Lewis: Tech’s Juluke goes through roller coaster

Jabbar Juluke has never been one to hide his emotions.

So it’s not surprising that the former Karr coach, now in his first year as running backs coach at Louisiana Tech, describes this week as one where he’s been “On Cloud Nine but waiting for the roller coaster to start down again.”

Thursday night, Juluke’s new school hosts Tulane in the Bulldogs’ first Conference USA game.

On the opposing team will be two players Juluke coached at Karr: senior cornerback Jordan Sullen and junior linebacker Matthew Bailey.

Plus one of his closest friends, David Johnson, is the Green Wave’s tight ends/running backs coach.

On Friday, Juluke will come to home to New Orleans on a scouting trip to see the much-anticipated showdown at Tad Gormley Stadium between Karr, whom he guided to the Class 4A state championship last season, and St. Augustine, his prep alma mater.

St. Aug and Karr last meet in the 2012 4A quarterfinals, with the Cougars winning 28-12 en route to the state title in a game that drew an overflow crowd that ringed the field at Behrman Stadium 10 deep.

“I’ve been blessed to have a lot of great players, and seeing two of those guys I coached playing at Tulane is a great blessing to me,” said Juluke, who himself was a Green Wave signee before eventually winding up at Southern.

“And then to see two great football teams going at it and knowing that Gormley’s going to be filled. I’m a proud Purple Knight, but Karr was family to me too. Man, it’s going to be an exciting night with a lot of talent out on the field.”

That’s the Cloud Nine part.

But then there’s the end other end of the roller coaster ride.

While preparing for Tulane and anticipating the Karr-St. Aug game, Juluke’s mind also has been in Cincinnati.

That’s where former Karr quarterback Munchie Legaux — the player Juluke credits with “bringing Karr football back after Katrina” and “having a big part of the responsibility for the success I’ve had as a coach” — is recuperating after suffering a serious knee injury in the University of Cincinnati’s game at Illinois on Saturday.

While Legaux’s family has requested privacy concerning the exact extent of the injury, word is that Legaux should be able to play again next season.

That’s far better than it originally appeared.

“If it was as bad as they first talked about, I wouldn’t be this upbeat,” said Juluke who hasn’t been able to bring himself to watch footage of the play that caused the injury. “Munchie’s like a son to me.

“He’s the ultimate competitor. He’s overcome adversity before, and he will this time too.”

With his concerns about Legaux at least partially alleviated, Juluke can turn his full attention to the Green Wave.

“I’ve just been looking at their defense, but they’re faster than before and playing harder than I’ve seen them in a long time,” Juluke said.

“CJ (Wave coach Curtis Johnson) and his staff are doing an outstanding job.

“I know they were disappointed about losing the other day (41-39 to South Alabama), but whatever went wrong, I’m sure they’ll have everything back together for us.”

Juluke is particularly happy to see Sullen back on the team after he was suspended from school last year for undisclosed reasons.

“It was totally out of character for Jordan to be in the situation he was in,” Juluke said.

“But he worked hard to stay in shape and get himself back into school.

“And he was a mentor to some of the kids on our team like Speedy (Noil) and Gerald (Willis).

“He’s an example of taking advantage of your second opportunities.”

As he said, players like Legaux, Matthews, Sullen, Noil and Willis helped Juluke move to the college ranks.

But getting more of them, particularly from the New Orleans area, will help him on his career path.

That, and not just the desire to see Karr vs. St. Augustine, is why he’ll be at Gormley on Friday.

Hired in January by new Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz after nine years at Karr, Juluke landed only one local product, wide receiver Carlos Henderson from McDonogh 35, in his first season.

But he’s looking for more this time around.

“It’s not New Orleans, but city boys like me can use a change of pace sometimes,” he said.

“I know I’d never been here before, but this is a great place with friendly people who have opened their doors to me.

“I’m really loving it here.”