I am determined and do the things I need to be successful in all aspects of my life. Without football I do not think I would be successful in life as I am. I owe a lot in my life to football, directly or indirectly.

Has football helped you overcome anything in your personal life?

Yes, when my grandmother died, my teammates where like my brothers and supported me. They would come to the hospital with me. We had a game the next day and I do not think I have seen my teammates play harder, and we won the game.

Who is your biggest role model?

My parents. They have always supported, especially with football, making sure I always got to practice on time as kid, and getting me what I needed to succeed. I would not be the player or the person I am without the90-okm.

What is the hardest part of playing strong safety?

I am one of the leaders on defense so not only do I have to know my assignment, but I have to know all of my teammate’s assignment. I must make sure our alignments and positioning is correct.

What is the easiest part of playing strong safety?

Like I said, I am a ball hawk, so my vision and ability to find the ball is something that has always come easy to me. Flowing to the ball is fun to me, I want to be involved with every play, I guess that is where it comes from.

What are your goals for the season?

We have a really good team this year, and we have a chance for states. We all have this goal and the team is working hard, and something about this year feels different than other years. Winning states my senior year would be dream come true.

What is your favorite memory from football? 

It was the playoffs last year, I do not remember if it was the third or fourth round, but we played Longview. We played at Stephen F. Austin, the atmosphere of the game was amazing, even though we lost, seeing all the people tailgating and the crowd throughout the game is something that I will never forget.

Diamond In The Rough: Ian Helmcke

Ian Helmcke is an upcoming senior graduating in 2021 from De La Salle High School in New Orleans, Louisiana. Ian is a 6’1” 139Ibs starting Kicker for the varsity football team. Last season Ian kept a perfect streak with field goals. He also kicked the game winning field goal that sent his team to the state championship. You would think Helmcke has been playing football for a while, but he actually started fairly recent. Being versatile helps Ian on and off the field. Although Ian is a 2-sport athlete, he still manages to maintain a 3.0 GPA. He’s looking forward to his senior year and the possibilities his future holds for him. 

How old were you when you first started playing football? 

I actually didn’t start until last year.  

Do you play any other sports? 

Yes, soccer, I started playing around 3 years old. 

Were you always a kicker or did you start out at a different position? 

No, the coach saw how far I could kick a ball and asked me to be the kicker. 

What sets you apart from other kickers? 

Nothing really probably just humble. 

Do you have a favorite collegiate or professional athlete? Why? 

Wil Lutz, I like to think I play like him. I’m also a big Saints fan and he’s just a very good kicker.  

Describe to me what you do before each game: 

Not much just change and put my pads on. Then, I’ll sit in my locker listen to music and maybe eat some fruit snacks. Then it’s game time.  

Who or what motivates the most? Why? 

My favorite soccer player Messi, because he never quits and works hard on and off the field. 

How has playing football helped you on and off the field? 

I’ve gotten more in shape, my legs are stronger, and I’ve became more mature. Also, I have become more of a leader within a team. 

How do you think your teammates and coaches would describe you? 

I think they would say that I’m funny, hardworking, tough player, and all-around fun to talk to. 

How would you describe yourself? 

I can be childish at times and like to bring good vibes to my teammates. 

What do you look forward to most for your future? 

I want to become a sports physician.

How do you plan to do that? 

Go to college and study; maybe go to the University of Miami, Florida State, Tulane, or LSU. They all have great athletic programs. 

Diamond in the Rough: Aaron Gooden

Aaron Gooden is a class of 2021 middle linebacker from Woodlawn High School in Baton Rouge, LA. Gooden stands at 6’0 230lbs with a bench of 405, a squat of 485, and a 40 yard dash time of a 4.6. With his monstrous strength, quick speed, and great size, Gooden is an absolute perfect match for the middle linebacker position. As evident by his film, Aaron possesses an incredible awareness on field, sniffing out ball carriers and hitting them with near concussive force. With exceptional run stopping ability, Gooden’s speed and awareness make him an excellent player in zone coverage as well. His intelligence and awareness on the field is impressive, while Aaron posts equally impressive results in the classroom with an overall GPA of 3.0

At what age did you begin playing football and what initially interested you about the sport?

 I started playing football at 5 years old and at first, I didn’t want to play but my dad kept pushing me and overtime I fell in love with it.

What did football teach you about yourself or life once you began playing? 

Football taught me how to work with a team and how to never give up no matter how hard things may get, it’s always going to pay off.

