College football has matured Oxford’s Pettis
Three years away from Oxford, living in southwestern Louisiana, has obviously made a positive impression on Larry Pettis.
The former tight end standout for the Oxford High Chargers has been quietly making an impact for the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns the past three seasons. While he’s still as well spoken and thoughtful as ever, Pettis is more mature and enlightened about other parts of the country and life.
Heading into his senior season, the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Pettis was excited about what UL-L could accomplish on the field this fall. The Ragin’ Cajuns have been to three straight New Orleans Bowls, earning wins in all three, and last year they won the Sun Belt Conference championship.
“Ever since I’ve been here, everything has been great,” said Pettis, the son of Larry Pettis and his late wife, Cynthia. “The coaches have been great. Living down here is great. I felt like I was in the right place at the right time to get to come down here and experience something new.
“I feel like I have to lead this team to bigger and better things. We’ve had a great past three years, but we’re trying to get to that next level and get a big time BCS-type bowl.”
The biggest adjustment for Pettis, who has seen more action on special teams than anywhere else, involved the speed of the game.
“I would say that it’s speed, but I will also say that the game is more complex than high school,” Pettis said. “You’ve got bigger, stronger, faster players, and you don’t have as much leeway as you did in high school. All in all, it’s 11 guys on the field playing ball and certain things don’t change. You learn to adjust. Some guys don’t really catch on to up-tempo. It takes a couple of years to develop that.”
Because Pettis has adjusted to the speed of the offense, he’s expecting to see a more expanded role for the Cajuns.
“I have a big role on special teams this year, but I’m finally getting a starting role with the offense,” Pettis said. “We changed up the offense a little bit. We’re spreading it around a little more, and I feel like the tight ends in this offense are going to have a big role because we do so much. We move around. We’re just really balanced. I feel like I’ll have a pretty good season this year—maybe have a chance to go to the NFL.”
Louisiana-Lafayette has become a breeding ground for NFL tight ends the past couple of seasons.
This past May, Jacob Maxwell and Ian Thompson, who were seniors in 2013, signed free agent deals with the Detroit Lions and the Houston Texans, respectively. Another former Cajun tight end,
Ladarius Green, was drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers. All three put Pettis under their wing, and he said the trio all taught him something different about playing football.
“They’re great guys, and they really taught me about work ethic and how to keep working hard,” Pettis said. “If you keep doing what you’re supposed to do, you can go wherever you want.”
An orange mesh fence lines the perimeter of UL-L’s football stadium and football complex. Large pieces of heavy equipment are visible from behind the fence and it’s obvious that work is going on at the stadium.
Pettis, like all of his teammates, enters the weight room and training area through a side door because of the work. The less-convenient way to enter isn’t looked at as a hassle because of what it signifies.
“In the next five years, I can see us being in a bigger conference,” Pettis said. “We have a lot of construction going on right now. I feel like our class, and the seniors before us, we really set the building blocks for this university. Big things are coming.
“I won’t be able to see it, but we’re already seeing things come. We’re getting a new weight room. We’re going to have a whole new complex. We’re already bowling-in half of the stadium.”
Success is something head coach Mark Hudspeth – a Louisville native and 1992 graduate of Delta State University – has brought to UL-L in his three seasons but so are the players from the Magnolia State.
Pettis is one of 17 from Mississippi and one of two from Oxford. Terry Johnson, who played his first season at Northwest Mississippi Community College out of OHS, started 13 games last season at left guard.
“He’s making great strides and doing excellent,” Pettis said of Johnson, who is also a senior. “We’ve still got (former South Panola standout) Tig Barksdale on the team. Tig is still a great athlete and a great guy to be around. He’s doing great things.
“I don’t really feel homesick,” Pettis added. “Everyone was pretty welcoming. We do have a lot of Mississippi guys, but I’ve got teammates from everywhere. It’s balanced out by guys from Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Florida and Alabama. We all have something to relate to. Spending time with them is something I will remember for the rest of my life.”
The bevy of players from Louisiana has broadened Pettis’ palate when it comes to eating.
“I’m a picky eater, but I learned to eat some boudin (Cajun sausage), which is pretty good. I like that a lot,” Pettis laughed. “I’m starting to be more acquainted to crawfish. I’m starting to like that a lot. It wasn’t a big adjustment. They have a different culture. It’s been real good.”
Pettis will graduate next May with his bachelor’s degree in broadcast communications.
It seems any job working with video will be a plus for Pettis.
“I like working with cameras, but I also found out that I’m pretty good with radio broadcasts. I’m pretty good at editing,” Pettis said. “I like to be in front of the camera, too. It gives me a thrill, a new challenge because it’s something I haven’t done before. I see that I have potential in it, and I can strive to keep getting better with it everyday.”