Weathering the storm: ESJ prospect camp moved to Saturday in light of recent tragedy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 7, 2019

RESERVE – East St. John football coach Brandon Brown was looking forward to this August day.

Ever since he took over as the coach of the Wildcats before the 2018 season, he had been planning for a day to invite St. John the Baptist Parish’s future footballers to come work out with his team, to see what was really going on at East St. John High School. A “Prospect Camp,” he called it, for players to see and be seen by “The E.”

Then tragedy struck.

Then it struck again.

In recent weeks, the East St. John community has lost two of its 2019 graduates.

On July 22, 19-year-old Jayla Tassin died nearly a week after she was caught in a riptide and had to be pulled from the waters off the coast of Daytona Beach, Fla. She was put on life support, but never recovered.

Then, on July 29, Kerell Sanders, 18, along with his cousin, Kyron Perrilloux, 20, were found shot to death in their wrecked car in Reserve. One arrest was made in the case last week and another suspect was arrested Monday.

Both Tassin and Sanders were college-bound students with what seemed to be bright futures ahead of them. Their deaths left the East St. John community reeling. Vigils have been held and many balloons released in their honor.

“It’s been tough around here,” Brown said. “We’re going through some trying times.”

In deference to that, Brown decided to move his long-awaited football camp back one week.

“When one hurts, we all hurt,” Brown tweeted when making the announcement.

But now, he hopes to help pick everyone up.

“We need something positive,” Brown said. “I told my players, we need to take this negative and turn it into a positive. Let’s get the kids out here and show them what we’re all about, how we do things our way. We need this.”

The camp, for football players in grades 5 -9, will be held Saturday at Joe Keller Stadium beginning at 9 a.m. It is free of charge. Players will work out with the East St. John team and coaching staff and receive instruction in various techniques.

Brown has other motives in mind as well.

“I call it a ‘retention camp,’” he said. “I hear people talking about this player or that player and I go talk to them and they say, ‘Well Coach, I’m going to De La Salle or Rummel” or whatever. We’re losing a lot. Everyone has a perception of East St. John. But I want to let them come see what we’re doing. Don’t just go by what you’ve heard. Come see for yourself. It’s not what it used to be.”

Brown, a former Wildcat himself, has had his work cut out for him since taking over the team from Alton Foster, who led the team to a 14-18 record in three seasons. They were 2-8 in 2015.

“We’ve had to change the culture,” Brown said.

He said he is instilling discipline in the team, establishing dress codes for practices, the weight room and the classroom.

“I bought them all ties,” he said. “We will wear ties the first day of school.”

Brown said Sanders wasn’t a star football player but was one of the best kids he had ever been around.

“He was a tweener, between a defensive end and a linebacker,” Brown said. “But he was one of the hardest workers. He said, ‘Coach, all I need is a chance. I’ll do whatever I have to do for the team.’”