Cajun players love celebrating with their Baller Baton
MOBILE, Ala. — Some teams have a turnover chain, popularized in recent seasons by Miami of Florida.
Over the years, others have had everything from a lunch pail to crowns, wrestling-style championship belts and even a turnover trash can.
For the UL football team, which arrived Thursday in Mobile in advance of Monday’s LendingTree Bowl game against MAC-champion Miami (Ohio) at Ladd-Peebles Stadium here, the favored sideline prop of choice is a fancy baton.
Some might say it is a touchdown cane.
The Baller Baton, they call it.
After high-profile plays — TDs and the like — high-stepping Ragin’ Cajuns assistant strength and conditioning coach Tiger Williams typically hands it to an offensive player prominent in the play for a quick celebration.
The player with the stick in hand improvises from there as a teammates and coaches cheer them on, each one usually as creative as the last and many of them chronicled via video on UL radio reporter Cody Junot’s Twitter timeline.
And whatever it's name, it has made the trip to Mobile.
“I love it,” said senior receiver Bam Jackson, who much to his disappointment has not yet had the baton in hand this season.
“It excites the sideline, getting those guys hyped,” Jackson added. “It gets us pumped up when somebody makes a big play and the celebration starts and you reach the sideline and get the baton from Coach Tiger.”
In last month’s Sun Belt Conference championship game, receiver Peter LeBlanc used it to pretend he was planting a flag.
All-American offensive lineman Kevin Dotson and tight end Nick Ralston both have acted like it was a barbell.
LeBlanc, offensive lineman Carlos Rubion and running backs Elijah Mitchell, Raymond Calais Jr. and Chris Smith all have been seen dancing with it, with Calais going salsa style and Mitchell doing a quick version of the Cupid Shuffle.
Kicker Stevie Artigue has used it as a duck-hunting gun. Mitchell and receiver Jalen Williams both pretended it was a baseball bat. Quarterback Levi Lewis simply struts with it.
But the best celebration, by Jackson’s estimation? It happened when UL beat in-state rival UL Monroe.
Senior receiver Ja’Marcus Bradley hauled in a touchdown catch, came to the sideline, took the baton and immediately froze. Jones went to Bradley’s back and pretended to wind him up, putting the senior back in action.
“That’s my favorite,” Jackson said.
For Cajun defensive players, spiked shoulder pads await on the sideline.
UL head coach Billy Napier is on board with the props.
“We talk about celebrating as a team,” he said.
“And as much as that’s an individual doing it, I think doing it on the sideline with their teammates is what I would agree with. It gives them some ownership. It allows creativity. … Our guys look forward to it.”
The Cajuns returned to familiar territory Thursday.
UL was just here in mid-November, when it beat South Alabama 37-27 at Ladd-Peebles.
Does that give the Cajuns an advantage?
“I guess mentally you can say it does,” senior safety Deuce Wallace said Thursday.
“We’re not worried about accustomed to a new venue, or even getting distracted with sightseeing and stuff like that. We’re used to this. This is nothing new.”
Napier, however, wasn’t so sure.
“I think certainly our players will be comfortable with the venue,” he said. “But … they’d probably like to tell you that doesn’t matter; where we play, what time we play, what color uniforms we wear doesn’t matter.
“It’s gonna be about our frame our mind, our disposition; are we ready to play, are we gonna execute; are we gonna have poise and discipline?”
Napier said Thursday in Mobile that “there may be some adjustments” in the team's usual two-deep depth chart for the LendingTree Bowl, but he declined to address specifics.
NOD TO NICK
Back in Alabama, where he was receivers coach for the Crimson Tide for four seasons before leaving for a year to be offensive coordinator at Arizona State, then taking the UL job, Napier gave a nod to Alabama coach Nick Saban, saying, “Coach has been terrific to me.”
UL athletic director Bryan Maggard said Thursday here that it is “part of the plan” for the Cox Communications Center, which currently houses offices for athletic department personnel, to be torn down when Cajun Field undergoes future major renovation, but he added “we can’t say for sure” until “final boxes are checked.”