Nicholls State quarterback Kalen Henderson is the most gifted football/athlete to play for the Colonels since Lardarius Webb, now a starting cornerback with the Baltimore Ravens, played in John L. Guidry Stadium.
The 6-0, 215 pound former East St. John High School standout has attracted a host of NFL scouts in the spring to watch him work out and a healthy 2014 season may launch him to be a middle to late round selection in the 2015 NFL draft.
After having a strong football spring and giving the Colonels the best threesome at quarterback in recent memory with Beaux Hebert and Tuscani Figaro, the strong-armed passer will now try his luck on the baseball mound for the Colonels.
Henderson says he is pleased with his development at quarterback, but would like to try his luck as a pitcher.
“I feel I had a strong spring. I learned the offense better and just had more time to work with the receivers and picked up the offensive system. I came in as a transfer from Tulsa and so last season we were just getting to know one another and I was learning the players and system here. We got pushed hard in the weight room to get mentally and physically stronger this winter and spring and I am anxious for the fall practices and be part of something special here at Nicholls, along with Beaux and Tuscani.”
“I pitched in high school and I have a family member who pitched some in high school, but he played catcher in the Chicago Cubs organization, and Coach Seth and Coach Stubbs have allowed to me give this a try. I’m just going to try and be a finisher type for the baseball team as a pitcher. “
Nicholls State baseball coach Seth Thibodaux said that he had spoken with Colonel head coach Charlie Stubbs on giving Henderson an opportunity to pitch.
"I assured Coach Stubbs I would not do anything to put Kalen at risk,” Thibodaux said. “ He would be a late inning relief pitcher for us. One inning and see what he can do on the mound. There is no doubt he can hum the baseball. He’s a just a terrific football player and we are just going to give this a try and see how well he can pitch.”
Nicholls State junior quarterback Beaux Hebert, the youngest son of former Northwestern State and New Orleans Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert and the projected starter for the Colonels in 2013, on what is the most important piece of advice he has gotten from his dad on playing quarterback.
“My dad always preached to me that the most important element of playing quarterback was to take it as one play and move on. It’s hard because I know my dad had troubles at times keeping his emotions in check out on the field, but he was a focused person on the task given him and he reacted negatively at times if others didn’t have that same sort of focus. But he played a long time at the highest level of football because of his talent, his focus and his drive to be the best he could be.
You can’t get too high and too low because of what happens out on the field. Basically, you can get caught up in the moment and by being so emotional you hurt your team. Momentum in sports changes fast so you have to be well grounded and play under control, but not let one really bad play or one really good play affect the next one. When I watch Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco play they don’t get caught up in the moment too often.
Sometimes at that position you try and do too much and it ends up hurting your team as much as helping. It’s cliche, but it’s true, it is one play at a time.”
It's been just a few months since the Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII against the San Francisco 49ers, but the excitement and memory of that event is still fresh in the mind of former Nicholls State standout and current Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb.
One year ago at the Lardarius Webb Football Camp in Thibodaux, the former Nicholls State All-American predicted that the Ravens would play in Super Bowl XLVII and win it, especially after a gut-wrenching loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game two seasons ago.
What Webb didn't know was just a few months after signing a new six-year, $53 million contract that he would not get a chance to play in pro football's biggest game.
Webb missed the Super Bowl because he injured his knee during the 2012 regular season game against the Dallas Cowboys in October, but it didn't dull the feeling of something he has dreamed about since he was a young kid — winning a Super Bowl championship.
"I have to admit it was bittersweet to a certain extent because I didn't get to play in the contest, but I knew that I had a part in their success and I played my role as tutor and mentor to the young players on defense," Webb said. "It still brings a chill to me to understand that we were the world champions and had so many adversities throughout the season. Ray (Lewis), Terrell (Suggs), Ed Reed and myself all had injuries that had us on the football shelf, but we overcame. You can't use injuries as an excuse. We were a mentally tough team. You can't win this and have all these injuries and not be a tough team on the field and off the field. But every year is different and this is a business so in 2013 it is a new team and some new players, but the attitude and the will to win is still in this locker room."
Just like most football fans who watched Super Bowl XLVII, Webb said he was shocked when a power outage took place in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Webb said the Ravens did a good job of overcoming the distraction.
"I couldn't believe it," Webb said. "It was like this is really not happening and I know sports is a game of momentum and realizing that San Francisco was a very good team and this is giving them an opportunity to catch their breath. We showed a lot of composure, but I can assure you we were upset this happened and how could something like this occur. I know things happen, but for us, it really did change the flow of the game at a pace we wanted it. It was shocking then and it is still shocking to me today, but again it was another hurdle for us to overcome to bring home the championship. Nothing in life is easy."
For the Ravens, the business part of the game took place this offseason with the retirement of Ray Lewis and the loss of future NFL Hall of Fame free safety Ed Reed to the Houston Texans in free agency.
Webb said losing those two pieces were huge.
"Ray (Lewis) was the emotional leader on our team. He was our voice as a team," Webb said. "Ed Reed led by example. He didn't talk a lot, but when he did we all listened. He was my idol in high school and in college and it was the reason I wore No. 20 at Nicholls. No one individual can take their place on and off the field. I have a role to fill as a leader on and off the field, but I can't be Ed or Ray. I have to be Lardarius. I preach to the younger players that you will always have adversity in your life and it is not the fall, but it is how you get up that counts. That is what I am speaking to these young campers about and what I tell the young players entering the league."
Webb said the team will feel the impact of trading away veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers following the Super Bowl win.
