Ready or Not: After a well-traveled playing career, Lowell Narcisse to take over Ascension Catholic at 25

by: William Weathers // Contributor

Four games into his redshirt season at Texas-San Antonio in 2020, quarterback Lowell Narcisse remained engaged in games after a season-ending ankle injury.

Narcisse, a former four-star standout at St. James High School, who initially signed with LSU, would convey his thoughts on coverages and run checks to quarterback Frank Harris and his wide receivers. 

The Roadrunners went on to a 12-2 record that included a bowl loss to San Diego State, but Narcisse was always optimistic about resuming his playing career the following season. The same guy who was beset by two ACL injuries in high school and a knee procedure at LSU believed he already witnessed the worst in a trying career that delivered another curveball.

Narcisse didn’t play another competitive collegiate game. He was forced to sit out the entire ’21 season when his ankle didn’t respond accordingly, resulting in a transfer to Nicholls the following spring at one final chance at glory.

“If he was close to where he was, he could have had a great one year at Nicholls,” said Lutcher head coach Dwain Jenkins, Narcisse’s coach for three years at St. James.

With his undergraduate degree in hand, Narcisse enrolled in a master’s program with an eye on returning to the playing field that fall for the Colonels. His ankle, injured in a game nearly two years before, was never 100% and forced him to retire from football, and pivot toward coaching for two seasons in Texas before heading home.

Narcisse was hired in February as the offensive coordinator at Class 5A East Ascension, coaching the Spartans through the spring game until four months later when a call from Class 1A Ascension Catholic changed his trajectory, hiring the 25-year-old to become the school’s head coach.

“It kind of happened my last year (at UTSA),” Narcisse said of his first thought of coaching. “I was kind of doing it unintentionally. My coach (Jeff Traylor) said I would be a great coach. I didn’t see myself doing that but as I look back at it now, I was already kind of doing it. That carried with me into Nicholls and my first coaching job (Columbus, Texas). In essence, I had to be an assistant coach while still a player at the time.”

The two teams Narcisse was involved with at Columbus High, a Class 3A school, went 24-2 overall and produced an offense that passed for 2,500 yards and rushed for another 2,000. That performance, along with the chance to return to his native Louisiana, opened the door for him at East Ascension where he intended to coach until Ascension Catholic’s overture. 

Narcisse was hired June 15 and has since directed the team’s offseason program, putting together a staff in which he’ll call offensive plays. He retained Tony Paine to run his defense with Delmond Landry coaching special teams and former St. James and Clemson running back Chad Jasmine is also on staff. 

Photo Courtesy of @BulldogsAC on X

“I’ve surrounded myself with a great staff, a lot of guys with a lot of playing experience,” Narcisse said. “I wanted to get the right people around those guys so we can get over that hump, and finally go win the big one. When I got the first call, I looked into it. I knew those guys had a great tradition of winning, a great culture, the kids always played hard. I thought it was a great opportunity for me to start my head coaching career. That’s something I was looking forward to doing and that opportunity came sooner rather than later. I felt it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.”

Narcisse didn’t see the late nature of replacing former head coach Chris Sanders, who led Ascension Catholic to consecutive Division IV select state quarterfinals, as a deterrent. 

“My mom always told me if you wait until you’re ready for something, you’ll never be ready for it,” he said. “I do think timing’s important, but I’m all about opportunity. I felt this was a great opportunity for me and a great opportunity for my kids as well. If you say you’re waiting for the right time, when is that? It’s based on certain situations and standards. It depends on who you’re talking to, and how you’re looking at the timing part of it. If you’re waiting for something for the right time, you’ll never be prepared for it.”

Jenkins believes Narcisse, based on his playing experience and dealing with extreme adversity over this career, will be a natural in his role as head coach. 

“What he brings is life experience, his playing career and what he went through helped him to mature beyond his years,” he said. “He can relate to kids. He went from the guy, the guy every one of these kids dreams of being, and had every (college) head coach in the country looking at him and was on top of the mountain. Then he got hurt and dealt with the disappointment. He worked his way back, had a promising career, and gets hurt again. The curveballs and hardships that life throws at you and what he’s dealt with as a young man, it’s built him into the person he is.”

Narcisse realizes his first offense will be centered around senior running back Chad Elzy, the Class 1A Most Outstanding Offensive Player in 2023. 

“We have one of the top backs in the state,” he said. “We’ll have things geared to have the pieces around him. I look forward to seeing how it shapes up.”

