With Katrina wreaking havoc over the Gulf Coast, communication with anyone in the area has been minimal to non-existent. Now that communications have been restored in Destrehan, which is about 20 miles from New Orleans, Eugene took a few moments to talk about what happened in his neighborhood.
"My family and everyone are okay", he started. "The house has a little tree damage but everything is alright."
Like so many in his area, Eugene is a survivor who knows that he will persevere through this tragedy. Destrehan is on the western edge of New Orleans so there were anxious moments during and after the storm. Now things are starting to return to normal.
"You do what you got to do," he said about coping. "The lights and the water are back on … almost everything is back up. We just started practicing again today. They say we will be back in school next Wednesday, but if not then, the week after that on the following Monday. "
The practices and games help ease some of the pain of this monumental tragedy. Football is a big part of small community life in Louisiana so the games will provide a community rallying point and perhaps for a few hours each week, help people forget the storm.
Because the storm has displaced so many people, Destrehan will be absorbing students from New Orleans school districts. High schools throughout the state are re-working their schedules, too. It might take a couple of weeks before everyone can make sense of things. Destrehan's schedule is incomplete at the moment.
"We dropped a few games but are trying to pick up a few more games," Eugene said. "There are probably about seven to eight games left and then we will have some kind of playoffs."
Some of the new students at Destrehan will be kids who were playing football in New Orleans. The composition of the team will be changing but the team still has a bright outlook.
"We are doing pretty good … we have a few people missing but we will be all right," he said. "We have some new people on the team coming from new schools. We are still going to be good like last year."
Eugene tripped to Gainesville in July for a camp and came with fellow Louisianan, four-star (by Scout.com) wide receiver Ricky Dixon. Dixon was one of the first people he called when he was able to use the phone lines.
"He is doing pretty well," Eugene said. "As a matter of fact I talked to him as soon as I got home and he said he was doing good and his family was doing good."
With all the communication problems in the area, phone lines have been useless. College coaches were allowed to start calling prospects on September 1 and many were certainly wondering if Eugene and his family had made it through the storm okay. Wednesday seemed to be the first day that anyone heard any news.
"Yeah man, I talked to a lot of coaches yesterday," he said. "I talked to (Florida) Coach (Urban) Meyer, Coach (Chuck) Heater, and Coach (John) Hevesy and I talked to the coaches at Tennessee."
Where Eugene is leaning at the moment for his college choice is of no importance. That he is healthy and his family unit is healthy is what a lot of people were hoping to hear. Jai Eugene, we are happy to report, is doing just fine.