Louisiana Line Camp set to host record number of participants at Nicholls State

by: William Weathers // GeauxPreps.com Contributor

Live Oak football coach Randell Leggette has noticed the correlation for years.

Leggette, in his first season as head coach at the Livingston Parish school, was a believer in the Louisiana (Offense-Defense) Line Camp at Nicholls State during his days at St. Thomas Aquinas in Hammond.

The camp’s evolved into a must stop for lineman with an ambition to sharpen their skills in front of some of the best offensive line coaches covering the high school, college and professional levels.

The four-day camp, which is aimed at improving players to return and help their respective schools, has gained a healthy reputation throughout the nation and this year’s online registration is already capped at 725 participants.

“What I’ve noticed is you get great coaching from high school, college and professional coaches,” Leggette said. “The (high school) teams that are consistently competing at a high level, their guys are there in large numbers. We want to continue that path.”

This year’s 37th annual edition is scheduled to begin Saturday with the first practice set for 6-8 p.m. and concludes by 11 a.m. Tuesday at Nicholls State in Thibodaux.

There will be three practice sessions daily and film sessions that all contribute to the growth of each camper.

“The difference with our camp, we don’t care if you’ve got four or five stars, or no stars,” Don Rodrigue, one of the original founders of the camp along with Jessie Daigle, Pete Jenkins and Kenny Ferro in 1987.

“Whether you’re a stud that may sign with a Power 5 (school),” Rodrigue said, “We may be working with a kid that’s a freshman that’s just a high school player. Our motto is to take a young man, get him better at his position to go back to his high school and make them better.”

The Louisiana Line Camp has continued to draw large crowds since beginning its first year with less than 100 campers. They drew 680 a year ago.

There’s a reason why the camp, whose makeup features a large percentage of players from Louisiana, has a national appeal where for the third year Loyola-Blakefield in Towson, Maryland will send double-digit campers.

Rodrigue said Lipscomb High in Nashville is sending 22 players, while Catholic High in Baton Rouge will have the largest number of players on hand with 45.

“The Louisiana Line Camp is an essential part of our player development at Catholic High,” Catholic offensive line coach Matt Shelton said. “We send 40-50 athletes each year and really believe that it helps to bond our young men together, as well as help them refine their technique heading into the season.

“The camp has been so well run for decades, and we are privileged to be a part of it,” Shelton said. “Our program is built on things like toughness in the trenches, and the Louisiana Line Camp is a huge part of that for us.”

St. Amant and Dutchtown of Ascension Parish will have between 25-28 players, while Live Oak will have 23, St. Paul’s of Covington (22), Thibodaux (21), St. Thomas More of Lafayette (12-14) and Loreauville in Iberia Parish (8-10).

“I’m big on that, I harp on it,” Leggette said of the camp. “You always want to look for a formula you can give to your program. To get to that level you’ve got to kind of follow the formula and I feel like the lineman camp’s only going to make our kids better. They’re learning different techniques, zone and gap schemes, and pass protections.

“It allows them to be better at the fundamentals and they get to hear it from other coaches,” Leggette said. “They don’t have to hear the same voice over and over here. Those coaches may have something they can steal from and add to their game. I just love it.”

There was a proud moment for Rodrigue during last season’s Class 5A state nonselect playoffs when Mandeville hosted St. Amant, there were a combined 55 players on the field that had taken part in the Louisiana Line Camp.

Rodrigue said schools such as St. Amant and Loreauville have displayed plenty of ingenuity to make the camp a reality each year.

Both schools conduct annual fundraisers to defray expenses, and this year St. Amant needed to print additional tickets to meet the demand for supporters who were in contention for a crawfish boiling pot, burner and paddles.

Loreauville held its annual crawfish/shrimp boil the first week of Lent and wrote one check with the proceeds going to cover expenses of their lineman at the camp.

“That’s a small-town mentality with big dreams,” Rodrigue said of Loreauville. “They come and they love it. They keep coming back.”

The camp features a total of 50 coaches that are a variety of high school, college and professional coaches.

NFL Hall of Famer Kevin Mawae, a former standout at Leesville High and LSU, is scheduled to work the camp for the 10th straight year.

Former LSU standouts Karl Dunbar of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Henry Thomas, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings, have served as instructors along with current LSU offensive line coach Bo Davis, who previously worked with the Detroit Lions.

Nicholls State continues to serve as the camp’s host because of its ability to have such amenities as dorm rooms, cafeteria and practice field within walking distance for campers.

The school also sports a 100-yard covered indoor practice facility which is a bonus on hot, sweltering days, and the practice fields are all turtleback for optimum drainage in case of rain.

“At the end of camp, we give them a tee shirt with: ‘I Survived (Off-Def) Line Camp’,” Rodrigue said. “When understand it’s the best camp in the nation and the kids continue to come.”