Callin’ Baton Rouge
It’s very rare in life that you get a second chance. As I woke on November 14, 2015, I knew that I would embrace every moment of my second chance to be recognized on the field of Death Valley. This honor had originally been scheduled for September 5, 2015. However, the weather had other plans for that day. Although that game had turned into a grand adventure, I was extremely grateful when I was notified that I would have the opportunity to be recognized during the LSU vs. Arkansas game.
The day had a sense of déjà vu as it once again started with observing the Tiger Band practice at the Indoor Football Facility. This time, however, I had the chance to visit with Frank Wickes, the former Director of LSU Bands. While watching the Tiger Band perfect their half time show, I was flooded with memories of my own experiences in the band.
Thanks to the Dream Teachers organization, my family and I were again able to attend the “Ultimate Tiger Tailgate” following the band practice. As we enjoyed the festivities, I reveled in the beautiful weather for the day. I even had the chance to watch a portion of the Tiger Band performing in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Next, we made our way to meet with Ben Heroman and Denny Bond, members of the Board of Directors for Dream Teachers, along with our liaisons from the LSU Athletic Department, Liz and Ty. Just as my family and I were escorted us onto the field, Garth Brooks’ song, “Callin’ Baton Rouge”, resonated throughout the stadium. Goose bumps covered my arms as I was shown to the opposing team’s area to wait. As the clock counted down to the time I would take the field, Ty and I pointed out the LSU football players to my niece, Kate. At one point, Leornard Fournette was standing just ten yards away from me.
Before I had even realized that time had passed, Ty was leading me to the edge of the field by the 45 yard line. I looked out across the field and saw several photographers and a cameraman waiting. As I took my first step onto the field, I couldn’t help but think of the many times I had made this crossing while in the Tiger Band. The big difference was that I didn’t have my fellow 364 band members marching out onto the field with me.
It felt surreal as I stood on the “Eye of the Tiger” and heard my biography echoing throughout the stadium. As it was announced that I was a former member of the Tiger Band, I could hear a loud cheer come from the end zone where the Tiger Band was lined up for the pregame show. Since many of my students and faculty members from Woodlake Elementary School were attending the game, I pivoted to face all areas of the stadium as I had promised each one that I would wave to them. My eyes started to water while I turned once again to the camera. I took a deep breath and willed the tears away. At the end of the announcement, the stadium was filled with thunderous applause. It seemed like I was flying as I made my way to the sideline. While walking to our seats, my family and I were awed by the number of people that spoke words of congratulations and appreciation.
I must admit that I had a hard time going to sleep on Saturday evening. My head was filled with visions of standing on the “Eye of the Tiger” while my heart was bursting with joy. Overall, my feelings could best be summed up by Garth Brooks, “Operator, won’t you put me on through. I gotta’ send my love (and gratitude) down to Baton Rouge.” Thank you to the LSU Athletic Department and the Dream Teachers organization for a day that I will cherish forever!