Family tradition critical to Notre Dame, Teurlings football programs
Paul Hundley is a junior guard on the Notre Dame High football team.
He’s not a starter yet, but Lewis Cook knows who Hundley is. He even knows his middle name: Albert.
But Paul often gets confused for his brother, Christian, who also played guard for the Pioneers and graduated in 2014. Christian was known as “Bull” on the football team.
And sometimes, Paul is called “Christian” or “Bull” on purpose.
“I don’t know how many times Paul Albert has been called either ‘Christian’ or ‘Bull,’” said Cook, who is in 21st year at Notre Dame. “He’s just one of several that it’s happened with. Even if it’s not a mistake, we’ll just call him that. They go by it sometimes. They end up just having to live with it, that they’re going to be called with their brother’s (name).”
Paul had five brothers come through Notre Dame, and he’s far from the only player that’s the first family member to play for the Pios.
At Notre Dame, the football roster is built upon kin.
Ironically, the Pios’ opponent for Week 3, Teurlings Catholic, is perhaps the less extreme version of a football program made up of family members. The Rebels have two sets of twins, the McGuire brothers and the Balfa brothers, among other siblings on the roster. That’s on top two Matthews brothers, Justin and John, that play on the offensive line. The eldest Matthews, Jacob, played for the Rebels a few years ago.
Family ties also extend into the coaching staffs of both programs. Teurlings head coach Dane Charpentier took over for his father, Sonny Charpentier, last December. Charpentier spent 22 years as the Rebels’ leader before stepping down to become the athletic director.
Teurlings assistant coaches Kent Masson and Joe Heintz each have sons who are currently on the Rebels’ roster: senior linebacker Bryant Masson and junior wide receiver Michael Heintz.
“Around here, it’s been that way,” Sonny Charpentier said. “We’ve coached numerous brothers and cousins over the years. When you coach long enough, I coached, not that long ago, one of my former player’s sons. That’s starts going around when you coach long enough. At Teurlings, there’s a strong family tradition.”
Notre Dame head coach Lewis Cook’s eldest son, Lew Cook, coaches the running backs on the staff. Lewis got out of college coaching in the mid-1990s to coach his three sons, who all played for the Pios. Lewis’ defensive coordinator, Jimmy McCleary, has had two sons graduate from Notre Dame and has two twin boys, Ethan and Dylan, who are sophomores on the junior varsity team.
Offensive line coach Todd Gray’s son, Boyd, is a freshman on the junior varsity team, while safeties coach Chris Stevens’ son, Thomas, is a All-Acadiana linebacker. Defensive line coach Rick Vicknair’s son, Jacob, was an All-State center on the 2015 state-winning team.
“The biggest thing, off the top of my head, I think we’ve got maybe 5 or 6 (assistant coaches) who are alumni that played here when I coached or played before,” Sonny said. “So that makes a big difference. Any head coach will tell you that continuity in the staff is so important. If you have turnover every year, it gets harder and harder, and we’ve blessed to be able to be able have a very good staff that has stayed. They’re familiar with the place, and most cases they have young children that either came through and graduated already or are coming.”
The Pios seemingly always have a player with the last name of either Hensgens, Zaunbrecher or Leonards. That’s no different this year with junior linebacker Dennis Hensgens III, senior running back Steven Zaunbrecher and junior wide receiver Bailey Leonards. There’s also the Link family, which features three cousins this year: Gabe, Kane and Jack.
The sets of brothers on the team include the Bergerons, the Cormiers and the Monceauxs.
And that’s really just scratching the surface of the relations and common last names.
“I think that’s the uniqueness that Notre Dame has that a lot of schools don’t have: the fact that it’s so much family involved from several generations,” Lewis Cook said. “We’ve had 50 years of Notre Dame football. If you look at the first roster in 1967, you’re going to find probably (one-third) to a half of the roster with a lot of the same names.”
Along with it being Cook’s 21st year at the school, 2017 marks the 51st anniversary of the first year of the Notre Dame football. Dennis Hengens III was a part of the 500th win in program history; his grandfather and father were a part of the first and 250th victories, respectively.
There’s also the Casanova family, a name Lewis said is “synonymous with Notre Dame.” Tommy Casanova, the former All-American at LSU and three-time Pro Bowler, is the most famous graduate of Notre Dame, but Jackie Casanova also played at LSU and Johnny Casanova played at UL (then known as USL).
Jackie then had five sons who each played for the Pios, and Johnny had two. Jackie’s grandson, Jackson, is a ball boy at Notre Dame games and stood out to Lew Cook during a fifth- and sixth-grade football games on the school’s campus recently.
“Ironically, Tommy, who was the best of all of them, the All-American, he didn’t have a son that played,” Lewis said. “His daughter was a really good athlete.”
The family tradition at both Teurlings and Notre Dame is a source of pride for both programs, but the Pios take it an extra step when it comes to carry on legacies.
To make life easier for his dad, Lew Cook recently took over the responsibility of assigning jersey numbers to players. But it’s not simply a matter of handing out a number based on what the player requests. Most kids will wear the number that one of their family members wore and then will pass it along to the next family member that goes through the program.
For example, running back Noah Bourgeois wears No. 16, which is the number that his brother, Michael, wore when Notre Dame won the state title in 2015. Before that, Luke Bourgeois wore No. 16, including when the Pios lifted the trophy in 2009.
As someone who played at Notre Dame, Lew takes the job very seriously and begins planning the numbers future players will wear before they even join varsity.
“I promise you,” Lew said, “every time Noah puts that No. 16 on his back, he’s thinking about the legacy that Luke and Michael left to him, and he’s thinking about the legacy that he’s going to leave for (his brother) Joachim, who’s going to be here in about four years.”
“Noah knows he’s ain’t letting up one d--- cent, one bit at all, because that’s not how Luke and Michael were,” Lew added.
Some players, if they don’t have a family member entering the program immediately behind them, will give their number to a non-relative that they admire. That was the case when Lew’s youngest brother, Stu, was graduating and gave his No. 18 to Gavin Bourgeois. Gavin then passed the number to Hayden Bourgeois, and Hayden handed it to Waylon Bourgeois, now a senior fullback with the Pios.
Female students on Notre Dame’s homecoming court will also wear a number associated with their family. The No. 59 is also special in the Pios’ program, as it was the number that belonged to Waddy Faul, a linemen from Mire who died in a car accident in 1998.
As a tribute to Faul, Lew specifically gives the number to a lineman from that area. It currently belongs to junior Steven Gossen.
But the best example of the seriousness of this tradition lies with senior running back Joe Ware. Both of Ware’s brother, Adam and Nick, were on the Pios football team, but they each played different positions. Joe wore No. 1 last year while playing cornerback, like Nick. But when coaches moved Joe to running back, he switched numbers with Cody Leblanc to wear No. 34, like Adam.
“We talk about ‘Pio Pride’ being something real,” Lew said. “I really think that red helmet means more to the second and third generations. They’re going to fight a little harder. We’re going to fight harder than the other team that doesn’t have that history, that tradition and that history of pride that they can fall back on. To me, it’s like a permanent home field advantage.”