JENNINGS - Only a hometown football star could get die-hard LSU fans to trade in their purple and gold jerseys for the orange and white colors of a rival football team.
Travis Etienne, a star running back from Jennings, who hopes to lead the third ranked Clemson Tigers to victory over the number one ranked LSU Tigers, is causing some friendly rivalries in his hometown.
“I am hearing a lot of people say they are pulling for Travis, but there are people who are upset because he didn’t choose (to play for) LSU,” school board member and sports commentator Jimmy Segura said. “I am not one of them. I think he made the right choice with Clemson.”
Segura, who watched Etienne shatter records throughout his career at Jennings High School, speaks highly of the college football phenom.
“In my opinion he is the best running back Jennings has ever seen because I watched him for three years from the sidelines,” Segura said. “He would break a run, break through and score from 90 yards with what looked like very little effort because of his speed and ability to break tackles.
I’ve never seen anything like it.”
However, Segura will be rooting for LSU when the two teams square off Monday during the College Football Playoff National Championship game in New Orleans.
“Last year he went to the national championship game with Clemson and I pulled for him, but I have been an LSU fan since my dad took me to my first game at age 8,” Segura said. “But because Clemson and Travis won last year, I really want to see LSU win this time, but I also want to see Travis do well.”
It is also a decision, local sports radio internet broadcaster Charlie Williams has been struggling with. Williams watched Etienne from the sidelines for most of his high school career, but is a diehard LSU fan.
“I have had to struggle with the decision, but I am pulling for Travis to have another exceptional game like he did two weeks ago and I hope he runs wild, but I want LSU to have one more point to win the game,” Williams said.
Louisiana football fans have an opportunity to see two of the best football teams in the country battle for the championship title, Williams said.
“Whoever has the best game or break… somebody will win and they will be the best team in the country,” he said.
Williams said he plans to wear a purple shirt with an orange undershirt while watching the game.
James Ward Elementary School Principal Tanya Gaudet, who was Etienne’s sixth grade teacher, wants to see him win his second national championship before going pro.
“I am pulling for Clemson because Travis is my former student and I am loyal to the person,” Gaudet said. “He is a great ambassador for our town and the people from all over who follow him.”
In her mind, Gaudet said Etienne is not a junior in college playing football, but “he is still the little boy in my class.”
“I follow LSU, but if Clemson is playing at the same time, I am going to follow Clemson,” she said. “It’s easy. I don’t have to think twice.”
Gaudet has been wearing Clemson shirts all week.
Students at Jennings Elementary School and James Ward Elementary School will be allowed to wear LSU or Clemson shirts Monday with their uniform pants.
Like many local residents, Kay. St. Germain will be glued to her seat, cheering for “our hometown boy” with hopes that Clemson wins “big time.”
St. Germain, who regularly follows Etienne and hopes to see him win his second national championship, plans to watch the game with friends and family at her Mom’s home.
Ricky Edwards hates the fact that people think Jennings is divided over the game.
“It think it’s a game that Jennings wins either way,” Edwards said. “The fact that Travis is playing in his second national championship is a boost for Jennings High School and will help us later on down the road by giving our young people a goal. LSU is obviously the flagship university of Louisiana and we have had a few players from Jennings play for LSU.”
Edwards said he always pulls for LSU, but will also be pulling for Etienne this time.
“I wish there was a way he could get MVP and LSU would win,” he said. “ I think Jennings could have the best of both worlds.”
Edwards said he sees a lot of Clemson and Etienne supporters, as well as LSU fans, in the area.
“ I think if Travis goes to the NFL next year we won’t see as much orange anymore, but we will always see purple and gold,” he said.
Etienne’s former school principal, Ben Oustalet says the game is more about Clemson vs. LSU, then Etienne vs. LSU.
“Travis won the national championship title last year and has had a lot of success,” Oustalet said. “It would be good to see LSU win, but I don’t wish ill will upon anyone….Let the best team win.”
Both schools have first class athletic programs and have produced a lot of successful players, he said.