Southern’s Fan Fest draws hundreds of loyal Jaguar fans

Jaguar football has been a part of Terrlyn Blunt’s family for generations.

She grew up by Southern University’s campus, and passed time on the practice field as a child when her dad was fullback and center in the early 1970s.

She ultimately went to Southern herself, and her son Jonathon Wilson is a senior safety for Southern’s team.

“I grew up around (football),” Blunt said. “I went from watching as a fan to (watching) as a parent.”

Blunt was among more than 1,000 die-hard Jaguar fans Saturday who poured into the F.G. Clark Activity Center for Southern’s 2014 Fan Fest. Football players in pads and jerseys stood among the crowds of supporters, signed memorabilia and took pictures with excited families.

They enjoyed performances by the marching band that is famously known as the Southern University “Human Jukebox,” as well as the school’s Varsity Cheerleaders and Dancing Dolls.

But for Blunt, coming to Fan Fest was mostly a way to demonstrate her support for the players, and to get a better sense of who they are.

“We as fans get to put a face and a personality to the name,” she said. “When we see them out on the field and we root for them, it’s a heartfelt love, for the university and for the team.”

Many fans have been a part of Southern football for decades.

Lucretia Jenkins, for example, has held season tickets for 25 years and helped cook jambalaya for the players.

Herman Johnson said he has held season tickets for more than 40 years, since 1973 — and couldn’t remember a time since then when he’s ever missed a home game.

“I just developed a passion for the institution,” Johnson said. “It’s just my way of giving back.”

Even a former tight end for Southern in the early 2000s, Dedrick Shelmire, came to Fan Fest with his 3-year-old daughter and his 6-year-old son — who was wearing a miniature version of Shelmire’s old jersey.

Other fans have been supporting Southern football in sizable numbers. More than 30 members of Tammara Crawford’s family make it to Southern’s homecoming game, including a relative from Shreveport and another who has flown in all the way from Anchorage, Alaska.

“I grew up tailgating, so this is like a family reunion every game,” Crawford said.

Fans have high expectations after Southern’s team claimed the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship last year, under coach Dawson Odums. Fans are hoping for a return to the era when the Jaguars won five conference championships in an eight-year span, the last in 2004.

The team has talented returning players, but Odums has yet to name a starting quarterback.

Victoria Boudreaux, the mother of starting quarterback hopeful Deonte Shorts, said she has been to every Southern fall camp practice to support her son, even when the practices are held twice a day. She also was at every summer practice in 2013.

Boudreaux has been a part of Southern since her father David Quiett worked at Southern’s Smith-Brown Memorial Union after 42 years, before retiring as director.

“It means everything,” Boudreaux said of Southern’s team. “I grew up around Southern football, and that’s all I really knew.”

Southern’s first game is Aug. 30 at University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Blunt is optimistic about this year’s team.

“I think they’re prepared, know they’re strengths and their weaknesses and have meshed together as a team to push themselves forward,” she said.