Tabary wants his legacy to be more than numbers
McNeese State’s James Tabary has a lot to prove this season. Despite leading the Cowboys offense for two consecutive seasons as the first quarterback in the Lance Guidry era. Breaking multiple program records and being on the verge of setting more records as he enters his senior campaign, that’s not enough.
Tabary has yet to play in a Football Championship Subdivision playoff game, let alone win one.
He wants that to change as much as any other player on the roster, if not more.
“I’ve grown a lot,” Tabary said. “I was not happy with my success last year. Some might say I had a bad year or a good year. I thought I had a bad year, myself. My expectations are really high and they’re to win every game.
“My personal goals come after winning. If we’re not 11-0 and winning in the playoffs, then I’m not doing my job.”
Tabary’s first two seasons at McNeese didn’t mirror one another.
He burst on the seen in his first season of eligibility after transferring from Arkansas State and winning a battle against Grant Ashcraft. He proceeded to break the McNeese single-season records for most completions with 249 and pass attempts with 415. His 3,036 yards left him 32 shy of the record set Blake Prejean in 1997
The problem? Those numbers didn’t translate into wins.
The Cowboys went 6-5 in 2016 and finished fourth in the Southland Conference with a 5-4 league record, keeping them well out of playoff contention.
Tabary’s second year, while solid by most standards, didn’t live up to the numbers he put up in his debut season.
He completed 199 of 353 passes (56.4 percent) for 2,511 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also threw eight interceptions, including a costly pick-six against Nicholls State that ultimately contributed to a 37-35 loss in the season opener in Thibodaux.
By his own admission Tabary never found the rhythm he got into during the previous season. It would be easy to put that on the depleted offensive line, but that’s not Tabary’s style.
“Those big guys need a break up there,” he said. “Those are the guys that get the offense going. Without them, we’re nothing.”
This year Guidry shook up his offensive coaching staff, switching the roles of offensive coordinator Landon Hoefer and co-offensive coordinator Kerry Joseph.
Hoefer took over the wide receiver responsibilities, Joseph, a former McNeese great behind center with professional experience both at the NFL and CFL, took the quarterback duties.
Tabary said Joseph’s experience at the position is invaluable as a coach, and Joseph sees something special in Tabary.
“He just needs to keep competing against himself and all the guys in that room,” Joseph said. “He just has to keep doing the little things on and off the field. A lot of times at the quarterback position it’s not about what you say, it’s about what you do. Those guys are going to follow you.
“He’s done a good job and bought into the things I’ve brought into the meeting room. He has to be the leader in that room.”
Tabary enters the season 2,679 passing yards away from the school career record held by Derrick Fourroux (8,226) and 23 touchdown passes shy of Joseph’s career record of 67.
Records might not be at the forefront of his mind when he goes out and tries to win games, but that’s not going to stop him from trying to achieve them.
“I just try to be the best I could possibly be, but for my team first,” Tabary said. “But if I can break every record, I’m going to try do it. Absolutely.”
McNeese at Northern Colorado, 3:05 p.m.
In this file photo, McNeese State quarterback James Tabary is hit as he throws against Nicholls State last season in Thibodaux. Record-breaking McNeese State quarterback Tabary enters his senior season in search of consistency and a postseason trip. Last season’s numbers were down in comparison to his sophomore season. (Abby Tabor / Special to the American Press)