They go to school more than 1,000 miles apart, and most grew up in different circumstances. But the Boise State Broncos saw something in common with the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns.
A month after helping clean up following the blaze that scarred Table Rock, Boise State players saw their opening game opponents help out in their town, offering aid following a much more destructive event. Louisiana’s players, following an afternoon practice, traveled to Youngsville, La., on Aug. 16 to aid in cleanup efforts after devastating rains hit the area.
“I feel like being ambassadors for a community, it’s kind of expected from a team if you care about your city, like we did when Table Rock was burning down and we went up there and helped them,” Boise State senior offensive tackle Mario Yakoo said. “I feel like (Louisiana) is doing a great job coming together ... helping their community.”
The Red Cross said the Louisiana flooding was the worst natural disaster in the United States since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, bringing 23 inches of rain to Lafayette, where the Ragin’ Cajuns campus is located, from Aug. 11-16. Statewide, the floods killed 13 and damaged more than 40,000 homes.
“It’s crazy to see that. We feel sorry for them, hope everything gets cleaned up down there. We’ve never experienced anything like that, can’t even explain how they’d feel,” Boise State junior linebacker Joe Martarano said. “They’re big names out there, so I’m sure it helps when they get out in the community.”
That’s certainly what the team did when a bus full of players and cleanup tools arrived in Youngsville, just south of Lafayette. Coach Mark Hudspeth said “everybody’s jaw just dropped” when surveying the damage. The group, about 100 strong, helped complete work in a matter of hours that likely would have taken residents days or even weeks.
“When you see those people, when you see what happened to them, it brings you back down,” senior cornerback Savion Brown told The (Lafayette) Daily Advertiser. “It brings you back down to the world. It brings you back down to the Earth.
“Because it can happen to anybody. It can happen in the blink of an eye.”
Most of the rainfall occurred around the Louisiana campus, though it forced a scrimmage to be pushed back a day and delayed students moving into the dorms a few days. Boise State Athletic Director Curt Apsey said it has not affected Cajun Field after speaking Monday with Louisiana AD Scott Farmer.
Boise State has supported a GoFundMe fundraiser called “Blue For The Bayou” to help raise money for the United Way in Lafayette, hoping to raise $36,387 (the capacity of Albertsons Stadium). It has raised $6,000 as of Tuesday night.
For Louisiana, as life slowly returns to normal, the team saw the cleanup effort as a team bonding experience in addition to simply providing free assistance to those who support them every weekend.
“First of all, it’s our duty as citizens and members of this community,” Hudspeth said. “They do an awful lot for us, and that’s the least we could do. I’m hoping we at least made some small impact. I’m hoping our players realize when they’re in their own communities later in life, if something happens ... they’ll draw maybe on that experience of how it felt.”
LOUISIANA AT A GLANCE
Nickname: Ragin’ Cajuns
Location: Lafayette, La.
Head coach: Mark Hudspeth, sixth season (40-24)
Last year’s record: 4-8 overall, 3-5 Sun Belt
The rundown: Coming off four straight nine-win seasons, the Cajuns took a step back last season, but return a strong running game and add LSU transfer Anthony Jennings at quarterback. Still, it is a young squad with seven junior college transfers joining the defense this season and six sophomores or redshirt freshmen are listed as starters on offense or defense. Louisiana allowed 31.8 points per game last season and only forced 11 turnovers.
Player to watch: Elijah McGuire, sr., RB
A productive force ever since he set foot on campus, McGuire has rushed for 3,185 yards (6.6 yards per carry), scoring 35 touchdowns, and adding 1,145 receiving yards for the Ragin’ Cajuns. He’s the first running back in school history with 100 career receptions. The 5-foot-11, 209-pounder even joined the basketball team last January, playing 16 games.
“He’s explosive, he’s similar to J-Mac (Jeremy McNichols),” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said.