Who or what has been your biggest motivation or role model in the sport?

 My dad has been my biggest role model.

Do you have a favorite memory from your playing career?

My first varsity game I was a freshman and I got playing time. Being a freshman and to hear my name called was pretty cool.

Are you involved in any other sports or activities at school besides football? If so, how do you believe those experiences have helped you on the football field? 

Yes, I’m on the powerlifting team and it helps me get stronger for when I’m on the football field.

As a defensive end and linebacker, what is it like being in that position? What is the most rewarding aspect and what is the most challenging?

Being a linebacker, you’re constantly thinking it’s your job to make sure that everybody is lined up correctly and everybody knows where they need to go and what they need to be doing on each play.

Do you have a favorite athlete, college or NFL, that you look up to?

My favorite linebacker of all time is Ray Lewis. That’s why I wear the number 52.

What current player, college or NFL, do you believe your playstyle reflects most?

I believe my play style mostly reflects Devin White because we are around the same height and weight and also we’re both fast linebackers who know how to read and react to the offense. Also, we’re both good communicators on and off the field.

Outside of sports, do you have any hobbies or passions you pursue in your free time? What about them do you enjoy most? 

I enjoy spending time with my dad and my friends 

For the 2020 season, what are some personal goals that you look forward to accomplishing? Has your team set a specific set of goals for the upcoming season as well?

My personal goal for this season is to not only make All-District again, but to make All-State, leading the state in tackles. For the team, our goal is to just win as many games as possible and hopefully play for a championship.

What do you believe separates you from other high school lineman in the state of Louisiana? What makes you unique to your position?

I do believe I’m the best linebacker in the state because of my skill-set. I’m very good at reading and knowing what to expect from the other team and I’m always watching film. Also, I have really good grades, which I think helps separate me.

What advice would you give to younger football players who hope to one day play high school football? 

Stay hungry and believe in yourself don’t let anybody stop you from being great and perfect your craft also stay watching film.

Tell me a bit about the challenges of a school that has recently moved up to 5A football.

The competition is a little bit more difficult playing in a bigger atmosphere and some of the games are a little tougher.

With the new Coronavirus epidemic sweeping our country, a lot of teams nationwide have not been allowed to practice during the spring. How have you guys addressed this and hope to overcome it?

Keeping in contact with our coaches and asking them what all we can be doing to stay in shape and going over things over the phone to help us get better to get ready for the season

Finally, what do you believe to be the most rewarding part about playing the sport and being a part of a team? 

Going out there and having fun with your brothers. When you go out as a team and you’re together getting the job done, there’s no better feeling knowing that my brother to the left or to the right of me has my back and we got this done together.

Diamond In The Rough: Vincent Drake Jr.

Vincent Drake Jr is a 6’1 205 pound outside line-backer out of Belle Chasse High School. Drake towers over the offensive line with a presence. With his 285 pound bench and 425 pound squat, his frame and build as a result is punishing for any skill player that crosses his path. With his 4.66 speed and lightning fast reflexes, Drake is able to diagnose plays quickly and swiftly; tackling the ball carrier resulting in countless tackles for loss. This past season Drake racked up (15) tackles for loss (63 tackles total) in his junior debut. Drake’s combination of speed and strength off the edge makes him an absolute nightmare for anyone in the offensive backfield. Not only can Drake take it upon himself to disrupt the backfield shedding tacklers with ease, Drake can also hold offensive lineman in place, opening opportunities for his teammates around him to make a play. Drake reached out to LGF and I was honored to oblige and speak to him about his personal and football past. 

Tell me a little bit about how you entered into the game of football? – I started playing pee wee football at about 6 years old. My dad always said that I was very active around the house so he put me into football at a young age. I also have a lot of cousins and other family members that are into football as well so it just kind’ve runs in the family.

What position did you start out playing once you entered middle school?- In park ball I played quarterback and my dad always told me to play running back because of my speed. I personally wanted to play defense because I really like to hit and enjoy contact. So heading into middle school I played defensive end, corner and linebacker. I was all over the field.

How did you progress through high school position wise?- In highschool I started out playing slot catching balls. Then eventually I moved to my OLB and SS spot just trying to perfect my craft. 

So you mentioned your dad a couple of times. How influential has your father been in your development as a football player? – Extremely influential. He never forced me to play but everytime I made a commitment he made me stick to it and gave me the mental tools I needed to succeed. In pee wee football he was our coach for the first couple of years. He would buy jerseys and would bring snacks and all that good stuff. His positive influence really made me fall in love with the game at around 8 years old. 

