Before the big battle on the field, Louisiana rivals gather together for the annual Bayou Classic Coach Luncheon. Fans, supporters and faculty of Grambling State University and Southern University honored student-athletes for their hard work and dedication on and off the field.
In between the “trash talk,” jokes and laughs, two players were recognized by United State Marines Corp for exemplifying leadership in the community and on the field. Kadeem Jas Lewis, a graduate defensive end for Southern from Metairie, and Naquan Smith, a graduate strong safety for Grambling State from Atlanta.
“It is a great honor,” said interim GSU head coach Dennis Winston. “(Smith) is deserving of it and will be a very productive citizen after college.”
Smith is more than a football player; he is a father, husband and mentor to many other players.
“It means a lot to me that my coaches, teammates and others believe that I show great leadership,” said the strong safety for GSU. Smith graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management in May 2013, and currently pursuing a master’s degree in Sports Administration.
Smith was notified of his accomplishment after GSU’s lost against University of Arkansas Pine Bluff two weeks ago. He has watched three of his other teammates received the leadership award for the Marines, including last year when his best friend Fabian Carter, GSU kicker, was named.
“Me and (Carter) are like the same type of people,” said Smith. “We give advice to the freshman and student-athletes and teach them how matriculate through Grambling State successfully.”
Smith is also rooted in the community and around campus. As an intern in the Office of Academic Enhancement at Grambling State, he was able to mentor his fellow peers and freshman student-athletes. He teaches them how to adapt to college life, balance being a student-athlete and busy schedules. In addition, he volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club of Ruston and Grambling Lab High School.
Both coaches had their changes speak with the crowd. Dawson Odums joked about him and his teams’ “20-20” vision. If Southern wins Saturday afternoon, it will tie the series at the 40th anniversary of the Bayou Classic game. Pointing to his glasses, Winston reminded Southern supporters he does not have “20-20” vision but is good at math. He predicts the series will favor Grambling, 21-19.
Grambling State and Southern will face off in the Superdome at 1:30. GSU hopes to upset the defending Bayou Classic champions and the current Western Conference Southwest Athletic Conference champions. SU will play in the SWAC championship next week in Houston.