Hurricanes and hardships

Hurricanes and tropical disturbances are a part of life no one enjoys dealing with but when you live close to the coast they come with the territory. After growing up in Ohio and spending nearly all of his life far away from the ocean, Les Miles wasn't very familiar with the fury Mother Nature can bring in the form of a hurricane. But that all changed when he got to LSU.

In 2005, Miles' first year on the job, he was greeted ever so rudely by two of the most devastating hurricanes to ever hit Louisiana in Katrina and Rita.

He had to deal with many issues on and off the field such as helping players cope with their losses back home while at the same time getting them prepared to play football.

The Tigers finished 11-2 that year despite having to move the season opener from Tiger Stadium all the way out to Arizona State and then pushing the Tennessee game to a Monday night game in Tiger Stadium.

Now, three years later, it is déjà vu all over again as Miles must tackle the same types of issues but this time the names are Gustav and Ike.

 

“I don’t think that there’s anything that is as distasteful as a natural disaster that hits our area and can become routine,” Miles said. “In many ways, the inconvenience and the distress to the state are not routine, but certainly, we’ve been through enough storms here where it’s something you learn about and understand how to operate.

“I think our team, players and coaches, have benefitted from the (Hurricanes) Rita and Katrina issues. We understand that it’s not a pleasant time, but it is one that we can come together as a team and as a family and enjoy an unusual circumstance and make the best of it. I think we’ve done that in the past, and I think we’ve done that again in the short term here.”

Having to pick up the pieces after a storm is something that many of LSU’s current players have had to do at some point.

However, one guy who experienced it for the first time just like Miles did back in 2005 is Andrew Hatch.

Hatch, who is a native of Henderson, Nev., went through his first hurricane last week but luckily for him he did not have to go through it alone.

“My family came down for the game (Appalachian State) and they stayed with me in my apartment which was kind of nice,” said Hatch. “We had some chimneys falling off of the three-story buildings around us so that was kind of crazy.”

With all of the madness that followed once the hurricane moved on one would think it would be tough for young men to focus on football. But Hatch knows that what the Tigers do on the field can assist the citizens of Louisiana with its recovery even if it is in a small sense.

“As a team, I think we tried to keep our focus despite all of the hardships that people are going through and we tried to help them out the best we can but still maintain our focus and really do what we can which is play football,” he said. “Hopefully we can provide them a good distraction from all of that.”

As Hurricane Ike sets its sights on the Texas coast it will obviously be a relief for many if it heads away from the Bayou State but some will still have a lot on their mind such as Houston native Brandon LaFell.

“We have enough family in Texas so if anything happens we can go to San Antonio or Dallas so I just hope my family gets out of the way,” LaFell said. “If it hits I just hope it hits as a category one and just brings some rain and a little wind.”

While LaFell will be monitoring the situation like everyone along the coast from Mexico all the way over to Louisiana it is obvious that the Tigers are ready to get back on the field after the unexpected layoff.

That was the exact sentiment expressed by LaFell and reiterated by Chad Jones.

“I think it will feel like we’re going out and playing our first game,” LaFell said. “I don’t know about everyone else but when I went home this weekend and watched everybody else play I can’t wait to get back on the field.

“I’m just ready to get out there and hit somebody,” Jones stated. “We’re all just ready to get out there and hit somebody. It feels like it’s been a long time since we played.”


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