As an outside linebacker and strong safety you’ve got quite the instincts and ball skills. Which position would you say you are most efficient at and what attributes do you have that are unique to you? – I feel I’m efficient at both positions equally. At linebacker I have a quick reaction time and desire to fill gaps and attack the ball. At strong safety I have a great vertical. I have played basketball all my life along with football so I can get up. Sometimes if I’m guarding a faster receiver I’ll give him a little cushion, wait for him to make his move and try my best to get up top and snag the interception. 

How are you adjusting to the coronavirus pandemic and still practicing/perfecting your craft? – Fortunately my dad was able to install a gym in my house beginning of highschool my freshman year. So still with the coronavirus looming, I workout everyday. There is also a park down the street from me with a sand lot and a levee that I just go over to and run at.

What does your training regiment look like in your at home gym? – Well my dad and I usually work out a lot especially when he comes from work. We like to switch out our workouts so it varies. Mondays we always get legs and arms in. 

If you could describe yourself in ten words or less to an NFL scout or GM what would you say to them? – Determined. Passionate. Will outwork anyone around me. Driven. Coachable. Desire to play.

Within your team and out of the 6 seniors you have on right now, how have you adjusted and settled into your leadership role within the team? – I feel like since freshman year people have always looked up to me. I’ve always felt I’ve exuded leadership qualities since I’ve entered into Belle Chasse. Football is a competition, so I always try to outwork the other guy. I lead by example through my work ethic. 

Can you give me an example during a practice or game where you had to lead by example? – It’s honestly an everyday thing for me. Everyday we practice I’m always the first one in the locker room and the first one in the weight room. Last year during a game, (before this game I had sat out a couple of games) it was an early and hot game. We came out into the huddle and I told everybody we need to come out aggressive. I came out first play and made an explosive tackle for a 3-4 yard loss against a highly ranked running back. After that play that running back had to sit out for a quarter and it really hyped up the team and helped build momentum for us. I just try my best to lead by example whenever I can. 

Speaking of momentum, what was the most momentous moment for you in your football career? – Coming into my junior year I just made a mental switch. I looked in the mirror and I told myself that I have to go all out and give it my all every day. You may think you are giving it your all but you can always give more. Even when you are at your worst you can always pick yourself back up and give your best performance the next day.

Coming into this year what are yalls realistic goals for this year and how do you plan on addressing them as a leader on the team? – I plan on helping our team just finish. Last year we came out in the second round of the playoffs and played Breaux Bridge but ended up losing. We played a strong first round game and won by 35 but I feel as if we didn’t finish our second game. We had our chances but didn’t capitalize. Since that gme I’ve been on the guys in the locker room and during practices to finish finish finish. If we can do that, I feel we can make it to the championship game. 

If there was one thing you could tell yourself before you entered the realm of football what would it be? – Follow your heart. Don’t let anyone deter you from the goals you set out to achieve. Go all out, finish the play, be you, and don’t give up. 

Was there someone in your life who detered you from being your best on the field ? –  It’s funny you ask because in park ball, I would play with my friend BaJah Jackson. We would always be on opposite teams. So everytime we got on the field it just felt like me and him. We were close friends but it was always a competition. He was the faster guy. Compact like Darren Sproles. I was stronger and more of a workhorse like Derrick Henry; pounding the ball every chance I got. I would always compare myself to him and it would discourage me at times. It wasn’t until I got into middle school that I realized everyone is different. Everyone has their own set of attributes exclusive to them. Once you hone in on those set attributes, then and only then will you come into form. I realized not all coaches want the same thing. Some coaches may want a smaller speedy running back. Others want a work horse. I just have to stay true to myself and good things will come as a result. 

What are your goals moving into college academically? – I’ve always wanted to be a physical therapist. Being a physical therapist you are there for the patient throughout the whole healing process. I enjoy the interpersonal aspect of connecting and helping a patient through their injury. Going into high school I also took medical classes and I seemed to be really good with understanding muscle groups and the intricacies between them.

Is there anyone in your family that has been influential in that decision? – My mother is an administrator at a healthcare facility. My dad is an eye specialist. So it kind’ve just runs in the family. 

What is your favorite aspect of football? – There are two parts. Anticipation of the game is the first. Going to practice building camaraderie with your teammates. The other part is game day. I love the fans screaming and getting that first big hit. That’s a big reason why I love playing defense.