Landry always cheering on receiving sons
As the LSU football team ran out of the visitors’ tunnel Saturday at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas, Dietra Landry stood among a section of LSU fans wearing a purple No. 80 jersey and unleashed a cheer 400 miles in the making.
Landry had traveled from Convent to watch the younger of her two sons, Jarvis, play wide receiver for LSU.
She’s worn her No. 80 for years, the same number Jarvis’ brother, Gerard Landry, wore as a wide receiver at Southern from 2004-07. The same number both Landry boys wore when they starred at Lutcher High.
A single mother who often worked two jobs while raising her sons, Dietra Landry said she never missed a Southern game when Gerard played there. She said the only LSU game she has missed the past two seasons was the one at Florida earlier this month.
“Whether it was a bus ride or she had to drive, whatever it might have been,” said Gerard Landry, who earned second-team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference honors at Southern as a junior and senior, “she was on her way to see me.”
When the elder Landry played at Southern and the other at Lutcher, Dietra Landry would spend Friday nights in her purple-and-gold No. 80 before switching to the blue-and-gold version on Saturday morning and heading off to see the Jaguars play.
“Sundays,” she said, “were always my day of rest.”
Jarvis Landry, who ranks second among LSU receivers this season with 23 catches for 216 yards and one touchdown, would like to change that by making it to the NFL someday.
The 6-foot, 190-pound sophomore has a reputation for using a pair of hands that measure 101/2 inches in length to make jaw-dropping, one-handed catches at practice. But the other attribute most often attached to the erstwhile five-star recruit is one that comes from within.
While biding his time behind Rueben Randle and other veteran receivers last year, Landry unleashed the kind of explosive hits in kickoff coverage that belied the jersey number his mother wears to games.
In an era when some of the game’s biggest wideout stars publicly demand the football and sidestep contact for fear of injury, Jarvis Landry plays the position as if his shot at a pro career will be decided by the number of highlight-reel blows he delivers.
Landry rarely runs out of bounds after securing a pass. And he’d just as soon throw a block as make a catch and cut behind one.
“Just a chip on my shoulder that I’ve played with all my life,” Landry explained. “I think that’s kind of been my edge every day. Just playing with that chip on my shoulder and just imposing my physical presence on guys that don’t ever expect it. You hear of most receivers being prima donnas, but I just want to have that defensive mentality on the offensive side of the ball.”
Players who were lightly recruited out of high school, who were overlooked by powerhouse programs, can pull up Rivals.com to be reminded of their motivation.
Landry can look into the stands any given Saturday to be reminded of his.
“Seeing the struggles of my family and being brought up in a single-parent home,” Landry said, “it just puts a chip on my shoulder to know that I’ve got to provide for my mother, my family, my grandmother, my brother.”
Gerard Landry played with the same style as his brother, routinely throwing his own 6-foot-2, 235-pound frame in harm’s way. He played with the same goal.
“All I wanted to do was build my mom a house after everything she sacrificed for us,” Gerard Landry said. “I didn’t want her to work anymore.”
The MVP of the Class 3A state championship game in 2003 and an all-state selection at wide receiver, the elder Landry had tryouts with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons after college. He failed to make the cut with either team. After playing a couple of seasons in various indoor leagues in hopes of earning another shot at the NFL, he returned home in 2010 to watch Jarvis Landry finish his high-school career and help him sort through the recruiting process.
When it came time for his brother to choose between a Who’s Who of BCS juggernauts, Gerard Landry said the advice he gave him was based on the experiences he himself enjoyed playing football less than an hour from Dietra Landry’s doorstep.
“There’s nothing like being close to home,” Gerard Landry said, “having your family in the stands to watch you play.”
Jarvis Landry said he had no contact with his father growing up, but the support of his mother helped fill the void. Dietra Landry said that her brother, Earnest Clayton, served as the father figure for both boys before dying of a massive heartache in 2006.
Jarvis Landry remembers the strain keeping the household in order put on his mother.
“She tried to be the everything of our family,” he said.
That meant sometimes working multiple jobs to help make ends meet. That meant sleepless hours planning an annual Christmas bonfire on the Mississippi River levee that Dietra Landry started 12 years ago to honor the memory of her grandmother.
That meant putting on her No. 80 jersey and making sure to be in the stadium when her boys played football.
“I never wanted my kids to struggle,” Dietra Landry said. “I just put it in my mind I was going to do everything I could do to make sure they made it.”