It is a great time to be a Colonel
Being from South Louisiana, it may be odd to hear that I am not indebted to the LSU Tigers. I don’t bleed purple and gold, but I do bleed red and gray for the Nicholls State Colonels and I have never been more proud of that program.
For four years, I worked countless hours for that program, filming and editing practices, games and everything in between. It is four years of my life that I will never forget. I have a limitless amount of memories from road trips, travel rides and unfortunately, a memory bank filled with losses.
I remember filming the Oregon State game at the end the season because it was pushed back due to a hurricane. I remember watching now Pittsburgh Steelers Markus Wheaton torch our defense and shattering a few school records in the process. That was fun.
I remember watching the Colonels get absolutely bent over a barrel by an Oregon team led by Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota and standout running back De’Anthony Thomas. It wasn’t pretty.
Those were games we were supposed to lose. However, things weren’t much better within the Southland Conference though. We only won four games in four years. The year after I left, former head coach Charlie Stubbs resigned just three games in to the 2014 season. It was the end of a very forgettable era.
For the record, I have nothing bad to say about Coach Stubbs because of everything he did for me personally. Although others may feel differently because he could certainly rub people the wrong way. Being as brash as he could be, he just wasn’t a right fit for a small school in south Louisiana.
Fast forward to the present day, there is something really great brewing in Thibodaux. It starts and ends with Head Coach Tim Rebowe. I see the athletic department’s videos they post of the god that is Tim Rebowe working at McDonalds drive-thrus to get the community on board with Nicholls football. That is just fucking awesome. Different things like that are why he is shifting the culture of Nicholls football.
“Rebowe is the perfect fit for Nicholls. He is genuinely a nice guy that everyone can relate to. Coach Rebowe is really accessible to his players, coaches, administration, donors, fans and the Nicholls former players. He spends extra time with people and they can connect with him. That is what it takes to build a program at Nicholls. The people have to be able to connect with you to support you. In every position at Nicholls in athletics, it goes back to the right fit. He is the perfect fit,” Associate AD for External Affairs/ Executive Director of the CAA Brandon Ruttley said. “The biggest challenge that Nicholls athletics faces is apathy. He is changing that for us. People wanted to be a part of our program because he has such a positive personality.”
As far as wins go, they are just tipping the iceberg.
The Colonels have started the season 1-2, which doesn’t look good on paper, but not all wins and losses are created equal.
Nicholls opened up the season with Georgia and pushed them to the absolute limit and walked away with $525 thousand and a close loss 26-24. That is a win in my book. When an FCS school walks into a game they are getting paid to play, against an upper tier SEC program, that game shouldn’t be close at all. Monetary value alone says that Georgia ($25 million) should beat the shit out of Nicholls ($2 million), but they didn’t.
Former Colonel running back and current tight end coach Russ Gisclair said a win would have been great, but just being able to compete is ultimately what you want.
“I just wanted our team to compete and play well on that stage,” he said. “I was pumped up just like everyone else. I think when we took the lead in the second half, you could just see the confidence and determination in our guys. They played their tails off.”
Although the team walked to the locker room disappointed after a close loss, Gisclair said it was short lived after Rebowe started working his magic.
“They were disappointed at first because they knew how close we were to getting that one. Then once coach talked to them, everyone had a chance to take a breath and the morale was pretty high,” he said.
As far as what this did for the athletic department as a whole, Ruttley said his phone was blowing up during the game as people were really showing their Colonel pride, something that has been masked for a while.
“Going into half time when the score was 10-7, I was like ‘wow we already have won the game in my mind’ but then we continued to compete and fight. When we went up in the third quarter and the entire crowd was stone cold silent I started to believe. I started to think what if we pass up Appalachian State as the greatest upset in college football history,” he said. “When your phone starts blowing up you quickly realize how big of a deal it was to everyone that has ever walked across the stage at Nicholls. It was a pride thing. The win didn’t happen but this was the greatest loss that I’ve ever been apart of for a lot of reasons. The pride that this near upset revived for Nicholls has been unbelievable.”
After riding an emotional high on the close game in Athens, Nicholls captured their first conference win on the year against Incarnate Word 35-28.
Following the win, Nicholls took to the road again against FBS opponent South Alabama and were edged out in overtime 41-40 after a ballsy play call to go for the win on a two point try. Again, a game you are paid to play and you punch them in the mouth. Something that in my five years at Nicholls as a student, I never saw. Yes I took a victory lap because as my good friend once told me, “finishing college in four years is like going to a party and leaving at 10.”
That is beside the point though.
The bottom line is Nicholls looks like a damn fine football team three games into 2016. How the hell did he manage to turn around a dumpster fire so quick?
Considering Louisiana has more NFL players per capita than any other state, he has looked within his own backyard for talent instead of trying to pull guys from across the country and/or JUCOs.
“I think the biggest difference is recruiting philosophy. We want to take care of our home state first and it shows when you look at our roster and see 94 guys from Louisiana,” Gisclair said. “Coach is a people person and is well known around the state. He is a class act and genuine man.”
Those are two very important qualities if you want to be successful in small town Louisiana. His compassion for his players and the people who help the program is something that everyone I speak (both on and off the record) with about him says is the major difference.
The positivity that radiates off of him is addicting and he doesn’t like anyone who is an “energy vampire,” which is an awesome way to put it might I add.
“He uses the term energy vampire which means someone that sucks the energy out of you. Coach Rebowe doesn’t tolerate energy vampires. If you are not being positive you better shape up or move on,” Ruttley said. “In all of my years in doing this I see how past players react to their past coaches. The coaches that truly care about players always have the most respect and admiration from their players later on in life. Its just about caring for people and he cares about them so much. 25 years from now I know that coach Rebowe’s football reunions will be at capacity.”
As I alluded to earlier, many Nicholls faithful believe this is the start of something huge in Thibodaux, Louisiana. Ruttley didn’t even shy away from the bold word, dynasty. It will be a long road. But if anyone can do it, Tim Freaking Rebowe can.
“I expect Rebowe to build a dynasty at Nicholls. It won’t happen overnight because we still have some leaks to fix in the finances and some other things but he will win here. He will out recruit any FCS team and he has a plethora of talent to choose from within a 60 mile radius. Coach Rebowe will always be able to bring in very good coaches. His network in the state is unmatched. He will get great players and he will be able to bring in top notch young coaches. That is the first step in the recipe,” Ruttley said. “The culture and environment of his program is first class. His players love him and believe in what he’s telling them. That is the second step for me but its an important one. Against Georgia it showed how important it is to believe. Lastly he can raise the funding to do everything well. The last one is the toughest but that is where the community comes in to play. We need them to believe in where we are headed to be successful. Once the community is on board the sky is the limit for this program.”
The shift for Nicholls has been remarkable so far and I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for the Colonels. If you haven’t guessed by reading this, I am a huge believer and fan of Coach Rebowe. Maybe I am being a bit of a fanboy.
If you have a problem with that, I will be more than happy to introduce you to my “I really don’t give a shit” face.
Tim Rebowe, as far as I am concerned, is a god for what he is doing for our alma mater. That is by no means an easy school to be successful at and we are getting a small taste of the future right now and it is sweet.
I have always said that Gordon Bombay is the greatest coach of all time, but Tim Freaking Rebowe is certainly climbing that ladder. The guy just gets it. You watch him on the sidelines. You see the videos from the athletic department. There is most definitely a huge culture shift at Nicholls.
And I have never been MORE proud to call myself a Colonel.
Good day and Geaux Colonels.