River Parish football players signing Wednesday morning for the early signing day showed colleges were looking for winners.
Of the first four players from the River Parishes to sign Wednesday, all are coming off appearances in state championship games.
A couple reside in Destrehan as running back Kyle Edwards signed with the Alabama Crimson Tide and defensive lineman Noah Taliancich with Tulane.
“It’s a huge blessing,” Edwards said of signing with Alabama. “It’s an honor to be able to say that I am committing there now. It’s a huge school and they have a lot of success and I’m happy to be a part of that.
“I love their program. I love the worth ethic and how they train their leaders and stuff and everyone else pushes each other. That’s what I looked for in a school.”
For Taliancich, it’s been a lifetime love affair with the Green Wave.
“It’s been my dream from the start,” said Taliancich. “I grew up a Tulane fan and everything like that. We’ve been season ticket holders every year. It’s just a blessing. I’m in a great situation where a lot of kids can’t be in and I’m just taking advantage of it and it’s just a blessing.”
Edwards’ decision to go to Alabama was solidified right before the start of the season.
“With the phone calls I had and I talked to Coach (Nick Saban) and everything. Going up there, I just loved the feeling there. It felt like home,” said Edwards.
In the case of Taliancich, there is a longtime connection to Tulane.
“My grandfather actually graduated from Tulane. My other grandfather has been a life-long Tulane fan. His father sold tickets at old Tulane Stadium. He was there at every game at old Tulane Stadium. Ever since I was a little boy, we were always going to the Superdome and now Yulman Stadium,” said Taliancich.
Although the players came out on the losing end with Destrehan’s loss to Acadiana in the Class 5A championship game last Saturday, both said it capped a special senior season.
“To be able to go from 4-3 all the way to the Dome, you always want to win it but to be able to make that mark and show everybody to never quit and to be able to sign with Alabama, it’s a huge way to go out,” said Edwards.
“We had the opportunity to play in the Superdome. Not a lot of kids get that chance. We came up a little bit short, which is upsetting, but you have to look at the bright side of things. We are all here. The sun comes up again. It’s a new day. I’m feeling great and that’s what I’m thankful for,” Taliancich said.
In the case of St. James running back Sean Lebeouf, he and his teammates are still in the afterglow of winning the Class 3A title following the Wildcats’ dominating performance over Jennings last Friday.
“We still have the high about the game,” said Lebeouf. “It’s unbelievable about the accomplishment. The hard work that we put in on and off the field – the running, the jumping, the working out. All that paid off. All I can say is, ‘We Are One.”
Lebeouf’s ship has come in after signing with the Naval Academy on Wednesday.
“They have great benefits there,” Lebeouf said of the Navy. “They prepare you not for the next four years, but the next 40 years. I’m guaranteed a job after school. It’s one of the best options you can have. Not many people get a scholarship offer from the Naval Academy.
“Navy was the first school that actually came look at me and offered me the opportunity to play sports. I took advantage of it. I know it’s a military school but it also will teach me discipline in life and how to have character, how to be on time. It’s all about the little things.”
Evan Roussel, who signed with Nicholls on Wednesday also is coming off a state championship performance. His St. Charles Comets lost to Lafayette Christian Academy in the Division III finals.
“It was a phenomenal year. Making it as far as possible your senior year is something you ask for. It obviously didn’t end the way we wanted it, it’s a great opportunity to play in the state championship,” said Roussel.
Roussel is the latest in a line of recent River Parish players to head to Nicholls. With a huge contribution from River Parish players, coach Tim Rebowe has led the Colonels to the playoffs the last three seasons.
“They tremendously turned the program around with Coach Rebowe there. It’s a big part of why I’m going there, just because of their ability to win games,” said Roussel.
A district Most Valuable Player from a year ago as an offensive tackle, Roussel has shown versatility as lineman.
“I played left tackle over here (at St. Charles) but I started at left guard my sophomore year. The last two years, I’ve been at left tackle. At Nicholls, because of my height, I will end up playing center, maybe even a guard, but mainly a center,’ said Roussel.
Signing later in the day was Dontae Fleming. The East St. John receiver narrowed his choices to Memphis, Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette before announcing he was opting for the Ragin’ Cajuns.
“When I went there, I loved it. I felt like home to me,” Fleming said of ULL. “All the coaches, they are like family. They kept in contact with me every day.”
While Fleming may not be coming off being a participant in a state championship game, he was key part of an East St. John program that is on the rise.
In Louisiana-Lafayette, he is going to a program that recently played in the Sun Belt Conference championship game and has been a bowl participant several times in recent years.
“The program has changed a lot. Coach Billy Napier, he’s doing good job. Right now, they are 10-3 and playing in a bowl game in Mobile.”