DESTREHAN, La. — Lowell Narcisse’s name has been mentioned in the same breath as words like “elite” and “prodigy,” but in no way is he immune to mistakes.
Eyes gravitate toward the LSU quarterback commit the second he takes the field during 7-on-7 practices at Destrehan (La.) High School on a slow Wednesday night on June 1. Most people realize Narcisse’s talents and are anxious to see for themselves.
The nation’s No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2017 opened the evening with two interceptions, leading even his coach to scratch his head.
But adversity is nothing new for Narcisse.
The 6-foot-3, 224-pounder from Louisiana’s storied River Parishes has been an athletic icon for most of his young life. That began to take a turn for the worst almost exactly a year ago.
Last May, in front of coaches from LSU, Clemson and other national college football powers, Narcisse tore his ACL on the final play of his high school spring game. That led to the then-rising junior to be forced to watch from the sidelines for the bulk of the season.
When Narcisse was cleared to return, he made his presence felt. He helped engineer St. James (La.) High School all the way to the Super Dome for the Louisiana Class 3A championship, only to re-aggravate the injury and leave New Orleans on crutches.
The physical pain was apparent, but a month later the emotional toll was worse. In January, Narcisse lost his father, Lowell Narcisse Sr., at the age of 47, leaving the quarterback to try and pick up the pieces.
Little did Narcisse know that all of the roadblocks that appeared in his path would shape the person he’d soon become. Adversity struck. It made its mark, but Narcisse grew as a result of it.
The Vacherie, La., native has taken on a whole new level of maturity over the past six months. It’s spread to his recruitment, his leadership, his relationships and his football decisions.
So when some passes sail out of bounds or fall into the chest of defenders at a 7-on-7 early on, Narcisse is barely fazed. He’s been there and done that, and is poised to rebound in the only way he knows how.
“I think everything happens for a reason,” Narcisse told SEC Country. “It starts at home with a great support system. My mom always teaches me how to be a bigger person, to take it all in and carry on, no matter what went wrong or went right. Just take it all in and carry on. Whenever I’m down, having my bad days, I have a great girlfriend come out and support me. So like when we came out (slow) today, we came out in the second half and showed the potential we have. It’s about having a great support system around you.”
A view from the sidelines
As a freshman under center in 2013, Narcisse passed for more than 2,000 yards and added another 600 rushing. A year later, the sophomore eclipsed those marks, with 2,500 yards through the air and 1,000 on the ground.
But a torn ACL forced the promising signal-caller to be merely a spectator.
It was a new reality for Narcisse, who had never endured physical constraints before in his life. It was devastating, but it was humbling, and it helped the four-star prospect add a new element to his game.
“That (tearing my ACL) happened for a reason, and it made me become more of a mature quarterback, a more mature person and a vocal leader,” Narcisse explained. “Because obviously I couldn’t be out there on the field, so I had to do it some way, so I had to come out here and talk and be around my people.”
“I feel great,” he added. “All the pain you felt last year watching from the sidelines, just knowing you couldn’t be out there, it’s a great feeling to be back out here competing with the guys.”
A new, mature version of Narcisse now goes about his business in a new style, and it’s clear whenever he takes the field.
The big-armed quarterback is trying to not to rely on his natural athleticism, but play the position to the best of his abilities. That includes better decision-making, wiser choices on when to throw it and when it tuck it and run, and growing as a passer instead and enduring some struggles if it means he won’t be relying on his legs all the time.
“I think that I’ve grown in terms of being more of a quarterback instead of being an athlete,” Narcisse said. “Most of the time, I relied on my legs more than my God-given strength. Now I’m focusing on the little things of being a quarterback instead of an athlete.”
— Sam Spiegelman (@samspiegs) June 2, 2016
Narcisse’s torn ACL, which he re-injured last December, impacted him in more ways than in just a football sense.
As a quarterback, he’s always been the de-facto leader. Now it’s a role he’s embracing and taking to new levels. During the 7-on-7 scrimmages, while sitting out the final series, he’s yelling out routes to backup slot receivers on the field to ensure that they know their assignments and are ready for their moment.
That newly uncovered maturity has given Narcisse perspective of what’s important — his family, his team and the decisions ahead of him.
Ultimately, Narcisse allowed certain parts of his life to take control. He was caught up in the limelight, the attention from being one of the country’s top quarterbacks and a feeling that he was exempt from adversity.
