The temperature in Glendale, Arizona, reached 101 degrees on the afternoon of June 1, 2016, just days into Arizona Cardinals veterans minicamp. Now it gets plenty hot in Louisiana where undrafted rookie free-agent Lamar Louis is from, but Arizona heat is an entirely different animal altogether.
The former Louisiana State inside linebacker is attempting to make the best of what anyone with good sense should consider a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: making an NFL roster. In regards to the camp, Louis says, “They’re voluntary but not for smart rookies.” Meaning if a rookie, especially one in his position knows better, he’ll show and show out for the coaching staff. Whether you know sports or not, have ever had to compete for a job or not, one must understand the odds against Louis at this particular moment. The desert heat just makes things worse.
Louis doesn’t seem to mind, though. After all, he’s getting a chance to do what he loves on the biggest stage imaginable. “It feels awesome, it’s a dream come true,” says the 22-year old Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, native by phone. I gave him a call a few hours after having finished another day of what he hopes to be the rest of his professional life. “This is validation for all of the hard work I put in since I was a little kid,” he says. That little kid -with some hard work- has turned into a 6-0, 231-pound inside linebacker prospect for one of the league’s top defensive units.
With training camp opening Saturday, Aug. 1, there’s an understanding that there is plenty of time -but not too much time- for Louis to display the skills that propelled him to become a three-year starter for the Louisiana State Tigers. Louis seems to be getting the hang of this whole “pro football” thing, however. “It feels like you’re still playing football, having fun, trying to perfect your craft, except it’s your job now,” says Louis. It’s a business.”
Another part of Louis’ routine that has little to do with football and everything to do with his journey is his faith in God. A Christian, Louis is quick to give all credit to the big guy in the sky for what he considers a blessing. “For me my faith is what got me here,” he says. “It is the driving force; when I wake up in the morning, I give all the glory and honor to God, and I do the same before I go to bed at night.”
The Cardinals drafted six players in the 2016 draft; defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche as the 29th overall pick (Nkemdiche was projected to be a top 10 pick before some odd behavior during the offseason created a negative pre-draft buzz), cornerback Brandon Williams (Third round-92nd overall), offensive guard Evan Boehm (4-128), safety Marqui Christian (5-167), offensive tackle Cole Toner (5-170) and cornerback Harlan Miller (6-205).
According to a report by AZCentral.com reporter Kent Somers, Nkemdiche, Boehm, Miller and Williams have all signed contracts with the Cardinals as of May 9. There’s still plenty of work to be done to go along with all of that praise and worship.
“Balancing my faith and football isn’t hard at all because I know I’m here, how I got here and who got me here,” says Louis in regards to God Our Father. Like Job after many downfalls or Daniel in the lion’s den, nothing seems to shake this kid’s faith.
100-plus degree workouts and a non-guaranteed contract as an undrafted rookie is a long way from the big-time that is Southeastern Conference (SEC) football and in particular football in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The LSU Tigers are a way of life down in the bayou and Louis recognized the difference pretty quickly upon arriving in Arizona. “So far from what I can tell the people here love the Cardinals, but I know there is a huge difference,” he says. “At LSU people are born and raised Tigers fans, there’s nothing like it. The fan base, the football atmosphere is second to none.”
Lamar Louis is in position to have all of the professional goals he’s worked so hard for come to fruition, on the cusp of making an NFL roster and possibly changing his life and the lives of his immediate family forever. “It feels good to have my prayers answered.” If all accounts of his progress thus far through rookie camp are correct, the Arizona Cardinals coaching staff and front office might be feeling the same way too. Trust and believe that.