Terrance Broadway is the Cajuns’ leading man

In the weeks before he embarks on the most important season of his career, Ragin’ Cajuns senior quarterback Terrance Broadway clowned on the sideline at practice.

As the second-unit offense and defense worked on the field, Broadway stared blankly into space as he bobbed his head and rhythmically thumped his chest, mimicking a performance from Matthew McConaughey in the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

It came completely at random late in a midweek practice. Everybody around him started laughing, and Broadway joined, breaking character by chuckling. It was a welcome moment of respite from the monotony and physical challenge of two-a-days.

A whistle blew, and it was back to business. The grins evaporated as Broadway tugged on his helmet and led his teammates to the offensive huddle, where he effortlessly transitioned into being the field general his team needs him to be.

It might seem insignificant, but it’s a small glimpse into what makes Broadway the unquestioned leader of the Ragin’ Cajuns. He knows how to push the right buttons in different situations.

“He’s a leader, and the best thing about him is that he looks out for the best interests of his players,” said senior wide receiver James Butler, who was one of the players brought to laughter by Broadway’s antics. “He’s really the big brother to everyone. We look up to him. Whatever he says, goes.

“He’s not a quiet guy, but he’s not a loud outspoken person, either. Once he speaks, you know it’s coming from the heart.”

“Heart” is a word that comes up frequently with Broadway.

He’s back on the sideline, thumping his chest again with the right arm that was broken at the end of last season, the broken arm that nearly derailed the Cajuns’ quest at a third straight New Orleans Bowl championship, the broken arm that might not have been back to 100 percent as he led the team when it needed him most in that bowl game.

The arm that is now fully healed.

In the very near future, it will be one of three weapons Broadway uses to defeat defenses. But in that moment, it was again used to make his friends smile.

Thump, thump, thump — each beat ticking off a second until Broadway can apply his leadership toward accomplishing a lofty set of team goals.

“He’s our heartbeat,” offensive coordinator Jay Johnson said.

- - -

Broadway is a senior. Broadway is a quarterback.

Those two qualities are virtually synonymous with leadership in the big book of sports clichés. The original intent of this story was to focus on something other than Broadway as a leader, because that’s what he is supposed to be. But ask anyone close to Broadway about his abilities as a quarterback, and they’ll first bring up his ability to get each of his teammates pulling in one direction.

Broadway doesn’t merely accept leadership as his duty; he seizes it.

“That’s his personality,” Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said. “He wants to be a leader, and he pushes his guys and they follow him now. He picks and chooses when he’s vocal, which is not always a bad thing, because when he does speak, they listen.”

And it was clear last season that the team is not the same without Broadway’s leadership on the field.

“Once he went out, we dropped two games,” Butler said. “It’s evident that he’s a big part of our offense, he’s a big part of our team. Not just offense, but defense. He’s our leader, and honestly, on the field it doesn’t feel right without him.”

That’s why Broadway is able to admit that his goal is to stay healthy, because he knows that if he accomplishes that goal, the team goals will be in reach.

And listening to Broadway, who is fond of using the phrase “as a whole” when asked about his personal desires this season, individual goals and team goals always go hand in hand.

“I know what happened last year, it was a freak accident,” Broadway said. “But as a team, as a whole, we forced some young guys to play when they weren’t ready to play. We’re not trying to force anything on those guys this year. For me to remain healthy is big for our team — as a whole.”

There were obstacles for Broadway to clear on his way to being the unquestioned leader of the team.

He transferred to the Cajuns after one year at the University of Houston, where he actually played a series against Hudspeth’s Mississippi State squad, throwing a touchdown. Hudspeth, who had since accepted a job with the Cajuns, was the only coach who offered Broadway a chance to redshirt rather than seeing what Broadway did in the junior college ranks first.

Broadway was with his third team in three years, including his senior year at Capitol High. But as he excelled on the field in his redshirt sophomore season, he started to feel more comfortable leading the players around him.

“I first saw it two years ago when he took over,” Butler said. “He just came into his own. From then on, it was just like, ‘OK, if you want to take over this team, you have to be a leader.’ He got thrust into that position, and he handled it well.”

That’s the problem with thinking a player should become a leader. It’s an assumption that the player hasn’t been a leader all along.

Broadway’s ability to lead was evident from the beginning, according to his coach at Capitol, Chadwick Germany.

“He was a guy that helped to change some of the lives of guys on our team,” said Germany, now the offensive coordinator at Southern. “I give a lot of credit to the success that we had in high school to him, because he bought in from Day 1.”

It’s not hard to attribute much of the Cajuns’ success in the past few years to Broadway, either. That’s not lost on Hudspeth, nor is it lost on Broadway.

“He has high expectations for himself as well as the rest of his team,” Hudspeth said.

- - -

With Broadway as the leading man, everybody else seems to have high expectations for the team as well.

The Cajuns enter the 2014 season knowing they have a chance to put together the finest year in school history. The program has never won more than nine games in a single season and has never been ranked in the Top 25. Both of those dominoes could fall this year, largely because a healthy Broadway is back in the fold.

“You look at all levels of football, the successful teams have a guy running the show at quarterback,” Johnson said.

Who better to run the show than a guy named Broadway?

It’s Broadway’s three-dimensional skill set that makes him so valuable on the field.

In an injury-shortened junior season, Broadway threw for 2,419 yards and 19 touchdowns and added another 442 yards and eight scores on the ground. But it’s his fundamental understanding of the game that separates him from other quarterbacks who are physically gifted.

“He sees things,” Johnson said. “A guy will take a little move, and (snaps his fingers) he sees it and he knows it, because he’s studied it. He does his work when he’s not on the field. He’s pretty special in that area. He does a tremendous job of identifying things and getting us offensively all on the same page.”

It’s an area of his game Broadway said he had to pour himself into after transferring from Houston.

“My freshman year at (Houston), I wasn’t a student of the game,” Broadway said.

“It’s something I’ve had to learn coming into this offense and knowing how much they depend on the quarterback to make the right calls and the right checks.”

Germany would politely beg to differ. Broadway may not have acted upon his studious nature at Houston, but the desire to learn the game has always been there.

“I would always go by his house, and he would have his plays drawn up on the wall,” Germany said.

“He would sit there and put the playbook in his PlayStation. We would spend half the day going through the plays on the video game. He always wanted to learn and always wanted to be better.

“That was one of his assets; he wanted to go into the game as prepared as he could be.”

- - -

Broadway just nods when asked if he knows his importance this season.

It’s a confident nod, not boastful. He’s not interested in thinking about what stats he might accumulate or what records he might obliterate.

But Broadway will open up on one personal goal.

His legacy.

This is uncharted territory into which Broadway is leading his friends and teammates. He knows what the men surrounding him are capable of, and he plans on leaving his mark with the rest of the senior class this season.

“If everything goes how we plan, we should be a 12-0 team going into a major bowl game and should be ranked pretty high,” Broadway said. “Our main goal is to win the first game against Southern, and that’ll take care of a lot of things going into the next week.”

Thump, thump, thump. The clock is ticking, and the Cajuns’ heartbeat is in sync.