At 7 years old, he can recall his house being torn down, then his family members squeezing into a car with all of their belongings … at least what they could fit.
At 6, his house was engulfed by the storm. His family was left to live on a boat — for years — before returning to dry land.
At 6, he also was left to unusual housing. His family spent not days, but weeks, on the top floor of a hospital. When it was time to leave, they drove in the bed of a truck, spending time in three states over the course of six months as the search for a new home carried on.
When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in August 2005, it changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of those living in the city. Some were younger than others.
Certain 6- and 7-year-olds were forced into precarious situations. That includes lengthy stays in hospitals, relocation across multiple states and, of course, the constant desire to return home sitting in the back of their minds.
Truth be told, it’s difficult for a kid of that age to recall such drastic events.
Among those impacted were LSU commits and enrollees Grant Delpit, Myles Brennan and Saahdiq Charles, New Orleans natives who wound up in Florida, Texas, Mississippi and countless other stops along the way.
Those who originally hail from Louisiana are now on their way back, this time in LSU jerseys, and that carries an unrivaled meaning for those who have been trying to come home for most of their lives.
MADISON, Miss. — Charles has lived in Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Texas and Alabama, but don’t get it wrong — he considers himself a New Orleans boy.
The 6-foot-5, 314-pound LSU offensive line commit chose the Tigers ahead of Mississippi State in May 2016. Recruiting analysts alike were torn between Charles’ decision to play for LSU or what outsiders deemed his hometown team, the Bulldogs.
LSU fit the latter category more unequivocally.
Charles was born in New Orleans East and destined for a high school football career at Catholic League power Brother Martin before Katrina hit when he was 6. Unlike most, Charles’ family stayed in the city through the storm. His mother was a nurse at a local hospital, and Saahdiq and his father joined her on the top floor for several weeks.
“My dad and I went to go live in the hospital with her because she was forced to work during the hurricane,” Charles recalled to SEC Country. “The storm was flooding the hospital, so we had to go to the upper level and stay there. All of the workers and their families were working there, on the first floor, and they only fed the workers some sandwiches and chips and soda.
“I remember looking over a ledge and seeing all the people in the flood swimming in the water, but all I can remember is staying in the hospital.”
That hospital stay lasted several weeks before Charles and his parents rode in the bed of a truck through the northern part of Louisiana and into two other states in a six-month span.
Charles spent time in Houston and Georgia, then moved in with his grandparents in Montgomery, Ala., for three years before finally making it to Madison, Miss. The Magnolia State has been kind to Charles, an All-State lineman at Madison (Miss.) Ridgeland Academy, but when given the opportunity to return to Louisiana, it never was much of a question.
“LSU is my home,” Charles said. “I like Mississippi, but Mississippi State isn’t a representation of me. LSU is … LSU is my home. It means a lot to me, and I want to bring us back a national championship while I’m there.”
LSU means home to not only Charles but also his mother, whom he still lives with in Mississippi.
Charles’ mother is a New Orleans native. Charles knew what committing to the Tigers and spending his college career in their home state meant to her, even if she never was keen on displaying her personal wishes throughout his recruitment.
“It shows how much going back home means to people. Growing up in different places from where you call home, then you can come back and you’re doing it for your family. My mom was so happy to see me go back to Louisiana. She didn’t want to show it because she didn’t want to make it seem like it was her decision, but I could tell she was happy. All of my family was happy to see me going back to the home state.”
BAY SAINT LOUIS, Miss. — New Orleans runs in Brennan’s blood.
His father, Owen, and mother, Megan, are Uptown legends. Owen was a linebacker at Tulane, and Megan was the first female to earn an athletic scholarship for the Green Wave. She played volleyball and basketball there.
The Brennans resided in the Mississippi Gulf Coast when they were raising Myles, but when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, it derailed plans quite a bit.
“When we moved back from New Orleans, we were living on the beach in Bay St. Louis. Katrina wiped that all away,” Brennan recalled to SEC Country. “We came back out here to a lot full of sand. We moved to Jacksonville for a few months with my aunt. We bought a boat in Fort Lauderdale, then drove it back to Destin. We lived there for three years before we moved back to Mississippi, and I’ve been at St. Stanislaus (High) since seventh grade.”
Brennan’s tour through Florida and life on a boat meant that his first football experience in Louisiana came on Sept. 9, 2016.
Then, Brennan, who already was committed to LSU for five months, led St. Stanislaus against New Orleans power Brother Martin at Tad Gormley Stadium. The 4-star passer did not earn the win, but he inched closer to several Mississippi state records that today he can call his own. That includes the mark for most career touchdowns, most career passing touchdowns and most career total yardage.