Because of what Narcisse has learned through multiple knee injuries and the loss of his idol, his father, he has a greater sense of urgency to embrace what’s actually important in the here and the now.
“I think this was a humbling experience,” Narcisse admitted. “God humbled me because I kind of got into the recruiting thing too much. When he humbled me, I sat back and focused on the things like my team and my family and the bigger things in my life, and I realized that this game can be taken away you at any time.”
Cameron’s steady presence
The death of Narcisse’s father came just days after the quarterback rescinded his verbal commitment to Auburn, which as he detailed, was a decision he made prematurely.
In many ways, it’s a fitting explanation.
The hurdles Narcisse has been forced to climb over the past 13 months have completely remolded the quarterback as both a future college football star and a young man of character. As those changes were taking place, he found clarity in the one of his darkest moments, which ultimately led the Louisiana native to commit to the in-state Tigers.
“It was something bigger than football,” Narcisse said. “When my dad died, Coach Cam (Cameron) happened to be at funeral. He came up on the next floor, came in the prayer room after my dad passed away, and those things leave a long-lasting impact with you.”
It should come as no surprise that LSU’s offensive coordinator was there. He always has been when it comes to Narcisse.
Cameron has made the short trek from LSU’s campus to St. James High School numerous times during Narcisse’s career, and was standing beside LSU recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson last May when the quarterback tore his ACL.
Yet again, Cameron was on hand in the Super Dome watching Narcisse lead his team to battle in the Class 3A state title game, only to see the prized quarterback be escorted off the field with another injury.
Even after Narcisse committed to Auburn last July, Cameron continued to maintain communication with the in-state prospect. After Narcisse reopened his recruitment, it was Cameron who lured him to Baton Rouge, La., for an unofficial visit.
The unique and longstanding bond between quarterback and coach has gone a long way, but Cameron’s latest gesture of comforting Narcisse in yet another time of uneasiness carried the most weight.
Football aside, Cameron has appealed to Narcisse with his honesty and authenticity. A more mature Narcisse has developed a keener sense of appreciation for it, especially in recent months.
“Recruiting is a big business, and you have to trust the guys around you and trust the guys recruiting you,” Narcisse explained. “He (Cameron) is a man of his word. Everything that he says, he does. If he says that he’s going to be there for me, then he’s going to be there for me.”
All roads lead to LSU
It was standing room only at a St. James Parish recreational center last July when Narcisse announced his decision to commit to Auburn on his 17th birthday.
Hundreds watched and cheered when Narcisse made his pledge last summer, and even more were surprised with the announcement he released on May 2: He was going to be an LSU Tiger.
To the outside world, the decision seemed to come out of the blue. But Narcisse, his mother Stacy and the rest of his family had been wrestling with the decision for months.
July 27 is Narcisse’s birthday, and was chosen as last year’s announcement date to rally positive vibes for the dynamic quarterback forced to sit out his season with a torn ACL. May 2 was another date on the calendar, but one that symbolized Narcisse’s growth and his newly paved road to LSU.
“I kind of sat down with my family, weighed all of our options and realized I wanted to focus on bettering my team and not let the recruiting place get in my way,” Narcisse said. “I didn’t want to make it all about me. For my birthday, I did it in a big way because I was hurt, coming from the ACL, but now I just wanted to commit and get it over with and get in a stable place.
“I didn’t want to make it a big thing, so I just did it on Twitter and I moved on from it. I didn’t want recruiting to play a factor. I just wanted to get it out of the way just to be able to better my team.”
— Sam Spiegelman (@samspiegs) June 2, 2016
Narcisse was adamant that his commitment was firm, that he’s confident in his decision to play for LSU.
It’s difficult to question Narcisse, who breathes a certain assurance in every decision he makes, both on and off the field.
After overcoming so much in such a short amount of time, slamming the door on the recruiting process has been a sigh of relief for the elite quarterback. He’s looking to improve on his craft, make the right decisions and put himself in the best position to succeed.
By committing to LSU, he believes he has done just that.
“It’s been a whole lot, a blessing, and now I can go onto a school that I decided to go to and that I have dreamt of going to,” Narcisse said. “Now I can focus on the bigger and better things in life, and it’s great.”
Sam Spiegelman covers LSU football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tigers Stadium.