Rummel legends remain biggest believers and fans of Ja’Marr Chase
The legend of Ja’Marr Chase lives back to his childhood days, growing up as a special athlete on the West Bank.
Chase gravitated to Archbishop Rummel, where he spent a wonderful period of his life from 2014-18.
At Rummel, Chase was a two-sport star, an outstanding basketball player, along with being a superb football talent, which became evident very quickly.
Many would tell you that Ja’Marr could have been a star in basketball, had he chosen that sport. Having seen him play basketball, I can assure you that was quite possible.
Fortunately, Chase chose football and it has been a pleasure watching him perform and progress.
I had a front row seat, having done Archbishop Rummel football games on a permanent basis dating back to 2001 and on a part-time basis since 1978.
It was very evident early that Chase had a great future in football.
At Rummel, Chase was coached by legendary coach Jay Roth, who won more games than any coach in the history of the storied Catholic League, spending 24 years at his alma mater, winning 228 games before retiring following the 2018 season with two state titles, four state championship game appearances and 12 Catholic League titles.
Now the athletic director at Rummel, Roth knew he had something special in Chase as well and was clear what he remembers most about Chase.
“Plenty of good football,” Roth said. “Superb athlete. A lot of people knew he would be special before me. The basketball coach (Troy Holley) knew he had something special. He knew Ja’Marr could play basketball. I think it was the beginning of his junior year when we knew. We saw some flashes as a sophomore. That first game of his junior year against U-High, we knew he could dominate every game.”
Roth remembers the greatest games Chase had.
“The U-High game as a junior and the Jesuit game at Yulman (Stadium) where he just totally took over in the fourth quarter,” Roth said.
Rummel won that game 22-21 as Chase caught two touchdown passes in a 90-second span of a live Crescwnt City Sports brodcast. The Raiders rallied from an 11-point deficit to win. Chase had seven catches for 139 yards.
There were two other games that stand out for Roth as well with Chase coming up huge.
“The John Curtis game (2015) which was a huge crowd with big anticipation. Curtis scored on the first play on a dive, going 80 yards. On the ensuing kickoff, Ja’Marr ran it back for a touchdown. The crowd was electric. The playoff game against Byrd in 2017. We decided as a staff we would get Ja’Marr the ball any way we can if we had a chance to get to the state championship. In that game, he was a wildcat back, returned punts, kicks, caught three touchdowns and he got hurt at the end of the game.”
At Rummel, Chase to Chase was a potent passing tandem. Chase Fourcade was Ja’Marr’s quarterback as a sophomore in 2015. Fourcade led Rummel to a state championship in 2013 and set the record for the most passing yards in school history at 5,588.
Fourcade set virtually every school record as a fabulous performer at Nicholls State. He remains friends with Chase and he knew Chase would be special and saw what we are seeing now coming.
“Yes, especially as a sophomore as ‘86’ Ja’marr,” Fourcade said. “He was 86 before he was No. 1. He had all the tools to be the receiver that he is today. He was young, playing receiver for a No. 1 team in the state in Rummel. What I saw on the field, as a player and as a person, you can’t take anything away from him. He’s a great player. He was a great player as a sophomore in my 2015 year. He loves the game of football. You can tell in his first year with the Cincinnati Bengals.”
Having enjoyed doing play-by-play for 15 of Ja’Marr’s high school games, the first sign of the greatness to come was revealed in week three of the 2015 season as Rummel traveled to New Jersey to take on national power Don Bosco Prep.
The Raiders lost 10-3 but Fourcade connected with Chase on a 55-yard completion.
“I threw a seam route to him, over the middle,” Fourcade recalled. “He sprained his ankle on that play but came back a few weeks later against St. Aug. We had a play strictly for him, ‘sophomore Ja’Marr.’ He ran in and ran back out, scored and he came back and I threw a corner route to him. I put in the bucket but the route he ran was just unbelievable. That’s just the player he was. Not a lot of players even get a chance to play as a sophomore. What he has done is phenomenal, unbelievable.”
Fourcade still revives his connection with Chase, on and off the field.
“We had one throwing session before he went out to training camp,” Fourcade said. “He still talks about the days we had together. Nothing has changed. We ran some routes at EJ (East Jefferson). Everything was quick for him, decisive. The routes he ran were just smooth. He’s still killing it.”
In 2016, Jacob Palma threw passes to Chase as he continued to improve. Palma threw for 1,485 yards and 17 touchdowns in that season.
In his senior season of 2017, it was Chandler Fields who had the privilege of throwing to Chase. Fields, who is third in Rummel history in yards passing, holds the school record for the most passing yards in a season (2,359).
Fields, now a quarterback at the University of Louisiana, spoke with me from Lafayette Monday about his former teammate, who remains his good friend.
