Trey Gaudet says he knows Louisiana is football country. The Destrehan High alum loves the sport himself, in fact.
But football isn’t the sport that opened the door for Gaudet to earn a college scholarship to Iowa Central, nor an eventual transfer to Weber State. That would be a less traditional sport around these parts: rugby, and Gaudet is driven to open others’ eyes to similar opportunities – and, in fact, he’s facilitating it himself.
Gaudet has established a Rugby club for high school age boys, the River Parish Nightmare, back in his home region. While still in its infancy – the club has been playing mixed squad games with the Bayou Hurricanes club, the team that gave Gaudet his first taste of the sport – the foundation is set for what Gaudet hopes will be another outlet for young athletes here to capitalize on their talents.
“I thought on it last summer and made the decision to go full-fledged with it,” Gaudet said. “I’m a young guy myself, 21, so I feel like I can connect with a lot of these guys. It’s been good.
“I just didn’t want to see another kid with athleticism see that talent go to waste. I know football is Louisiana’s sport. We’ve got the absolute best here. But there are more sports that can get you college opportunities. With something like this, it only adds more opportunity, more exposure, more chances to make it.
“I know the talent we have here in Louisiana. The idea of getting it going in my home area really appealed to me.”
Gaudet found his own calling to play the sport with the Hurricanes.
“After my first practice, I fell in love with it. I kind of ran with it,” Gaudet said.
The Nightmare players have been at it for the past couple of months along with Gaudet and coaches Taylor Soileau, Matthew Nichols and Amauchi Collins. Gaudet owns the franchise and initially served as the team’s head coach, but he has since stepped back from that role as he’s back in Utah for school.
“I got to see them start to develop … the pandemic kind of threw a wrench into it and I never got to see them really take off and run with it,” Gaudet said. “But I know I will soon. They played tough in their last game, and you have guys playing for the first time, so it’s going to keep getting better.”
Gaudet is already excited about the fall, as Louisiana Rugby, the state’s USA Rugby affiliate, is to start a “sevens” season which as the name implies is a seven-on-seven format, as opposed to the traditional 15 man teams.
“So right now we’re combining with Bayou, but when it comes to sevens, the Nightmare is going to be out there,” Gaudet said. “We’ll keep building up from there for when its 15s.”
Gaudet believes this will open doors not only because it has for him, but he’s seen it for a former Destrehan classmate: Elijah Hayes, former All-District offensive lineman in football with the Wildcats. Hayes was drafted to play for the Utah Warriors Rugby team, selected 19th overall in the Major League Rugby draft.
“He’s playing professional rugby. There are lots of gates to go through … why not transform this area into a place offering even more opportunities? And if anything, even if you are going to the next level for football, this is a sport that can make you a better football player as well,” Gaudet said.
“I’m happy with what we have so far, but I’m not settling. I just know what this sport brings.”