McNeese's senior class secures legacy with one fine season

By By Alex Hickey / American Press

They entered this season with the potential of becoming the senior class who didn’t.

In a program where tradition is trumped over all, the McNeese State class of 2013 had a 12-game test to avoid becoming the

first such group since 1990 to end their careers without a postseason appearance.

It’s amazing how much one season can change a legacy.

After a 10-2 regular season that

included a record-breaking win against a Bowl Subdivision opponent

earned the Cowboys a No.

6 seed and a first-round bye, the class of 2013 will now be

remembered as the group that brought McNeese back onto a pedestal.

“We’ve had a few down years in McNeese

standards. Our seniors know that,” said quarterback Cody Stroud. “We

took it upon ourselves

early in this year to kind of make a statement to the guys around

the nation that we’re back and trying to get where we need

to be. The seniors have done a great job leading this team, and

we’re not finished yet.”

The concept of “McNeese standards” is important to understanding the mindset of this group. They’ve never experienced a losing

season. But until this season, they had not played up the the expectations they placed on themselves.

“We took it amongst ourselves to not get down on ourselves after a couple of down years by McNeese standards,” said safety

Terence Cahee. “To get focused and get back on the same page. I think we did a great job to get where we needed to be.”

No year hurt as much as the last.

The potential for something big was there at the beginning, but the loss of standout safety Malcolm Bronson early in the year

was a huge blow to overcome. The Cowboys very nearly did, but a pair of late-game, 1-point losses to Central Arkansas and

Southeastern Louisiana kept McNeese out of the playoffs.

From that pain came a hunger.

“I think (the seniors) last year and

the years before have had that bond, but having the ups and downs we’ve

been through,

it was big for us to come together,” said running back Marcus

Wiltz. “We have meetings as seniors and talk about how we can

better ourselves and come out and be leaders for this team and

lead (us) on to bigger and better things.”

Those off-the-field intangibles are a huge plus, but it’s also possible to have a bad team with a good locker room. The Cowboy

senior class is also leading in the area where football success is ultimately measured — the scoreboard.

On offense, their names are littered all over the Southland all-conference team after only one Cowboy player was named to

the first team a year ago.

Stroud is the league’s offensive player

of the year. Arinze Agada is the offensive lineman of the year. Wiltz

is the conference’s

leading rusher, surpassing Payton Award candidate Timothy

Flanders. Wide receiver Diontae Spencer has the third-most touchdown

receptions in the conference with nine.

The defense has been guided by all-conference cornerback Guy Morgan, who was second in the league with four interceptions,

including a 76-yard pick-6 that broke South Florida’s back in a tone-setting 53-21 Week 1 win.

Other seniors like Cahee and recevier Ernest Celestie may not have received the first-team accolades, but have proven as vitally

important to getting McNeese back to the upper-echelon of the FCS.

“When you’ve been around McNeese so

long and seen how great teams have been, and to be part of a team that

could leave a legacy

that could be the greatest of all-time means a lot personally,”

said Celestie, who grew up in Lake Charles emulating the exploits

of Cowboy great B.J. Sams. “It really comes from the heart. It’s

more like an honor.”

There is still a potential four-game window for that legacy to continue growing.

“I’m just glad I’m part of something special right now,” Spencer said. “Hopefully the road to Frisco can only make it more


Even if that road falls well short of the title game in Frisco, Texas, the Class of 2013 has assured itself a legacy that

will go beyond this season.

“This is a special team. Even though we

have a great group of seniors, we have a great group of underclassmen

that’s going

to carry this on when we leave,” Wiltz said. “They’re doing a

tremendous job of going along with the plans that we have, following

our leadership and buying into this program.”