"I will be honest and say Anquan is the toughest guy I have ever had to cover in this league," Webb said. "There are guys bigger, faster and quicker, but no one can run a route, get separation, use his body to position himself between the ball and defender and catch the ball with ease like Boldin can. He's amazing. Just an amazing player and I am glad he is not in the AFC. I understand the money part of this game and things have to be done for a reason, but Anquan will be missed greatly for what he did on the field and off the field. He was a great leader and it is his mental toughness that will be missed greatly, along with his talent as a receiver."
Despite the heavy losses this offseason, Webb believes the Ravens will be contenders again in 2013, especially with the return of players such as quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Ray Rice, receivers Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones and tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson.
"Every year teams change and you have to adjust to the talents that are on the team," he said. "Coach (John) Harbaugh has a great feel for pushing the right buttons on players and getting the most out of us. It has a lot to do with preparation and I can't say enough about Coach Harbaugh and his staff. And the guy behind the football curtain, Ozzie Newsome. Our general manager is the best in the game. He has a great eye for talent, he knows what fits best on our squad and he has juggled the salary cap issue so well. Every year we lose people and Ozzie keeps finding people that step right in."
The Ravens have also added key additions in free agent linebacker Elvis Dumervil and first-round draft pick safety Matt Elam.
"We got a great pass rusher in Elvis Dumervil and we drafted a young man from Florida in safety Matt Elam, who has all the tools," Webb said. "We made some moves on defense and some guys decided to leave, but I assure you we will be back in the hunt for the title again."
Webb said the NFL is loaded with several good teams, but one NFC team Webb has great respect for is the New Orleans Saints and in particular quarterback Drew Brees.
"I tell everyone playing in the AFC that San Francisco is a very talented team and I got a feeling they will return to the Big Game this year, but the Saints were a tough team for us to go against," Webb said. "The veterans on the team really pounded it in our heads that playing Drew Brees and the Saints a couple of years ago was a ‘preparation' game. We studied them in the film room as hard as we have studied for any team. We knew Drew Brees was doing the same thing to us and we had to be fully prepared or we were going to get beat. We pulled it out late, but they are a hard team to go up against because of the talent level, Sean Payton is a really good coach and the weapons they have on offense, and especially Drew Brees. Drew is like a surgeon out on the field. Our guy, Joe Flacco, was kind of in his shoes. They both get overshadowed to an extent because of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, but Brees and Joe are clutch players. I can say the same for Ben Roethlisberger with the Steelers. He is so tough to play because he can beat you with his arm and yet he has the skills to make plays with his feet and buy extra time for his receivers to get open. I know the Saints will be better on defense under Rob Ryan. The Ryan brothers know defense very well. Playing in that Dome is tough. Whoa, they can make some noise and it gives them a great home field advantage."
Webb said he is almost completely back from another serious knee operation and is prepared for another challenge in the NFL this season.
"Really it was easier for me to rehab this time around than the first time," Webb added. "I have been blessed with the support of my teammates, my friends and family and the folks here on the bayou at Nicholls State. There are some great people and some great memories for me here and I hope to return every year to help teach and share my story with these young kids. It's important to them to see people give something back to their community and if we like it or not, we are role models to these young men and women. I am hungry to return to the field and prove that I am still one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL and yes, I want to get back to the Super Bowl and this time play in the game. That part of me, I can't hide."
When Charlie Stubbs was hired at Nicholls State in 2010, he told me he needed to add size and physicality to his football team and especially what I call the real skilled players, offensive and defensive linemen.
The process has taken a few years, but the Colonels have added some real beef and talent along their offensive line for 2013. This season the Colonels have converted former Central Lafourche High School defensive tackle Jared Breaux (6-2, 290) to offensive center and they will also have former South Lafourche High School standout offensive lineman Rafe Plaisance (6-3, 320) as a projected starter at offensive guard.
This year’s recruiting class brought them Assumption High School offensive lineman Hunter Alleman (6 -3, 285), St. Michael the Archangel in Baton Rouge offensive tackle Blake Hartman (6-5, 240), Dutchtown High School offensive center/guard Brian Hernandez (6-1, 285) and the Colonels recently landed Destrehan High School offensive tackle Noland Sharpe (6-2, 265) who is most likely to become an offensive guard.
But the big news last week was the Colonels landed two additional offensive linemen in former Destrehan and SMU offensive guard/center Ashton Duhe (6-3, 300) and former Desire Street Academy in New Orleans and University of Memphis offensive guard Nicholas Chartain (6-4, 325), and both are immediately eligible to play for the Colonels in 2013.
“This was an area of concern for us, especially numbers-wise,” Stubbs said. “The previous coaching staff recruited smaller offensive linemen that fit what they did ran offensively and it was a run-oriented attack, but for what we want to do here we needed bigger players and more physical players and we are getting those type offensive linemen now and we have a little depth.” Stubbs admits injuries have forced some offensive lineman into games before they are truly prepared for the physical play. “Ideally, I would have liked to get them a redshirt season and have them get bigger and stronger in the weight room, but that just wasn’t the case. We had to play some young men quicker than what we wanted and we struggled some,” Stubbs said. “I feel good about what we have been able to acquire through the high school ranks, junior college system and a few transfers. Duhe and Chastain have played Division I football and they are coming in immediately to compete for positions, starting or depth-wise on our team. I am very pleased with those pickups, along with Noland Sharpe from Destrehan. We know that the River Parish area is very blessed with great football talent, along with the New Orleans area and getting those three young men to help our offensive line is something that will help us progress quicker on offense.” Now for Stubbs, the key to producing a winning product on the field will be to find quality defensive linemen, like they have in offensive linemen and keeping quarterback Beaux Hebert healthy in 2013.