JENNINGS — Jennings schools and businesses turned a bright shade of orange Monday in support of local football hero Travis Etienne, a sophomore running back for Clemson State University in South Carolina.
Etienne, an alumnus of Jennings High School and running back for the No. 2-ranked Clemson Tigers, played No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in the College Football National Championship Game last night.
“He is a former student of mine and an outstanding student who is living out every child’s dream whether it’s playing basketball, baseball or football on TV,” James Ward Elementary School Principal Tanya Gaudet said.
Gaudet, along with other Jennings residents, attended the Cotton Bowl game and watched Etienne and the Tigers defeat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to advance to the national championship game.
“I taught Travis when he was in the sixth grade and have followed him ever since,” Gaudet said. “I thought it would be wonderful if we were to honor him and let everyone wear orange to school today.”
Gaudet said Etienne is a phenomenal football player and a wonderful person who respects everyone and always encourages others.
“The teachers in town are ecstatic to see this young man who worked hard and did what he needed to do both on and off the field enjoy success,” she said. “He has united our community.”
Students at James Ward Elementary, Jennings Elementary and Jennings High schools wore orange or Clemson T-shirts with Etienne’s jersey No. 9.
Parker’s Department store sold more than 1,100 orange T-shirts, Gaudet said. Part of the proceeds from the T-shirt sales will benefit the local children’s summer feeding program.
About 90 percent of the 530 students at James Ward Elementary wore orange, Gaudet said.
Before classes began Gaudet explained to the students that if they work hard and do what is right, good things will come to them.
Jackson Daigle, a second-grader at James Ward Elementary, proudly wore his orange to support Etienne.
“He’s the best on his team and he went to James Ward and that makes me happy,” Daigle said. “I hope he wins the game because people will be happy if he wins.”
Classmate David Mazalriegous said he and other students were supporting Etienne “because he’s been doing a lot of good games.”
Jeredyn LeGros, a second-grader, said he has watched Etienne play several times.
“He’s good and he’s fast and made a lot of touchdowns,” LeGros said.
Second-grader Ayden McKnight said he hopes Etienne knows that the people back home support him.
The school plans to send Etienne photos of the students wearing their orange.
Etienne, who has been playing college football since 2017, was recently named a second team All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation and was named the Associated Press and Football Writers Association of American Second Team All-American.