When Sully Laiche and Evan Veron arrived at Nicholls in 2016, neither was on anybody’s most-wanted list.
Four seasons later, Laiche and Veron are on some of the most coveted lists in the country.
Laiche, a senior defensive lineman, and Veron, a senior linebacker, both were recently named to the HERO Sports FCS All-America teams.
Being named to lists is nothing new for Laiche. Along with his HERO Sports first-team honor, he was recently selected to the Athlon 2019 Preseason FCS All-America team.
Laiche has been a fixture over the years, garnering numerous honors on All-Louisiana, All-Southland Conference and All-America teams.
The former Lutcher High star made his presence known for the start, recording four tackles, including one for a loss, in his first-ever collegiate game in the Colonels’ near upset of SEC power Georgia. That start ultimately allowed him to finish eighth in voting for the STATS FCS Jerry Rice Award for Freshman of the Year in the entire nation.
“It’s a real honor. Going into my senior year, the expectations are really up there,” Laiche said of all the recognition.
Veron was named to the HERO Sports FCS All-America third team after a breakthrough 2018 season in which he ranked ninth in the FCS with 22 tackles for loss. He had seven sacks on the year. Two of the sacks came in the Colonels’ upset win over Kansas of the Big XII.
“It’s definitely and honor and blessing to get that recognition,” said Veron.
The former Riverside Academy standout credits a change in the Nicholls defense for his breakthrough season.
“Last year was the first year that Coach (Tommy) Rybacki (the Colonels’ defensive coordinator) made our defense kind of accustomed to where we would have an outside linebacker and that’s really why. That’s my special position. That’s what they recruited me for. It was good to finally be in that set defense. That was my position throughout high school and that’s why I made a lot of plays,” Veron explained.
Veron and Laiche have been making plays for a long time. Veron was a starter at linebacker at Riverside since the eighth grade and Laiche started at Lutcher as a ninth grader.
The River Parish duo arrived at Nicholls together in 2016 and have formed a mutual admiration society.
“He had been hurt his freshman and sophomore years so he really wasn’t able to put it on the field like I was. He showed it last year when he was healthy,” Laiche said of Veron.
“Sully, he’s been a dog, man,” Veron said. “He’s really special. The things he brings to the table each and every day with being a good teammate and being the player he is, it doesn’t surprise me that he gets first team and every year he gets these honors – he does the work. He’s that kind of player.”
Coming out of high school, neither player was considered the biggest of dogs. Major college recruiters found Laiche and Veron either an inch or two too short or a bit too light for their positions.
That oversight became motivation for the duo and a major gain for what had been a long down-and-out Nicholls football program.
“It definitely put a big chip on our shoulders, playing against bigger schools that didn’t want to sign us because of our size but we’ve shown that every Saturday when we are on the field, we are special,” said Laiche, now 6-foot-2 and 270 pounds.
“A lot of people did say stuff like that but we all came to terms with it. Coach (Tim) Rebowe (the Nicholls head coach) had a plan for us and we all bought in,” said Veron, now 6-foot and 215 pounds.
With a season of football still left to play, the 2016 class already will go down as the most successful in school history.
Two years before Laiche, Veron and company arrived, the Colonels had the longest losing streak in the nation. Nicholls went 5-6 in 2016 before going 8-4 and 9-4 each of the next two years while making back-to-back playoff appearances the last two years – a first in school history.
“When we first came in, we immediately knew we wanted to turn that team around,” said Laiche.
Laiche and Veron both credit the class a year before their arrival with starting to turn the program around. They were the ones that ended the long losing streak and reached the playoffs the past two seasons.
“From the first time we stepped on campus with guys like Hezekiah White and their class really laid it down for us. They changed the program when they won three games before we got there so you knew it was going in the right direction. We just put more of an emphasis we are not going to take losing,” said Laiche, referring to White, a fellow River Parish native from Boutte.
“The class before us set a foundation. That year, when our class came in, I think we just had more people, just number-wise, and the talent that was brought it, it was the same amount of passion that Coach Rebowe was talking about, we just had more people to execute it with,” Veron said.
The River Parish duo expect even bigger and better things of the Colonels in 2019.
“We had a little taste of the playoffs, so now with the playoffs, we have to get there. Conference championships is a must now and we definitely want to get to Frisco this year for the national championship,” said Laiche.
“At this moment in June, we have to get better this year for conference and then the playoffs and the national championship,” Veron said. “That’s what we’ve been talking about. All the years before this has set us up for. I just think this is the year we can do it with all the pieces to the puzzle and the coaches we’ve got and the players buying in.
“But we have to put a lot of work into it. We can’t just say it.”