“What impressed me most about Ja’Marr was his accountability, his dedication to the game, his leadership, his work ethic,” Fields said. “He never stops working. It all shows up on the field on Sundays. Behind the scenes is what impressed me the most about Ja’Marr. He’s a true leader.”
What did Fields see as the strongest part of Chase’s game?
“Really everything,” Fields said. “He’s fast, physical, runs great routes, gets great releases. For a quarterback, he makes it real easy. I think everything about his game is really strong. Most importantly, his run after catch is elite.”
There is one game which stands out at Rummel for Fields.
“When we played Teurlings Catholic in Lafayette, we were really clicking,” Fields said. “Coach Roth got mad at us because we would give each other a little look or hands-down and it was like, ‘let’s cook them right here.’ We would run straight go-routes on them or post routes. I don’t think we missed very many in that game.”
Rummel won the game 41-23.
When he was finished, Chase held every school receiving record in Raider history.
Chase finished with 115 receptions for 2,152 yards and 30 touchdowns. He had 226 yards receiving in a victory over University High in 2016.
In the final game of his Rummel career, Chase accumulated 248 all-purpose yards, catching nine passes for 129 yards and three touchdowns, rushing seven times for 72 yards, returning a kickoff for 37 yards and a pair of punts for 10 yards in a 55-28 playoff win over Byrd in which he injured his knee. Chase also had a 70-yard touchdown run negated by penalty.
It was an appropriate, brilliant ending to a brilliant high school career. Without Chase, Rummel lost at Evangel 14-7 in the quarterfinals. A healthy Chase clearly could have made a difference.
Chase committed to Kansas, then to Florida and eventually signed with LSU.
The rest is history.
Chase was a fantastic player for the Tigers as a sophomore, winning the Biletnikoff Award as the best receiver in the nation, leading the nation in both reception yards (1,498) and touchdown receptions (18) to go with 84 catches.
“I was just watching the SEC Channel recapping LSU’s 2019 season,” Roth said. “You could see that relationship he had with Joe Burrow at LSU. You can see what that has carried over to Cincinnati, why those two are a good combination. It makes us proud. That was a special time at Rummel. From 2009-17, we’ve had five guys from Rummel in the NFL. Cyril Grayson, Stephen Dunbar is still playing, along with Kristian Fulton and Cethan Carter.”
His first year in the NFL has proven to be magical.
Reunited with LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, the two recreated the amazing connection they displayed at LSU as Chase earned NFL Rookie of the Year honors and All-Pro honors in his first season in the NFL, catching 81 passes for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns while rushing seven times for 21 yards.
Chase has continued his brilliant play in the playoffs, catching 20 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown while rushing five times for 28 yards in three playoff wins.
“What impresses me about Ja’Marr is that when he was in New York to receive the Biletnikoff award, I was at a function and I got a phone call thanking me,” Roth said. “He called me from the Green Room right before he was drafted by Cincinnati. To me, as a coach, for a young man to remember his coach like that, it really made me feel good. His parents have done a great job raising a fine young man. He’s made us all very proud.”
Now, the Bengals find themselves poised to play in the Super Bowl in Chase’s first season in the NFL.
None of his former Raider mates are surprised.
“I am not surprised,” Fourcade said. “His mentality, the hard work, I knew the sky was the limit for him. What he did at LSU and what he is doing with the Bengals is not shocking for me. He’s a good person, a great player and he loves what he’s doing. He does everything you ask for a receiver. What he does on Sundays, I saw on Fridays and Saturdays at Rummel.”
“Not at all,” Fields said. “He’s been doing the same thing since high school. It’s pretty impressive to see it translate from high school to college to the NFL. He’s still the same person. We talked about two weeks ago. He is very down to earth, family oriented. He’s just a great guy and he’s a great player. Ja’Marr is Ja’Marr. He’s going to toast anyone in front of him.”
Roth, Fourcade and Fields are huge Bengals fans, like many in Louisiana, at this point in time.
“I’m a Bengals fan,” Fourcade said. “Who Dey? I will be until Ja’marr gets that ring on his finger. It’s awesome seeing him play.”
“For sure, 100 percent Bengals fan,” Fields said. “He’s my friend and he deserves to win it,” Fields said.
“Yes, I am,” Roth said. “I’ve enjoyed watching him. I’ve enjoyed watching Joe Burrow. He’s a flashy confident guy. Like he said, third-and-long, I just throw it up to Ja’Marr. I can remember a couple of times thinking the same thing at Rummel. Just throw it up to Ja’Marr.”
Roth figured that out. Fourcade figured that out. Palma figured that out. Fields figured that out. Burrow figured that out.
Fourcade returned to Rummel Monday and sat with Roth, reminiscing about great times and great shows which the quarterback and Chase staged with the Raiders.
Now, it is time for Burrow and the former Rummel receiver who makes all fans in south Louisiana proud and makes all in the Rummel family exude Raider Pride to overcome the odds yet again and to pull a Super Bowl upset against the Rams.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…