Destrehan offensive tackle Dakota Torbert proudly wore a hat adorned with the logo of the University of Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks and said his new reality was finally starting to sink in: Torbert was headed to play Division I football.“Just now, it hit me,” Torbert beamed. “I feel like once I’m there a week or two, it’ll really hit me. I get the chills just talking about it.”
Torbert was one of seven St. Charles Parish athletes who made their collegiate destinations official at last week’s National Signing Day ceremony at the Satellite Center in Luling. He was joined by Destrehan teammates Michael Young (Notre Dame), Elijah Hayes (Southeastern) and Kohen Granier (Nicholls State) and Hahnville standouts Drew Jones (Southeastern), Tre’Vas Chambers (Northeast Mississippi Community College) and Rashad Domino (Pearl River Community College).
Young, a wide receiver who committed to Notre Dame last June, called his opportunity to be the newest member of the Fighting Irish “a blessing” and “a dream come true,” and recalled watching the team play against Texas on ESPN early in the collegiate season — a memorable contest that saw Texas edge the Irish 50-47 in a shootout that thrilled the nation.
“I’m thinking, ‘this is ESPN,’” Young said. “This is crazy. Like, this is gonna be me next year, able to showcase what I do at a high level, for my family and for my team.”
Young said the decision to attend Notre Dame came down to more than just football, citing the school’s strong academic reputation. He said coaches at the school liked his toughness and character and believed that the versatile receiver fit their system.
“I’m a guy that’s built for Notre Dame,” he said. “I can’t wait to play there. The fans are so amazing. As soon as you walk on the field for warmups, they’re calling your name because they know you. It’s the best of all worlds.”
Jones, Hahnville’s center and the leader of the Tigers’ offensive line, said the chance to play close to home was a major draw with Southeastern, as he can count on support from his family and friends. He said he made a promise to himself as a freshman to earn a collegiate scholarship, “to make my mom proud and my family proud,” and Jones made good.
“Last year, my mom got sick, and being home where she can watch me play was a big factor,” Jones said. “Playing at Hahnville, I could turn around and see my family there in the stands, cheering, and it always gave me chills. The Southeastern coaches made me feel like family. I just love them to death, already.”
He said he’ll never forget his time with the Tigers, with one game in particular that will especially stick with him forever: the Tigers thrilling 42-41 victory over St. Thomas More last season at Tiger Stadium, Hahnville winning on a late two-point conversion and the team avenging its 52-12 loss to the Cougars the year before.
“You’ll always remember those Hahnville-Destrehan games, but for the rest of my life, I’ll never forget that game with St. Thomas More,” Jones said. “To see all the young kids, the fans going crazy, the people running on the field, it’s an amazing feeling.”
Granier suffered a knee injury in the fourth week of the season, and while the quarterback attempted to return late in the year, he ultimately was never healthy enough for a full-time return. But Nicholls State coach Tim Rebowe liked plenty of what he saw when Granier was on the field and offered him a scholarship nonetheless, and Granier says he’s more than ready to get back on the field.
“I battled hard to get to where I’m at now,” Granier said. “It was a long journey, and I’m just excited it finally paid off.”
Granier never lost a regular season game as a starting quarterback, going a perfect 14-0 over his junior and senior seasons.
“There’s no secret to what we were able to do. Ask Coach Robicheaux or any of these guys, and it comes down to work ethic, heart and want to win,” Granier said. “The guys who came before us taught that to us, and we’ll keep teaching that to the younger guys.”
Torbert and Hayes were anchors on an offensive line that dominated throughout 2016, paving the way for two different 1,000 yard rushers.
At 6’5 and 305 pounds, Torbert should have the chance to play early at ULM, and he said the prospect of playing time as a freshman was attractive to him. He also pointed to the Warhawks’ opener next season, as ULM faces Florida State, as something he’s looking forward to greatly.
“Going up there, it’s not too far away but it’s far enough to where you’re still out on your own,” Torbert said. “Playing in the Sunbelt, you get exposure … today is just a great feeling. Having my family, everyone here, its special.”
Hayes (6’2, 310 lbs.) said Southeastern “felt like family” to him and that he’s looking forward to testing himself at the next level.
He added that playing alongside Torbert and their fellow DHS lineman isn’t an experience he’ll soon forget.
“We’re big, strong and we pushed people around,” Hayes said. “We had fun blocking people. Playing with these guys meant a whole lot to me.”
Chambers had never played football before he began attending Hahnville. But as he closes in on his senior graduation, he’s now earned a college education for his gridiron efforts. The defensive tackle emerged as a force in his junior year and became one of Hahnville’s biggest impact players.
“Coming here at first, I had no idea what football is,” Chambers said. “Coach Erwin (Defensive line coach Dan Erwin) is a phenomenal coach. He’s like a second dad. It’s just a wonderful feeling.”
Chambers said his uncles and coaches recommended Northeast Mississippi as a good landing spot, but that his mother reminded him the decision was ultimately his to make.
“I sat down and thought about it long and hard before making the final call,” Chambers said. “This is something I feel really good about. I know I’m going off to college and now I just have to do what I have to do to make it count.”
Domino was a top defensive back for the Tigers, and called the chance to sign “a once in a lifetime chance” that he plans to take full advantage of.
“Oh man, this is a great feeling,” Domino said. “It’s something I’ve always dreamed about. The coaching staff, the facilities … everything felt like home. I couldn’t be happier.”
He said he’ll most fondly remember games against Destrehan and spending the day-to-day time with his teammates.
“I grew up with a lot of those guys at Destrehan, so competing with one another was really fun,” Domino said. “Spending time with my team, not just the games, but the practices, just having fun with those guys. I’ve gotta thank them and also my coaches.”