WATCH: Louisiana quarterbacks go through drills in practice
Louisiana quarterbacks work their way through individual drills during preseason workouts.
Cory Diaz, Lafayette Daily announcer
Between the sniffles and the intense, watery breaths, “Dad, it’s me,” was all Troy Fields could decipher.
Moments before, Chandler Fields had walked out of Louisiana football coach Michael Desormeaux’s office, where the news he had been waiting for so long had been announced.
The tears streaming down Chandler’s face reflected the overflowing emotion, an expressive relief after years of painstaking work. At that point, the most time-consuming hurdle has been cleared. Chandler Fields was named UL’s starting quarterback.
A humble Fields realized where the path led next. The challenge would begin with rediscovering himself, albeit a more mature recreation of the quarterback who strutted around campus three years earlier.
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With the starting job secured, it was time for Fields to be Fields again.
“Let’s kick some ass,” her dad, Troy, said over Chandler’s tears and relief.
“Stuck Like a Sore Thumb”
Chandler Fields has always stood out. At John Curtis Christian School, arguably Louisiana’s high school football cathedral with 27 state championships on his record, Fields was the only sixth-grader good enough to dress with college.
Wanting his talent to flourish further, Chandler’s parents, Troy and Jennifer, transferred him to Holy Cross High School in the Catholic Football League of New Orleans, considered the “holy grail” of football in the New Orleans. State. By his eighth year, Fields had secured a starting security position.
That’s when Corey Hardy noticed it.
“People have no idea what a phenomenal athlete he is,” said Hardy, Chandler’s longtime coach.
It was during this time that Fields was part of Kenner’s Buddy Lawson Travel 7-on-7 football team just outside of New Orleans. Finding out that Fields was part of the 7-on-7 “powerhouse,” a program that drew the best of the best players in town, cemented Hardy’s belief in Fields.
“He stuck out like a sore thumb,” Hardy said. “But it’s a great program, and for Chandler to be the only white guy on the team, we knew he had to be special.”
Fields beat a senior to earn Holy Cross’ starting quarterback as a rookie. After two years, Fields did something else that made him stand out: he transferred into the Catholic league from Holy Cross to Archbishop Rummel, becoming something of an outcast to some.
“In the Catholic league, it’s unheard of,” said Troy Fields, who grew up and played at John Curtis High School in New Orleans. “There were things he went through because of that.”
Those experiences, Troy said — from downtown New Orleans to the coaches who pushed him mentally and physically — made his son the relentless competitor he is today.
Throw to Justin Jefferson, Marshon Lattimore, Robert Meachem
One thing former UL coach Billy Napier told Chandler shortly after signing with the Ragin’ Cajuns, is sticking with Troy.
“Napier said to him, ‘I’m glad you came here because if you were 6-2 I wouldn’t talk to you,'” Troy recites.
Despite his ability, Chandler has always had to struggle with the stigma of his size. On Louisiana’s roster, the quarterback is listed at 5-10, and that may be a bit generous.
Attending high school camps and competing alongside current NFL quarterbacks and SEC starters, the thrill of outplaying them was overshadowed by the one thing Fields couldn’t help.
“We would go to those places, and he would be the best guy on the court,” Troy Fields said. “He doesn’t have the height, so no one had the guts to offer (a scholarship) because he didn’t match the height.
“It’s about throwing lanes. Chandler Fields will be good.”
Hardy works mostly on receivers at Camp Hardy in New Orleans, and every day when Fields showed up for practice, he would throw the whole tree of the road to receivers on the spot, running through the l ‘coaching.
“He would be the only quarterback and there would be 10 receivers,” Hardy said. “He would throw at anyone without complaining. I wanted to challenge his mental flexibility and see what he was up to. I think that showed during his time at UL.
Another way Hardy challenged Fields was to invite the best of the best to throw and block, such as NFL wides Justin Jefferson and Robert Meachem, and New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
“I always challenged him to throw towards and against really good guys to test his timing,” Hardy said. “He’s definitely managed to keep up. He’s just who he is.
“When you see him throw the ball, it’s a rocket. … It’s a combination of all his hard work, the time he puts into his mechanics. He has a relationship with the ball. Once I saw that, I knew this guy was engaged.
Fields has always been “the guy”, starting in various positions since college. Being the Cajuns quarterback behind Levi Lewis for the past three seasons has been Fields’ biggest test yet.
“Being patient was a new thing for me,” Fields said.
One aspect that new offensive coordinator Tim Leger and Desormeaux watched during the preseason quarterback battle between Fields and Ben Wooldridge was which quarterback other players were naturally drawn to. In addition to his creativity and “play to win” attitude, Fields, a sophomore, separated himself into the competition with his organic allure, something his father and Hardy have seen for years.
“I can only imagine how different it was,” Troy said of Chandler’s time as a UL reserve. They were winning, so he had to humble himself. The four biggest words in the English language are “I believe in you”. Desormeaux believes in him and I think he will go 10 times stronger now.”
Hardy believes the work done while Fields waited to achieve his dreams provided validation that he always knew was coming.
Now it’s time for Fields to be Fields again.
“He’s going to do amazing things and leave his mark on Cajun heritage. He’s going to be one of the greatest,” Hardy said. “He’s so amazing.”
Cory Diaz covers the LSU Tigers and Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns for The Daily Advertiser as part of the USA TODAY Network. Follow his coverage of the Tigers and Cajuns on Twitter: @ByCoryDiaz. Do you have questions about LSU/UL athletics? Send them to Cory Diaz at firstname.lastname@example.org.