A faster 40-yard dash time is something Woodlawn High senior-to-be Cameron Lazare wants. But the thing that sometimes baffles Lazare and those around him isn’t a sprint time or a weightlifting total.
It’s a growth chart, like the ones pediatricians use to track a child’s growth.
At 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Lazare has good size for a high school wide receiver-return specialist. But he is not as tall as his athletic siblings, including former WHS and LSU basketball standout Darnell Lazare, who stands 6-8.
“It’s one of those things,” Lazare said. “When my brothers and my sister were growing up, they were all above average on the growth chart. I’ve always been average. The doctors say that doesn’t mean I won’t grow more. I’d like that. We’ll have to wait and see. I can’t control that.”
For now, at least, the youngest Lazare is determined to prove that good things do come in smaller packages. Leading Woodlawn to prominence in football and basketball is his goal for 2013-14.
“You’re talking about a guy who will be the face of our athletic program this year,” Woodlawn basketball coach Elmo Fernandez said. “He has the intangibles. He’s an outstanding student, a tremendous athlete and he comes from a great family. And he’s a guy who works to get better every day.”
Lazare is an honor student who carries a 4.14 grade-point average to go along with a 22 ACT score. He’ll be taking a series of advanced placement classes as a senior. He has football scholarship offers from Northwestern State and Louisiana-Monroe.
“I love basketball … that’s a family thing,” Lazare said. “But my best option for college is going to be football.”
Helping the Panthers rebuild from a 1-9 football season in 2012 is job one for Lazare, whose junior season illustrated some of the frustrations that came with a losing season.
Things started on a high note. Though Woodlawn lost its season opener to Lafayette High, 38-34, Lazare excelled. He returned kickoffs 90 and 99 yards for touchdowns and finished with 259 return yards. As soon as opponents saw tape of the Lafayette game, they stopped kicking toward Lazare. His chances as a wide receiver also were limited as the Panthers struggled with injuries while trying to develop offensive consistency.
Lazare had 32 catches for 352 yards and two TDs through nine games. He recalls one particular low point.
“I guess the game I’ll always remember is Breaux Bridge,” Lazare said, recalling the nondistrict game. “We lost (14-7) and dropped what would have been the game-winning touchdown. It was tough because that was a game we should have won.”
First-year Woodlawn coach Brett Beard liked what he saw of Lazare on those 2012 game films. Any questions Beard had about Lazare were quickly erased during spring practice.
“After seeing him on film, Cameron was one guy I wanted to see on the field,” Beard said. “He came out and proved that he’s a playmaker. The challenge for us will be finding ways to get him the ball.
“He needs to touch the ball 20 to 25 times a game. That means we’ll need to throw it to him, snap it to him and hand it to him … whatever it takes.”
Beard also cautions skeptics who are tempted to dismiss Lazare based on his 4.56 40-yard dash time.
“Cameron is deceptively fast,” Beard said. “He knows the game and has learned how to run and where to run.”
Beard also sees Lazare as the face of Woodlawn’s program this season and is encouraging him to take on more of a vocal leadership role when needed.
“I am working on that,” Lazare said. “I know it’s time for me to step up and be a senior leader. We’ve got a good group of seniors. It’s important for us to work together. If we do, we can do some good things.”
One of the other observers who expects big things from the youngest Lazare is his oldest brother. Darnell Lazare, now 28, plays professional basketball in Australia. Because his season won’t start until mid-September, he’ll have a chance to see at least one Woodlawn football game.
“I just try to give him (Cameron) the benefit of my experiences,” Darnell Lazare said. “I talk to him about what the recruiting experience is like and how to approach it. I want him to make the right decision for himself, and I also want him to enjoy it.”
Middle brother Braylon plays basketball at the Louisiana-Lafayette. He also helps with Cameron Lazare’s training, throwing tennis balls at any angle possible to help improve his hands.
Lazare’s sister Kerrilyn played volleyball at ULL from 2009-11, and so did his mother, Julie, who played for the Cajuns from 1979-82. Kerry Lazare, the patriarch of the family, is also on hand for every game.
“I got a lot of support from my family when I was growing up,” Darnell Lazare said. “Really, we all have. Cameron probably gets a little more because he’s the baby.”
Fernandez said football will be the start of Lazare’s sports seasons. As a junior in basketball, he averaged 12 points per game and earned All-District 5-5A honors while helping the Panthers to the playoffs.
A new offense that will allow players to take opponents off the dribble is ideal for the youngest Lazare.
“He’s so smart,” Fernandez said of Lazare. “He knows the game of basketball so well. We’re expecting big things from him.”
Beard feels the same way.
“I keep telling recruiters there’s a chance Cameron may grow another three or four inches,” Beard said. “And if he does, they’ll have a steal, a real diamond in the rough. And if he doesn’t, they’ll have one heck of a football player and an even better person to represent their program.”
The Woodlawn program is Cameron Lazare’s focus.
“Sure, I want to have a great senior year,” Lazare said. “More than anything else, I want to win.”
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