‘Not about football’: Narcisse’s camp helps kids ‘get into the game,’ though

Published 2:08 pm Friday, July 14, 2017

The “All-Star Event” carried Don Narcisse’s name, but Elandon Roberts might have been the star of the camp.

When Roberts was asked to stand in the middle of a pack of hundreds of young campers, those standing near him couldn’t help asking him question after question or getting a chance to grab and hug him.

Just call it another Super Bowl hero’s welcome in his hometown.

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“That’s the favorite part,” Narcisse said. “I just wanted to show these kids that, coming from Port Arthur, don’t let your dreams stop from there. I can tell you that I have asthma. As much as I wanted to breathe, that’s how much I wanted to succeed on the football field.”

Roberts, the New England Patriots linebacker from Port Arthur, helped with Narcisse’s camp Friday at Memorial Stadium, where both spent plenty of their Friday nights in the fall during high school. Roberts graduated from Memorial in 2012 and Narcisse is a 1983 Lincoln alumnus.

Narcisse’s 13-year run in the Canadian Football League as a Saskatchewan Roughriders wide receiver (1987-99) was no secret to Roberts growing up.

“I kind of looked up to everybody, so I know about all the Port Arthur talent and the Golden Triangle that came out of this area,” said Roberts, who was inducted into the Museum of the Gulf Coast Sports Hall of Fame on June 26. “I definitely knew about Don and what not. Just having him, the influence he had in Canada and coming back to his hometown, it’s a real big thing.”

The “Don Narcisse All-Star Event” started a busy two days at the stadium. Roberts is hosting a heart walk starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, with a 7-on-7 high school tournament to begin at 10 a.m. Registration begins at 7 a.m. for those who wish to participate in the heart walk.

Both the heart walk and tournament are designed to raise awareness of heart disease, which claimed the lives of Roberts’ grandmother and aunt.

For Narcisse, 52, his camp was hardly about football. In fact, a football could hardly be found inside the stadium, but the hundreds of youngsters did take part in a number of football drills.

“My football camp is not about football,” Narcisse said. “It’s about life skills. If you have a great attitude, if you work hard and you stay focused — any job you do, you need those three ingredients — so I tell these kids, I like to get these kids off the sidelines and get them in the game.”


Early in his career

Narcisse can relate to the kid who is always teased for not being big or fast enough. He also relates to the one who’s the hardest working on a team.

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,” he says.

Coming out of Lincoln, the undersized Narcisse did not draw a scholarship offer until a coach talked to Texas Southern about him.

“He’s a hard worker, he has a great attitude and he can catch a BB in the dark,” Narcisse recalled the selling line that a Coach Williams made for him.

Narcisse was the NCAA Division I-AA (now Football Championship Subdivision) leading receiver for 1986 as he wrapped up his career at Texas Southern. Two years earlier, Jerry Rice of Mississippi Valley State held that honor.

“As a freshman getting to see him play for the first time, I didn’t know who he was until I saw him catch four passes in a half, and it was unbelievable,” Narcisse said. “My game is similar to Jerry Rice’s game, just working hard and doing the little things. That’s what got me playing in Saskatchewan.”

Narcisse was not drafted by an NFL team and went to try out for the Roughriders. His mother gave him $40 — $20 for the person driving him to the camp and $20 to keep for himself.

“I went to the camp and there were 400 guys there,” Narcisse said. “It was a two-day camp, and they only wanted to sign four guys, and I was one of the guys that they wanted to sign.”


Roughrider days

Saskatchewan made a nice investment in Narcisse.

A 5-foot-9, 170-pounder who battled asthma on a 110-yard football field in Canada, Narcisse — nicknamed “Narco” — played 13 seasons for the Roughriders and played in two Grey Cups — the equivalent to the Super Bowl in the CFL. The Riders won in 1989 and lost in 1997.

His numbers are staggering. He caught for 1,000 or more yards in a season eight times, set a team record for most receptions in a game with 15 in 1993 (still second all-time), caught a pass in each of his 216 games and finished his career in 1999 with 919 receptions, a CFL record at the time. (Six men have since passed Narcisse.)

“The reason why?” Narcisse said. “I didn’t get an opportunity to be in a football camp like this when I was growing up. So, I wanted to give these kids an opportunity to meet a professional athlete.”

Roberts can relate to the work ethic.

“He was an undersized receiver and what not,” he said. “He worked and worked and kept working. In my position as a linebacker, people may call me undersized (Roberts is 6 feet and 235 pounds) but it’s that work ethic. He influenced me that type of way.”

Not only that, Narcisse was named an All-CFL receiver four times and all-division receiver five times. He was inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame in 2010.

Narcisse now lives in Houston and has three children, ages 26, 19 and 18. Houston happens to be the place where Narcisse’s favorite CFL player ever first made his mark in the NFL.

“I got a chance to meet this guy, and the first thing I told him is that, ‘Warren, I used to pass by your house just to see if you would ever come out that door so I could say hi,’” Narcisse said, in reference to Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon. “I got a chance to sit with him because he’s a Hall of Famer in the CFL and I got a chance to sit and talk with him.”

All Narcisse needed was a foot in the door.

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews



About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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