Standing tall in the end zone of Harry S. Turpin Stadium, the largest trophy in college football looms over two purple-clad teams vying to win the 7 feet 5 inches, 330-pound Native American trophy.
Chief Caddo has taken trips between Natchitoches, Louisiana and Nacogdoches, Texas ever since Northwestern State and Stephen F. Austin decided in the early ’60s to award a trophy to the winner of the rivalry game.
During the last football game of the season, the Demons were able to not just lift the 330-pound trophy but send 17 seniors and Head Coach Jay Thomas off with one more win.
“We want our seniors to go out like they did tonight. It’s special for them,” said assistant head coach and Defensive Coordinator Brad Laird, who was recently named head coach. “They’ll always remember it, especially the last one. So many of those who had ups and downs throughout the season made plays tonight to win the football game.”
To senior wide receiver Cameron Lazare, winning Chief Caddo means more than other wins.
“It’s bigger than just this season. It’s about next season, for the juniors, sophomores and freshmen to build off of something,” he said. “Chief Caddo is home, and this is where he belongs.”
Senior running back Chris Jones said dashing to the trophy was one of his best sprints of the night.
“I had a lot of energy come out of nowhere, and I was like ‘Let me go get Chief Caddo real quick,’” he said. “But when I tried to pick him up I was like ‘Whoa, this thing is kinda heavy,’ [and] I had to let the big boys come get him.”
For Laird, the trophy is more than a win for the team; it’s a win for the community.
“It’s not just [a win for] Northwestern State football. It’s about the university, and it’s about the community of Natchitoches as well,” he said.
Bringing Chief Caddo back home was the icing on a hard-fought season for the Demons who went 4-7 overall and 4-5 in conference play.
“In the course of a football season, there’s going to be adversity and ups and downs” Laird said. “[It’s] no different for this season.”
Lazare and Jones agreed with the future NSU head coach about the season being a roller coaster of sorts.
“We [did have] our ups and downs,” Lazare said. “But we stayed close [as a team]. We never bickered among each other; we just kept fighting.”
“The season didn’t go as planned starting off at Louisiana Tech,” Jones said. “We had some close ones, but the ball did not bounce our way.”
Throughout their years as Demons, Jones and Lazare have created memories and learned more about themselves.
“[NSU] means a lot. Not just football, but the people you meet when you come here,” Jones said. “I have [friends] who graduated from NSU that I still talk to. We’re really close and take care of each other on and off the field.”
“It’s been great. I grew as a person,” Lazare said. [My coaches] had an impact on me and Natchitoches is a homely place. It’s a great place to be.
“I’m leaving with, first and foremost, memories. You only live college once, [and] these four years I would not trade it for anything. Everything I’ve been through with my brothers, I will never forget.”
This season home win closes the play book for a handful of players and staff, but a new door opens as Laird takes command of the head coach position and opens a new playbook for those to come.