Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 28, 2003


RESERVE – There are only a few high school football players in the River Parishes who will be playing major college football next season and two of them attend East St. John High School.

Defensive ends Kirston Pittman and Vegas Franklin led the Wildcats to an 8-2 regular season record and a birth in the playoffs this past year. Because of their stellar performances and unlimited athletic potential, they now look toward extremely bright futures.

“When I look back on it, I feel I had a great time. I had three winning seasons along with a chance to attend a major college,” Pittman said.

Surprisingly, he said his best year as a player was his sophomore season.

“I had a good four years as well,” Franklin said. “I played both baseball and basketball here as well. I think everything went pretty good.”

Coaches come calling

With both Franklin and Pittman having successful careers and the Feb. 5 signing day looming, numerous major college coaches have taken notice and hit the recruiting trail through St. John the Baptist Parish.

Michigan, Texas, Florida State and LSU are schools very interested in having the youngest Pittman family member play for them. Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr, Miami (Fla.) head coach Larry Coker, and Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops have all paid recent visits to the Reserve campus. In addition, renowned Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden is expected by soon.

For Franklin, Oklahoma, Florida State, and Tennessee are on his wish list.

“It has been crazy. You really don’t get much sleep because coaches are always calling you and talking to you about coming to their school. I really don’t have any leisure time,” Pittman said. “I am tired, but I feel I am blessed to have this opportunity.”

Although Franklin is being recruited by top-notch universities as well, the calls have not been coming at the same frenetic pace of his fellow defensive end.

“I haven’t got as many phone calls, but coaches have been coming everyday,” Franklin said.

East St. John head coach Larry Dauterive points out several of the universities recruiting his two prize players have won National Championships since 1998.

“I try to market these players. I feel these kids are unselfish and got their scholarship offers based on their ability,” Dauterive said. “I am just thankful they made my job easier.”

Pittman recently spent time talking with Carr about Michigan.

“I really never thought I would be this highly recruited. Meeting coaches with schools in the Top 10, that’s incredible,” Pittman said while shaking his head.

Franklin said the coaches all come with the same business: “To see what I’m all about.”

Academic aspect of decision

With every decision regarding the selection of a college, academics plays a vital role in the decision-making process.

When asked about factors weighing his decision, Pittman, without hesitation, said “Education.” Franklin, who like Pittman, plans to major in business or business management, agreed with Pittman when it came down to the academics of each university.

“They compete to be the best in everything,” he said.

ESJ Principal Debra Schum expressed pride in her students and their drive to succeed.

“These are two kids who care about their education,” Schum said. “I believe they have grown into caring individuals who want to make a difference in the world.”

Dauterive observed how difficult it would be if both Pittman and Franklin do not earn a college degree.

“It is a very competitive world out there now,” Dauterive said. “Many people have playing careers longer than others. They need to realize that a degree will carry them a long way after their playing days are over.

“It’s up to them if they want to be successful in class or if they want to be working in LaPlace for $5 and hour in the future.”

Other influences

Both standouts said family members are involved in helping make the most difficult decision of their young lives.

“My brother (Thomas, a current member of the Cleveland Browns) has helped me out a lot in selecting a college,” Pittman said. “His work ethic got him to where he is today. If you try your best, then you’ll be one of the best 11 players on the team.

“Our family motto is ‘work hard, get paid.'”

Franklin said the often grueling process has been tough on his mother at times.

“I guess she feels like my secretary,” he said.

He said he has turned to Dauterive for advice and his coach has helped in narrowing down the choices.

“I try to tell him what coaches are a good fit for him and which ones are not. So far, I have not met any coaches that would not be a good fit for him,” the first-year Wildcats coach said.

Outside of football

Schum and ESJ faculty member Carolyn Jean-Batiste agreed both players will be successful in life because of their work ethic.

“They are positive high school students with an order of politeness and dedication to school,” said Schum.

Jean-Batiste added, “I have been knowing Kirston for a long time. He is a very outgoing, personable, and approachable person. He is the type of person you would not have to call on for an answer because he already said the answer out loud.”

Signing Day less than two weeks away

With National Signing Day approaching rapidly, Pittman and Franklin intend to use all of their allotted time to make up their minds.

“Sometimes I have Michigan ahead of the other schools, while another day it may be Florida State or some other school. I am constantly thinking about it,” Pittman said.

Franklin nodded his head and admitted he sometimes wishes only one university was recruiting him.

Schum concluded by saying that signing a scholarship with a major university is like choosing your favorite dessert.

“It’s like having a choice between wanting a banana split or an ice cream sundae. You just can’t go wrong,” Schum said.

To that Pittman smiled and said, “I can’t wait until signing day so I can sleep again.”