One of the nation’s best in high school 

In this age of social media, Ascension Catholic’s players have had the capability of connecting to Narcisse, the nation’s fifth-ranked dual-threat quarterback his senior year at St. James. His resume’ included a breakthrough sophomore season when he passed for 3,124 yards and 31 touchdowns, and added 1,402 yards and 18 scores on the ground, springboarding him onto national recruiting lists.

“I had seen him play in middle school and told him I was moving him to quarterback,” Jenkins said of Narcisse. “We kind of built the whole program around him. He was the face of it. His sophomore season was one of the more incredible seasons that I had seen. He was getting recruited by everybody and was on top of all the recruiting rankings. It was a revolving door of Power 5 (Conference) schools in St. James, Louisiana.”

Narcisse began to encounter personal setbacks with an ACL injury in the spring of his junior season. He returned later in the year after a rehabilitation process and helped the Wildcats to the Class 3A state championship game against Lutcher. 

He dealt with another obstacle before his senior season, tearing the ACL in the opposite knee before the jamboree and missing his entire final season under first-year coach Robert Valdez.

“I relied on my faith,” Narcisse said. “I relied on my family and a support system of people who were there for me. I tell the kids all the time that you’ve got to get the right people around you. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and there’s no reason for why those things happen. 

“Sometimes you have to survive those times and have supportive people to get you through it,” Narcisse said. “I’ve had my days with injuries, the failures I had in football, or just life itself.  I’ve always had the right people that kept me positive like coach Jenkins and coach Valdez. They always had their door open for me.”

A four-star prospect Narcisse, who was selected to the Under Armour All-America Game, was listed as the nation’s No. 15 ranked dual-threat quarterback. After initially committing to Auburn in ’15, he signed with LSU where he redshirted in ’17. The Tigers added Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow a year later which led to Narcisse’s transfer to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. He completed 44 of 98 passes for 506 yards with three TDs and three interceptions, signing with Texas-San Antonio in December of ’18.

A rollercoaster ride awaited Narcisse in San Antonio. After failing to secure the starting job in fall camp, he emerged to start in seven games, completing 107 of 201 attempts for 1,226 yards with eight TDs and five interceptions. He was also the Roadrunners’ second-leading rusher with 492 yards on 118 carries for four TDs.

A coaching change that brought in Traylor, resulted in Narcisse falling on the team’s depth chart at quarterback. He showed his resolve once again, working his way back to start in four games – throwing for 417 yards with 3 TDs, and rushing for 126 yards – until suffering what became a career-ending injury to his ankle against Army.

“After that,” Jenkins said, “he was basically never the same.”

A career transition

Surgery and rehabilitation didn’t provide the results he sought, leading Narcisse to Nicholls to discover the remnants of his once great career that produced 7,777 all-purpose yards at St. James. 

Narcisse totally immersed himself in spring practice, trying to pick up a fourth different offense during his college odyssey, but gave an honest assessment of himself.

It was time to walk away.

“That’s a hard thing to do,” he said. “A lot of people fight with that and when it’s time to move on. I knew coming into this that injuries were a part of the game. I knew the level that I could play at, and when your mind says yes, and your body says no. You’ve got to listen to your body sometimes. I knew physically I would never get back to being able to play at the level I wanted to.” 

“I didn’t think it was fair for that team, or my fans, for me not to able to give them my absolute best,” he said. “I wasn’t chasing this closure. I was just ready to move on to the next phase in life. Some people agreed with it, some people didn’t. I knew when I made that decision, I was at peace about everything I did. I gave my all to my football career. It turned out the way it did.”

Narcisse tapped into some of his past connections at UTSA and transitioned into coaching, landing the offensive coordinator’s position at Columbus High.

Jenkins believed Narcisse would be able to compensate for a lack of coaching experience by leaning on his playing experience, one that involved learning from coaches Ed Orgeron, Cam Cameron, and Steve Ensminger at LSU along with Frank Wilson and Traylor at UTSA.

“With all the change it gave him an opportunity to learn and see a whole lot of different systems, be around a lot of different coaches and personalities, and how to build programs,” Jenkins said.

Columbus High, located between Houston and San Antonio, posted records of 12-2 and 12-1, twice winning its district title and reaching the state quarterfinals, and averaged 44.4 points last season.

Having lost both of his parents and grandmother, Narcisse opted to return to his native Louisiana and become offensive coordinator under first-year East Ascension head coach Blake Matherne, a job that lasted four months, until Ascension Catholic provided his first opportunity to become a head coach. 

“Whoever thought at 25, I would be in this situation,” Narcisse said. “I’m glad I trusted my gut. I think God has mysterious ways of working.”