Hope springs eternal as football gets set to begin

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Ken Trahan and Gayle Benson before QB Club luncheon

NEW ORLEANS – “I just told someone,” Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson joked, “that we were undefeated already.”

So is everyone in Louisiana as the high school, college and professional football seasons get ready to kick off this week.

Mrs. Benson headlined an all-star panel of speakers Tuesday at the opening meeting of the 84th year of the Greater New Orleans Quarterback Club at The Cannery. Also on hand were Tulane coach Willie Fritz, LSU executive deputy athletic director Verge Ausberry and a pair of outstanding high school coaches, Edna Karr’s Brice Brown and De La Salle’s Graham Jarrott.

“This is a special time in New Orleans and our region, and I cannot tell you how excited I am about the upcoming Saints season,” Mrs. Benson said.

The season-opening Quarterback Club meeting was the first since 2019 because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“I’m so grateful and relieved to be able to kick off the season without the restrictions of the last two years,” Mrs. Benson said, “and that we are finally able to gather together and celebrate our teams without limitations. Football is something that brings people together.”

That’s true on the college and high school levels as well, she added.

Tulane opens at home Saturday night against UMass, the first of seven home games on the schedule.

“This time last year, we were traveling over to Birmingham (because of Hurricane Ida), ” Fritz said. “I told my guys to pack for three days. I was off by 24 days.

“We’re very excited about the guys we have coming back,” said Fritz, noting that the Wave has 14 players on offense and 13 on defense who have started at least one game.

Tulane’s running back group is almost exclusively made up of players from southeast Louisiana – Tyjae Spears of Ponchatoula, Iverson Celestine of Fontainebleau and University of Colorado transfer Ashaad Clayton, who prepped at Warren Easton.

Fritz said linebackers Nick Anderson and Dorian Williams “can start for any Division I program in the nation.”

Ausberry quickly addressed the elephant in the room before the Tigers meet Florida State Sunday night in the Caesars Superdome.

“I don’t know who the starting quarterback is going to be,” he said.

Ausberry said first-year coach Brian Kelly “has brought back … accountability to the program. That’s the thing we needed. He’s going to build a program.”

The Saints open their season Sept. 11 in Atlanta.

“There truly is nothing like a Monday when Tulane, LSU and the Saints all win,” Mrs. Benson said. “I think I speak for all of us when I say we should do that more often.”

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Lenny Vangilder

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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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