A local man got the thrill of a lifetime last weekend. He was blessed with an opportunity to play for the New Orleans Saints.
Cut Off native Luke Charpentier was one of a few-dozen contracted players, draft picks and signed undrafted free agents who took part in the Saints’ rookie minicamp at the team’s facility in Metairie.
While there, Charpentier lined up as an offensive guard. Donned in the trademark Black and Gold and with the Fleur de Lis logo glistened on his uniform, Charpentier acquired an experience he’ll be able to tell friends, family and future children about forever – what it was like to be a professional football player for the hometown Saints.
“It was a great experience,” Charpentier said. “It’s something, honestly, that I’m going to remember and be grateful for throughout the rest of my life. To be walking around with that Saints uniform on for a while, it was special. It was a great feeling, and it’s something that I’m definitely happy and proud to have been able to do.”
About a month ago, Charpentier thought his football career was over. A John Curtis Christian Academy graduate/turned Arkansas signee, Luke played the past five seasons for the Razorbacks, scoring playing time on one of the best offensive fronts in the entire SEC.
After playing out his eligibility this past fall, Charpentier said he met with his family and decided that chasing the pro game wouldn’t be in his plans. He said his goal was to remain in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and seek the completion of his Master’s Degree.
“I made the decision early on that I was going to walk away from football,” Charpentier said. “I wasn’t going to do Pro Day or anything related to the NFL. I was going to focus on everything else that was outside of football.”
Charpentier stayed true to his guns. He didn’t have a Pro Day at Arkansas, nor did he compete at the NFL Draft Scouting Combine. He went undrafted, and didn’t hire an agent to field deals as an undrafted free agent.
He was working and studying in Fayetteville recently when his phone rang, which caused him to change his plans.
An official in the athletic department with Arkansas was on the other line. He was saying that the Saints were on the phone, and they were asking about his availability to compete in the rookie camp.
After a short time to ponder it and an afternoon to get everything, Charpentier committed to the camp. Once he was ready to go mentally, the physical side came easily. Charpentier said he never stopped working out, and is in the best shape of his life.
“It’s funny how that all played out. It ended up being such a blessing,” Charpentier. “I got there, and I weighed less than I had weighed when I was even playing. I never stopped working out, and I stayed working hard. And that part paid off, because I got there and my body felt better than it has felt in a long, long time.”
So during the mini-camp, Charpentier said he was a sponge, absorbing any and all information that he could get from the Saints’ coaches and players. He worked out with all of the team’s drafted rookies. He blocked for some of the players who will guide the franchise for the next decade into the future.
Charpentier said the feedback he received was that he was a quick learner and a high IQ guy. He said the biggest challenge is learning on the fly how to do things the way the Saints want them to be done.
“Everything you’ve done at every other place doesn’t matter, because they expect things their certain way,” Charpentier said. “And it’s tough. It’s not easy to always pick up on it. But they applauded me and called me out for a good job a couple times, because they liked how I had an understanding for the game. They liked how I caught onto things pretty quickly, and grasped what we were trying to do.”
After the workout, Charpentier said he swapped numbers with officials, and he’s now a contact for the team – a guy that’ll be on the short-list of people that will be called if someone gets hurt and/or the Saints need a replacement at lineman.
Charpentier admits that the possibility of him playing on Sundays next fall is slim, but he’s not ever going to fully rule it out. In the immediate future, he plans to continue chasing his Master’s at the University of Arkansas.
But for the time being, just to be able to roll with the big boys for one weekend is good enough; a source of pride that he’ll never forget.
“I was thinking about the people back home as I was on that field,” Charpentier said. “I may not have lived down there for a while now, but that’s home. You can take the bayou from the Cajun, but you can never take it out of his heart. I definitely was thinking about all of the people out there. A piece of me will always be in that place.
That’s my home.”
Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Saints.
Posted on Fri, May 22, 2015
by Gazette Sports Reports