Phoenix (CBS Houston) – When the Carolina Panthers unceremoniously moved on from him, it was a blessing in disguise. This week another Houston football standout plays in the Super Bowl.
Brandon LaFell, now of the New England Patriots, counts another player among many from the bayou city hoping to achieve on football’s brightest stage.
“Envisioning this, at Lamar (High School),” LaFell said, “me and (Washington Redskins OLB Brian) Orakpo always talk about being on the same team and playing for a Super Bowl and stuff like that. To actually be here, it’s a great feeling.”
LaFell was a standout as a high school player before showcasing his impressive talents for the LSU Tigers. LaFell was an instant impact player as his first college play was 58-yard touchdown reception. He would go on to earn Freshman All-SEC honors.
The next year LaFell helped the Tigers win the national championship. The following year he earned First-Team All-SEC. He would forgo his senior year and set his sights on professional football.
The NFL was a far-cry from what he experienced at LSU, which was one of the premier programs in the country.
A two win season was all Carolina was able to accomplish his rookie year. The next year breaking in franchise quarterback Cam Newton the team managed six wins. The following year just one more. Finally LaFell and the Panthers tasted the success they desired.
It wouldn’t last.
LaFell was not offered a contract by the Panthers, but would land softly with the Patriots where this season he set career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns.
The road to success is not lost on him.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I was telling the young guys the other day, ‘This game. It’s hard. You’re rookies and you’re here playing in the Super Bowl.’ It took me four years just to get to the playoffs. It took me awhile to get here. It’s a long experience and I put a lot of work in.”
Credit is due to those who helped along the way according to LaFell.
“Coach (Tom) Nolen, my high school coach. Him, my quarterback coach, Chad Butler, Tyrone Green, another one of my high school coaches”
It wasn’t just the lessons he learned between the lines either.
“Also, my basketball coach, Dennis Gillespie,” LaFell recalled. “That was a guy who had a great attitude and didn’t take any messing (around). He would jack me up in the hallway and pull me to the side, benching me in games when I had attitude problems, helping me change the way I thought about things and learning new things every day.”
Four years all ending in disappointment, but trending up each and every year. A NFL team with LaFell has never taken a step back.
Now he hopes to help the Patriots take the final step.
“As soon as you pick up a football, you always envision playing in the Super Bowl. That’s always the goal. In middle school, high school, college, you always think about playing in the Super Bowl. To tell you the truth, I always thought about playing in the Super Bowl and I always wanted to play in the Super Bowl.”
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