No. 13 not unlucky for Cajuns running back TJ Wisham
Some say the number is unlucky. So unlucky in fact that a majority of high-rise buildings often skip the 13th floor.
For UL running back TJ Wisham, however, the number 13 is anything but unlucky. But before we get to 13 and the significance of that number to Wisham and his Ragin’ Cajuns teammates, we need to back up.
We need to back up 406 days to be exact. You see, it was exactly 406 days from the time Wisham, a walk-on from Baton Rouge, set foot on campus until he was awarded a scholarship by Cajuns coach Billy Napier on Monday.
Wisham, in fact, is no ordinary walk-on.
After graduating from Episcopal High, Wisham spent a year at a prep school before enrolling at West Point — a decision that made a lasting impact and thought him some of the most valuable lessons that allowed him to push through the 406 days in between leaving the United States Military Academy, enrolling at UL and ultimately become the 13th walk-on to be awarded a scholarship under coach Napier’s watch.
“When you're at West Point, you're part of the greatest team in the world, and that's the United States Military. Being at West Point you learn how to be a follower; you learn how to be a leader. You learn to understand your role and do your role to the best of your ability in order to help overall,” Wisham said a few days after he was awarded a scholarship.
That lesson helped him to get past the thing football players and all athletes look forward to the most: competing in games.
“Last year was hard for me, knowing that I would go out to practice every day throughout the week and come game day I wasn't dressing up in pads, so that was a big part of it — knowing my role and doing my role to the best of my ability.”
Wisham’s role, while sitting out as part of NCAA transfer rules in 2018, was as a member of the Cajuns scout team, or look team as its known around the program. It was his performance on the scout team that gave the UL staff a look at Wisham’s desire to contribute to the team despite not being able to play on Saturdays.
“I took pride in the scout team; I took a selfish, unselfish, way of playing scout team," he said. "I was selfish with every week I wanted the coaches to know or give me scout team player of the week because I wanted to give the best look to the defense.”
Wisham’s hard work paid off, and the coaching staff noticed.
“TJ is very deserving; he not only is a heck of a football player but also an upstanding young man and an outstanding student,” Napier said.
In 2019, the redshirt sophomore will contribute on special teams for the Cajuns. Wisham is currently part of UL’s kickoff, kickoff return, punt and punt block units. But should he be needed at running back for any reason this season, he’s more than ready.
“I see my role this fall camp and going into 2019," he said, "as being a guy that offensively, I want to be that guy the coaches can have confidence in knowing that if something happens to any of our backs that they can throw me in there and have full confidence in me and the things I know I have to do.”
For Wisham, 13 wasn’t unlucky at all.