From the Bird’s Nest: Celebrate Today, Remember Those Who Never Let Go
I was happy yesterday.
Finally, after so many years of waiting, after many years of bad football, after many times of coming close, yesterday was the day for which Cajuns' fans, myself included, had waited.
I thought I was ready.
For some time now, I've known that New Orleans was our destination for the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on December 17th. I was pretty sure it was going to happen when the Cajuns beat North Texas for homecoming for their sixth win.
I was sure when win number seven came against Middle Tennessee. And, that amazing comeback against ULM was just an exclamation point.
But, as I watched via computer from our studio yesterday and Paul Valteau made it official with the invitation at the end of the rope, I realized I wasn't as ready as I thought.
It was a good thing we were carrying the announcement live. There was no way I could have spoken.
I watched the ceremony until it was time to head to Walk-Ons for Bob Marlin's radio show. On the drive across town, so much raced through my mind.
Or, should I say, so many.
I thought of Robert Trahan. You'll never find anyone who loved the Cajuns more. And, he had the resources to help with benevolent contributions at a time when contributions were hard to come by. I was so touched by everything he did for UL athletics, my wife and I bought four cars from him. And, after the dealership was sold, we bought two more from his son, Hunter.
I thought of Robert. And Herbert Heymann. And Hardy Edmiston.
I thought of Charlie Daigle. For more than twenty-five years he was at Cajun Field. I don't know if Charlie invented Cajuns tailgaiting, but he certainly perfected it. The "Krewe de Chew" has become legendary at Cajun Field. His children and his friends carry on the tradition in his absence. "Le Grand Chew" would have been there last night if he could. The bowl game will be held nearly on the anniversary of his death. The "roosta" is going to New Orleans.
I thought of Nelson Stokley. His passion for the Cajuns never waned, even after he finished coaching. He wanted to see the program have success. Nelson's team should have broken the bowl drought in 1993 and was primed to do so until a crazy turn of events in another game cost the Cajuns a trip to Las Vegas.
And, I thought of those who were going to be in New Orleans to enjoy it.
I thought of Troy Wingerter. For him, this journey has been personal since he arrived on campus as a player. He has served with four head coaches. Last night he officially was a winner. But he's been a winner in my book for a long time.
I thought of Rickey Bustle. He was the one who recruited most of the players who will celebrate a great season on December 17th. And, although the bowl didn't happen for him, he can take satisfaction knowing he contributed to this in a big way.
I thought of John Bordelon, the RCAF president. He, too, wore the vermilion and white. It's been personal for a long time for him as well.
I thought of Terry Don Phillips, Nelson Schexnayder and David Walker. They all had a part in last night. Schexnayder played in the Cajuns' last bowl game. Again, it's personal for Nellie.
I thought of Preston Guidry, who saw more than 150 consecutive Cajuns' games, home and away.
And I thought of those who put in the time. The players who gave as many as five years of sweat-equity to the Ragin' Cajuns football program (except for Justin Venable, who gave eight.)
I thought of Brian and Jake. Their names are on the wall at Cajun Field.
I thought of Jeff Mitchell and Patrise Alexander.
I thought of Marty Cannon, who now gives back by heading the UL Gridiron Alumni.
I thought of Mike and Tyrell, who should have been in a bowl game in 2008. I don't know if anyone will ever unseat Mike as my all time favorite.
I thought of Kenyon Cotton.
And Orlando Thomas.
And, I thought of Jerry Babb. He was an awfully big piece of this puzzle. When this program was at its lowest...when this program was the laughing stock of Division I-A..... when so many had let go....it was Jerry Babb who was the first to say "I'll be a Ragin' Cajun," after Rickey Bustle was hired. That was the day the Cajuns started the road back. I told Jerry on senior day in 2006 that I'd never forget he was the first to say yes. And I haven't. He didn't play in a bowl but he left with a ring. No one was more deserving.
I thought of Pam Begnaud. Pam is one of our sales managers here at Townsquare Media. Every year, Pam organizes the picture that we take on the Friday before the first game. Wear Red. This year all the employees had "Hud" masks. We got second place. We've won it in the past. Pam has a unique idea every year. It's because, for her, it's personal. Check out her RV sometimes. She's a Ragin' Cajun.
I thought of Dan McDonald, who did so many of the Cajuns' press guides. Even during the bad times, he did a good job of trying to turn chicken feathers into chicken salad.
And, I remembered those who help lead the way today. Ed Domingues never let go. Gerald "T-Boy" Hebert has given and raised thousands of dollars. The "other" Gerald Hebert has worked tirelessly. Charlie Moncla, who, as Coach Mark Hudspeth would say, is "big time." They're here now. But they were here then, too.
And, I thought of these seniors. Their legacy will be remembered, even after the Cajuns 20th bowl appearance.
And, I thought of 3,000. That's about how many people were in Cajun Field at the end of the 1991 season. If you were one of those who hadn't quit by then.....
Coach Hudspeth's motto has been to hold onto the rope.
But he, and we need to realize there are those who have always held tight.
Moses and his people wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.
The Cajuns wandered a year longer than that.
But the Promised Land awaits.
Welcome to New Orleans.
This is your time.
God knows, you've earned it.