The 6-3, 180-pound LSU commit has one start under his belt in Louisiana, but he heads to Baton Rouge in a matter of months hoping to add to that number.
“It meant a lot more to me and my family,” Brennan said. “I was born in New Orleans. My family has worked there all of our lives. I’ve had multiple cousins go to LSU. My parents went to Tulane, so we have a lot of connections to Louisiana. To be able to play in Louisiana, my home state, it means a lot to me, but to my family as well.”
It’s about more than just football. After all, Brennan committed to former coach Les Miles and former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron; he now boasts a strong relationship with Ed Orgeron and Matt Canada, their successors, who he says are near mirror images of his parents.Being from Louisiana and his family’s history in the state certainly played a role.
Being from Louisiana and his family’s history in the state certainly played a role.
After all, when Brennan committed, he didn’t give his family a heads up. He had an ongoing relationship with Miles for two years, then on an unofficial visit in April 2016, shook hands and made the pledge official.
Emotional — that may be an understatement.
Returning to Louisiana carries significant weight for the Brennans, who often reflect upon what transpired during the storm throughout their lives. When Katrina hit more than a decade ago, Myles playing for the hometown Tigers didn’t seem like a realistic possibility. But given those experiences, his commitment to LSU meant that much more to both him and his family.
“It has meaning to it because … to understand what Katrina was and what it did to so many people and how devastating it was, for our family to stick together through the highs of the highs and the lows of the lows — we’ve been through both and in the middle, so it means a lot to me and it’s something I recgonize,” said Brennan.
“It helped me become who I am today. When life gets hard, my mom says, embrace it. That’s how I’ve learned. Life hasn’t been easy by any means. It’s neat to be the last generation of those who remember it (Hurricane Katrina) for the rest of our lives. I’m lucky enough to end it on a positive note, playing college football at LSU because 10 or 12 years ago, I could never think that I would be in this position.”
BRADENTON, Fla. — Coming home was always in the Delpits’ plans.
It just so happens that Grant’s rise as one of the nation’s premier defensive backs expedited it.
Delpit, a 4-star safety and Under Armour All-American, doesn’t remember too much about being a 7-year-old in New Orleans East during Hurricane Katrina. After all, there aren’t too many details he’d like to recall.
Simply put, the storm wiped away his home. His entire family smushed into a car with whatever they could get their hands on, then hit the road for Texas.
Since then, the Delpits have aspired to head home.
Delpit committed to LSU over Florida and Auburn in July 2016, ending his recruitment but revitalizing his family’s plans to return to Louisiana. Since his announcement, his parents, grandparents and most notably his cousins, in particular, 8-year-old Chase, have let the star safety know what being a Tiger means to the family.
“I’m a hometown guy, and my cousins look up to me for everything,” Delpit told SEC Country. “They grew up watching LSU football like I did. They see me on the big screen, and it’s a big deal. My little cousin Chase calls me every day and tells me that he can’t wait to see me on ESPN at LSU. It’s almost here, then I can show these little kids what it’s all about.”
Delpit enrolled at LSU earlier this month. He’s rooming with fellow Louisiana native and safety JaCoby Stevens, both of whom are expected to compete for playing time with Jamal Adams off to the NFL draft.
Whether it’s 2017 or beyond, the stage already has been set, and Delpit has himself quite the audience.
Delpit’s family, some of whom still reside in New Orleans and across the Boot, has made arrangements to be at Tiger Stadium.
As much as it means for Delpit to play for LSU, his hometown university, it carries equal — maybe greater — weight for his family. The plans, well, they speak for themselves.
“My grandma loves it,” Delpit smiled. “She’s still living in New Orleans. My parents are in Houston, but they’re actually considering moving back to New Orleans. My whole family wants to come back again, then rent RVs and stuff for the games.
“They’re fully supportive. The decision was all mine. They told me to branch out and to do whatever I wanted to do, but this is what I wanted to do.”
A family man himself, it comes as no surprise that Delpit made his parents, grandparents, cousins and, of course, Chase, happy with his decision.
With Grant already in place in Baton Rouge, the next step is for his parents to return home. After spending much of their son’s life in Houston, they can shift their attention on New Orleans, just a short drive down Interstate 10 away from LSU.
Their son donning a purple-and-gold jersey coincided with a homecoming in the making for the past 12 years.
“It just means a lot because this is where my dad really wanted to be,” Delpit admitted. “When Katrina hit, we moved to Houston. Houston was good for us, but this … this is where my roots are at. I’m just excited to move back.”
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