HAMMOND, La. -- Mike Lucas has been Southeastern's head football coach since 2006, but he's also got another job. For the last 20 years he's been a Sunday school teacher.
And recently a woman deeply affected by the oil spill spoke up.
"That was just totally tore up crying. She's got three children and she said the best times of her life were days down with her grandfather at his fishing camp,” Lucas said.
That day Lucas got an idea, and it centered around one victim of the oil spill: the children.
“But what is this, the spill and aftermath of it, doing to the kids? Who are losing out on the experience of growing up in Louisiana? The best thing, let’s go fishing, let’s go water skiing, let’s swim,” Lucas said. “And they can't do it.”
Lucas’s idea was to dedicate the upcoming football season to the children of the Gulf, reach out to those communities in need and touch the lives of those affected.
He brought the idea to his team, and it was unanimous: they were on board.
“Our eyes lit up and it was unbelievable to be a part of a program that’s willing to give back,” said Luis Sobalvarro, a wide receiver at Southeastern.
“There was some real teary eyed kids in there. You know it hits home,” Lucas said.
And it should hit home. Of the 90 Southeastern players, 65, or nearly three quarters of the team, are from Houston to Mobile. These are the children of the Gulf.
So Sunday the team loaded onto buses and headed for south Plaquemines Parish for a church service in Buras. Then they signed autographs and took pictures with area youngsters and got to meet the people hurt by the spill.
"Anything that support the people who need it, and coach let us know how blessed we really are,” said Tommy Connors, a safety at Southeastern. “So it feels good to be able to give back to people.”
And some of their support is sitting in boxes in a campus office. The team is selling "Children of the Gulf" t-shirts with all proceeds going to kids in need whose families are hurting because of the spill.
After an initial order of 1,500, they just ordered 700 more – an idea that’s gaining momentum.
“Maybe the folks down there will realize, hey, there's some folks up in Hammond that really do care and people that really do understand what we're going through,” Lucas said.
And who came up with the design? Who else? The head coach. “And that’s what southeast Louisiana is. You're gonna fish, you're gonna play some football, gonna do some water skiing. You know, that’s what kids in our area do,” Lucas said.
The awareness is a lot more than just selling t-shirts. Every southeastern football player this year will have an emblem on the back of their helmet: “COG,” or Children of the Gulf.
“The more games we can win, the more attention we can bring to the children. And for our country to realize how this part of the nation is really, really suffering,” Lucas said.
But the desire to win games, since you're playing for an entire region, will add more pressure to a pressure-packed job already.
“I don't know if it's pressure,” Lucas said. “Maybe more responsibility than pressure.”
“To be able to win that championship to recognize the Children of the Gulf, then it’s more of a complete season than we could ask for,” Connors said.
If you'd like to help out with the Children of the Gulf program by buying a t-shirt, they're $10. For more information call 985-549-2395 at the Southeastern football office.