Prayers For My Friends

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By Bob Starkey, Assistant Coach

I’ve tried to write this for the past few weeks but it hasn’t been easy.

Louisiana was my home for 25 years.

When I left I said that often those on the outside think that the landmarks of The Boot are the stately Oaks, the amazing cuisine of creole cooking, Mardi Gras parades, and Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night.  But it’s not.

It’s the people.

For a quarter of century these people have had a tremendous impact on who I am and what I’ve become.  They are a resilient people.

As former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens wrote: “Resilience is the virtue that enables people to move through hardship and become better.  No one escapes pain, fear and suffering.  Yet from pain can come wisdom, from fear can come courage, from suffering can come strength – if we have the virtue of resilience.”

These are the people of Louisiana.

While the spirit of the state can be seen in so many places, never does it rise higher than battling Mother Nature. During my 25 years of residency the state has had over a dozen Hurricanes hit its shores including Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Katrina. And unless you are there to see it, live it, and fight it, you truly never understand all that it entails. The loss of property and loss of life are followed by long, extended periods of rebuilding. It was estimated that the New Orleans area would take 20 years to return to its former self and yet there are still pockets of communities that never rebounded.

br-flood3Last month, a tragedy like no other hit the state and it is remarkable in that it had no name. It was not the result of a Hurricane of even a tropical depression, but the “1,000 year storm” dumped 30 inches of rain in large sections of Louisiana over a seven day period.

Putting it in perspective, Watson, Louisiana received 31 inches of rain during that seven day period, which was two inches more rain than what Los Angeles has gotten in the past four years combined. The unnamed storm dropped 7.1 trillion gallons of water on Louisiana, which pales in comparison to the 2.3 trillion from Hurricane Katrina.

These numbers are staggering, but the impact changes when the people effected are your friends and families.  My friends and family that lost their homes, automobiles and family treasures that can’t be replaced. Their children are without schools to attend. The images are heartbreaking. The conversations are numbing.

Many stayed with their homes until the very last minute. Some had to be rescued by boat. Then they had to wait for the water to subside, in some cases more than a week before even finding out how high the water has risen in their houses. Then they went to work gutting out their houses. Removing flooring, walls, cabinets, even ceilings.

Rebuilds are slow – a snail’s pace. There is always a shortage of materials and labor to handle such a massive operation. After all, over 40,000 homes were damaged – over 40,000!

Let me tell you about my friends and family. They were ready when the waters subsided to charge back into their homes and begin rebuilding. There is a work ethic among them. My friends and family that weren’t effected directly have become hardcore volunteers.

As a coach, you tend to look at life as a team. Does your “team” have the elements it needs to succeed?  Things like work ethic, sacrifice, humility, leadership – yes, I believe these are important for all kinds of “teams” including communities.

I love what Vince Lombardi said about the third ingredient:”There are a lot of coaches with good ball clubs who know the fundamentals and have plenty of discipline but still don’t win the game.  Then you come to the third ingredient: if you’re going to play together as a team, you’ve got to care of one another.  You’ve got to love each other.  Each player has to be thinking about the next. The difference between mediocrity and greatness is the feeling these guys have for each other.”

The stories I’ve heard from family and friends or viewed from news reports speak to all that is great about Louisiana and is what makes America great – in times of difficulty we are there for each other.

br-flood2While the news cycle has long left the devastated communities please don’t forget the battle that is just beginning for all as they work to put their homes and lives back together…it will be a long and often painful journey.  I ask you to please keep them in your prayers and challenge you to look for ways to contribute.

It is often said that it’s not how heavy the load is. It’s how you carry it. And it’s easier to carry with help.  I’ll close with one more quote from Lombardi:“People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses or the complex problems of modern society.”

Laying the Foundation for my Career Path

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By Anriel Howard

Sports has always been a part of my everyday life. I grew up in a family of good athletes, making sports part of who I am, what has made me into the person I am today. Whenever the day comes that I won’t be able to play anymore, I still want to be involved in athletics, commentating and reporting to television audiences.

Since I was little, I knew that television was something I wanted to do. Following the advice of my mom, I started my own segment on Westlake High School’s TV broadcast called “Howard’s Not A Coward.” I would challenge the top athletes from the different teams in drills from their sport. Throughout my sophomore, junior and senior years, we had a lot of fun making these segments, and I learned many different skills from different sports. After these drills ended (I would always win), my challenge would have to admit that “Howard is not a coward.” As much fun as the segments were, I knew that at the same time, I was gaining valuable experience in television.

I was also part of the yearbook committee in high school. I started on the committee my sophomore year, and by the time I was a senior, I had the honor of being one of the yearbook editors. I was always involved which the sports sections, as I enjoyed taking pictures and writing articles of the different games, meets, and matches and even gaining knowledge about the different sports that I did not know much about.

I was blown away on my official visit to Texas A&M. The Aggie basketball and track programs are phenomenal, and are really programs that I wanted to represent. Beyond that, I wanted to gain experience to be successful in my career. When Coach Blair and his staff showed me a video of Kelsey Bone hosting a show, I knew I was going to be an Aggie.

As soon as I got on campus, my coaches found a way for me to get involved in 12th Man Productions. Their new studio blew me away on my visit, and it is absolutely beautiful. The people of 12th Man Productions are even better. I am blessed to have all of the help and connections from many different people on campus.

howard-lowryAggies are everywhere in this world, even in the career path I want to take. Pat Lowry, who is the SEC Network coordinating producer for women’s basketball, among many other roles at ESPN, is an Aggie. She has invited me to several events, including an SEC Network announcer boot-camp on campus, and taking us behind the scenes at SEC Nation prior to the football team’s game against UCLA. At SEC Nation, I met Maria Taylor, who gave me wonderful advice, and has accomplished many things I want to do in this industry. This week, I will be going to the Texas A&M vs. Texas volleyball game in Austin, as Pat will show me how production for another sport is ran.

howard-taylorThese experiences have been life-changing for me. I have been taught excellent things that I will definitely use in the future and have already experienced the value of the Aggie Network. I am excited to see what the future holds in store for me.