It’s ironic how things work out in life, especially for the 18 seniors on the Lamar football team.
Last season, after a 21-year hiatus, Lamar re-launched its football program against rival McNeese State, a perennial FCS power, went to Lake Charles and in a game that no one outside of the Lamar locker room gave the team a chance to win, nearly pulled off the upset in a 30-27 loss that set the tone for a 5-6 season that very few people saw coming.
“We should’ve won that game,” said senior Asim Hicks, perhaps the most outspoken and passionate member of the football team.
“We made too many mistakes,” said JJ Hayes, who along with fellow senior Marcus Jackson, has combined to form one of the most talented receiving duos in FCS football.
Now, in the week leading up to their final game as Lamar Cardinals, five Lamar Cardinal seniors took time out of their last week of preparation as collegiate football players to speak with The Examiner to talk about the last two years playing for Lamar and what the future holds for these five and the Lamar program.
For Andre Bevil, the West Orange native who was the first recruit to sign with Head Football Coach Ray Woodard, it’s been a tremendous ride. He goes into Saturday’s game as the starting quarterback and has already thrown for more than 3500 yards in his Lamar career. He holds single-season records for most yards in a game, 429, which coincidentally came against McNeese last season, as well as most completions in a game, 34, which came last season against Southeastern Louisiana.
And unofficially, he holds the record for most scrutinized quarterback the last two seasons, yet all he’s done is go out each and every Saturday and play to the best of his ability, including last week’s performance when he came off the bench to throw for 186 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-26 win over Nicholls State to stop a five-game losing skid.
“It’s time to turn another page,” Bevil said, “being at Lamar has taught me a lot. When I first got here, there wasn’t a program, so I’ve been here since ground zero. I’ve adapted to new cultures, different players, different attitudes, and I’ve never been in a program like this. This has really flown by. But it’s helped make me a better man and to make better decisions in life.”
With Marcus Jackson and JJ Hayes, the tandem has been together for a while, playing their JUCO ball together at Navarro before moving to Lamar. They’ve overcome injuries, adjusting to a new program and expectations to form a receiving duo that Beaumont hasn’t seen in a long time.
“It’s been an emotional roller-coaster,” said Jackson of this season, who like the rest of the guys, including senior safety Tim Hayter, tested this team and really showed not only the other seniors, but the rest of the team, who could be counted on after demoralizing losses to Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin. “This team, these guys, we never quit. But we want to go out on a winning streak for these younger guys.”
“We’ve given these guys something to build off of,” said Hayter, who along with Bevil, will graduate in December and is looking forward to getting his master’s degree and beginning a career in coaching. Often one of the overlooked members of the defense, Hayter, along with cousin Marcus Jackson, has always worked to be a positive force on and off the field.
“They picked us to go last,” Hayter said of the preseason conference polls that had Lamar eighth out of eight teams, using that as motivation for the last game of the season.
All five men, Bevil, Hayes, Jackson, Hayter and Hicks; have had their ups and downs throughout their careers at Lamar. They all have aspirations after football, with all of them either wanting to play professionally – whether that means in the NFL or Canada, or coaching. And of course there’s Hayes, who like the rest, is just as quick with a joke as he is when shaking a defender, who wants to join the military when his football career is over and join a special operations unit, whether it be as a Navy SEAL or as a Marine – “I just want to be active, because when you slow down, you get fat,” – and he dismisses Hayter’s prognostication – “he’ll have a beer belly in ten years” – to a chorus of laughs.
As for Hicks, the Jersey native playing in Texas, he said it’s all about laying the foundation. “My pops was a mason, and he said using concrete was better than using powdery clay. We’re trying to end as concrete.”
While the entire team wants a win this weekend against rival McNeese, Coach Woodard, who acknowledges this group of seniors has laid a great foundation for the future of Lamar football, the rest of Cardinal Nation can definitely feel good about the work and dedication these five young men and the rest of the Lamar senior class has put into this football program. And there’s no question that a win against McNeese to close the curtain on their college careers would be an appropriate ending. But before they go out and do it, there’s still one thing they’d like to see before hanging up their red jerseys.
“At Lamar, let’s see a sea of red this weekend,” said Hicks.