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LU player moves after Northeastern cuts team
Steven Murray-Sesay and his Northeastern University football teammates had just finished the season one day earlier when the school’s athletic director called a meeting.
Seated among 86 teammates and 10 coaches, Murray-Sesay learned of the dreaded news. After two seasons at the school, Murray-Sesay would need to find a new home to play college football. His school, which is based in Boston, had cut its football program.
“That was like a big blow, just to know that everything we worked hard for was gone,” Murray-Sesay said. “Right after that I was just looking for what would be next.”
It was a scenario familiar to any Lamar University football player from 1989. After that season, Lamar had decided to cut its football team. Dozens of players suddenly needed a new place to call home.
Now Lamar, once a school that abandoned an entire squad of college football players, has become a home to a similarly unwanted player.
Murray-Sesay, a junior, is a defensive back who participated Tuesday in the fifth of Lamar’s 15 practices scheduled for the spring. The team conducted the practice in full pads. Lamar’s first of three spring scrimmages is Friday.
Lamar will play its first game in nearly 21 years on Sept. 4 against McNeese State in Lake Charles, La.
For now, Murray-Sesay is listed as a backup right cornerback on a depth chart distributed by head coach
Ray Woodard before spring practices began last week. Woodard has high expectations for Murray-Sesay, frequently mentioning the 5-foot-10, 165-pound Washington D.C. native during talks about his defense.
Murray-Sesay has played in 21 games over the last two seasons. He played defensive back and on special teams last season, when he returned 15 kickoffs an average of 17.9 yards and made 37 tackles with a half sack. He also recovered a blocked punt Sept. 12 against the University of Maine.
“Just having the experience of playing on the field is something you can’t beat,” Murray-Sesay said. “A lot of things I know now, coaches will tell me, but I couldn’t put it together because I haven’t seen it or I haven’t run through it. That’s just one of those things you get when you have a veteran player.”
Murray-Sesay decided to attend Lamar soon after a visit to campus. He had already considered attending Stony Brook University in Connecticut but picked Lamar, even if it meant being a long distance from home.
“We got down here and I went on an official visit, and I was just wowed by everything,” Murray-Sesay said. “The time and energy and resources they’re putting into the program right now is just really amazing, and I can see how much backing the program has.
“As soon as you step down here, you can tell. You can see the billboards everywhere. I felt at home to be back around people that really care about football.”
At Northeastern, Murray-Sesay played for a school that last had a winning season in 2003. The Huskies opened last season with five straight losses but won three of their last five games, including their last two. The season ended with a 33-27 victory Nov. 21 at Rhode Island, and the team got called into a meeting the next day. That’s when Murray-Sesay learned the football program would be cut.
“It was just a complete surprise,” Murray-Sesay said. “To know after two years and what you do in the recruitment process - you do all the research, you go out and find what you think will be the perfect place for the next four to five years of your life and you have everything planned out and everything. It was a total surprise.”
Northeastern cut the program because of rising costs, sagging attendance and a renewed financial commitment to other sports. The school had recently spent more than $10 million to upgrade its basketball and hockey arena. To make the same financial commitment for a renovated football stadium would have been “a multimillion investment in the future that I was not comfortable making,” Northeastern athletic director Peter Roby told the Boston Globe.
Murray-Sesay is not the only abandoned player set to be with the team this fall. Former Hofstra running back Kwabena Asante is signed to join the Cardinals during the summer. Hofstra cut the football program after last season ended.
Asante rushed 61 times for 302 yards and caught four passes for 21 yards in 11 games last season. He will enter Lamar with two seasons of playing eligibility left.
Hofstra cut the program because of $4.5 million annual costs and sagging attendance.
The tale is familiar to any follower of Lamar football. The school cut football in part because of increasing debt and shrinking attendance through 10 straight non-winning seasons but revived the program with a $29 million investment funded by donors, bonds and a per credit hour student activity fee.
At Lamar, the school cut football soon after it built the 10,000-seat Montagne Center for basketball. The basketball team has since made one NCAA tournament appearance.
Now with two seasons of playing eligibility left, Murray-Sesay looks to the athletic training facility that will house the Lamar football team’s locker room just south of the football stadium.
No longer a player without a team, Murray-Sesay is sure of this: “I have a place to play.”
Christopher Dabe, Beaumont Enterprise