Reserve’s A.J. Duhe presents NFL golden football to ESJ

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, April 6, 2016

RESERVE — A.J. Duhe wasn’t just a football player back in the day at Leon Godchaux High School. He also was a pretty good student, earning himself a trip to the annual Boys State leadership program in Baton Rouge.

Reserve native A.J. Duhe visits with a small group of family and friends who attended Monday's ceremony at East St. John.

Reserve native A.J. Duhe, right, visits with a small group of family and friends who attended Monday’s ceremony at East St. John.

There, Duhe learned and brought back to Reserve a little cheer about a rooster that had no sense because it cheered for the opponent, and another that did have sense because it cheered for the Wildcats.

The former Wildcat, former LSU Tiger and former Miami Dolphin led the students of East St. John High School in that cheer Monday (using Destrehan as the foil) to close out a brief ceremony during which the Reserve native presented the school with an NFL golden football.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl, the NFL has presented the game’s alumni with golden footballs to be donated to their former schools and communities.

With Godchaux closed since the 1980s, Duhe, who played in Super Bowls XVII and XIX, officially presented his to East St. John and current head coach Aldon Foster.

“It’s about tradition, and this area has a lot of tradition,” Duhe told the assembled student body.

Foster was thrilled to meet the man who first put Reserve on the football map.

“He’s the guy who made everyone want to know where Reserve, Louisiana, was,” Foster said.

Only a handful of those present — not including the small group of relatives and former schoolmates who made their way into the gym — had a clue who Duhe was. St. John the Baptist Parish school board member and River Parishes sports historian Dr. Gerald Keller was there to remind them.

“This guy was good,” Keller said. “If he could play with just one shoulder, he’d still be playing today. He’s a Reserve boy, he’s an East St. John boy, he’s a Wildcat.”

Robert Jarreau made his way from his home in Paulina to see his old friend and teammate.

“Nobody had an easy time against him,” Jarreau said. “He was always the biggest kid around.”

Joan Frederic LeBouef of Garyville brought to the ceremony a sign with that rooster cheer for her old friend and classmate and helped him teach it to the students.

“He was always the best player on the team,” she said.

It’s been more than 40 years since Duhe ruled the fields of the River Parishes and a little less since he wore the purple and gold of LSU. His last year as an NFL player was 1984 — long before any of today’s Wildcats were born.

Duhe recognized that.
“I know, when this day was first announced, a lot of you probably said, ‘who?’” Duhe said. Then he explained that he was still just a Reserve boy who played the same game of football, who remembers fish fries and crawfish boils, who believes in faith and family and who, just like everyone else, had to build confidence in his abilities.

“It’s hard to have confidence. There’s always going to be somebody trying to cut you down,” Duhe said before his emotions got the best of him and he teared up.  After encouraging applause from the students, he continued.

“In this room, there are probably three or four or a dozen of you who are going to go on to be so successful it will be ridiculous.”

Even though he had never heard of him, senior Kyle Brumfield was impressed with the local hero.

“I think he delivered a great message,” Brumfield said. “A lot of people believe that, because they’re from a small town like Reserve, they can’t make anything of themselves. .”

That’s exactly the message Duhe hoped to deliver.

“It was important because of the fact that I’m kind of the local guy who kind of made it and had success,” Duhe said. “It was a dream. I come back a lot, but today was kind of a more meaningful day.”