Karr High School football team shows success on and off the field

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) — For years, playing winning football has come easy for the Karr Cougars. But everything leading up to their matches often comes after their matches, it gets harder and harder day by day.

The killing of Keyron Ross on January 26 was Karr’s student body’s latest “loss of life”.

Keyron Ross, 18, died in a hospital after being shot dead in Algiers on January 26.(PerfectGame.org)

Ten months prior, someone had shot and killed fellow schoolmate and teammate, Caleb Johnson.

RELATED STORY: Siblings killed in Algiers triple shooting on Sunday, family members confirm

Caleb Johnson, 18, a senior at Edna Karr High School, was shot and killed on Sunday March 28 in...
Caleb Johnson, 18, a senior at Edna Karr high school, was shot dead on Sunday March 28 in the parking lot of an apartment complex in Algiers. A student was also shot(WVUE FOX 8)

The cycle of violence and the capacity of these footballers to cope are at the center of a new documentary entitled “Algiers, America”, which will be released next spring.

Jackson Fager is the creator and director of the project.

“What I did here was follow a community, a group of people, a team, and a group of characters for two and a half years,” Fager said.

During a pandemic and Hurricane Ida, Fader and his film crew stood by the people who love Karr the most. Even when those same people were not ready to open up to a stranger.

“And it’s a very tight-knit community, like this whole city,” said Karr elder Dr. Ashonta Wyatt. “Everyone knows everyone. right? And so, if you want to get one person on board, well, there are 20 other people linked to that person who also have to agree.

And Dr. Wyatt is one of those “connected” people who wanted to know Fager’s motive.

“I was suspicious of people coming into my community, telling the same old story, you know, all the tragedy without the triumph. I just tried to let them know that I thought what they were doing was amazing and that I would be honored to be a part of it,” Wyatt said.

Being part of it meant letting the people who bring this school to life tell their stories like Brice Brown, who is Karr’s head football coach, but he wears more hats than that on a daily basis.

“I think that’s what happens with any head coach at any school, you know. You have to wear those hats because so many people are counting on you,” Brown said.

In Brown’s case, I rely on him to have the right words to say when times get tough.

Because in Karr, few have had to face the pain and the truth of death like Brown. He has lost 17 players to gun violence since coaching here.

But her pain goes even deeper than that as gun violence also claimed her father’s life. This is why the tough conversations Brown has with his players are so important

“That’s the approach of every coach. We were once where they were,” Brown said. “If you are a 15-16 year old young man who has lost his father to violence, we can understand that. You have three or four coaches on this staff who can relate to this scenario. We have to be prepared to have a difficult conversation. And sometimes that conversation leads to tears, leads to some type of emotion that they’re not comfortable expressing.

Brown thinks when you speak black and white, it’s a responsibility that people don’t understand, especially for black coaches, because they have to take on a role.

“A lot of our coaches focus on things that have absolutely nothing to do with football,” Dr Wyatt said. “But you have to deal with this thing to get to football. And we understand that Brice understands that he takes on this responsibility. And he does it without complaining.

And the reward comes on National Signing Day. When players commit to playing college football somewhere, anywhere.

“It’s important. And yes, it’s important because they have to feel and they have to understand that there’s a place out there where you can be successful, and where the loss of life or drugs or gun violence is not normal. And we need to be able to present that to them,” Brown said.

It ends up being a real page-changing moment for these kids. A chance to live something beyond the hard life they lead in Algiers.

Quarterback AJ Samuel is the headliner for this year’s senior class. And while he looks forward to what’s next, he’s also aware of what the school will need of him when he finally returns.

“That’s our main goal. Not just to retain the knowledge you gained and the skills you acquired, but to give back to the people who were here after you. That’s what the previous guys did, the guys before them and helped you. That’s what the main focus is. said Samuels.

Samuel won’t be the only Cougar given the opportunity to further his education and playing career, as Karr sends in double digits to play college football every year.

And while Brown sees it simply as fulfilling his commitment to his players, it’s much more important than that.

“His wins and his losses, in my opinion, are more important than what happens on the football field,” Dr. Wyatt said. ” He saves lifes. He puts the kids through college. It helps to make boys into men.

Dr. Wyatt thinks Brown’s work goes far beyond the Xs and Os. She sees Brown as a father figure to a group of young men who don’t have a father in their lives.

“I think what I also see is the legacy of what all of these people have really poured into Coach Brown. Giving back to his community and his scholars.

That’s why many believe this documentary and Karr’s story needs to be told now, more than ever.

Because their work to save a child’s life and the wait to celebrate a child’s accomplishments never ends. Especially in “Algiers, America”.

“If you can save at least one of those kids, you’re successful,” Brown said. “Don’t look at these championships here in Karr and think it’s real. These championships to me have no substance and no value. Substance and value is when you see these kids living at home, sometimes don’t have a meal, and they graduate on May 15. And they get to that milestone, that’s the substance, that’s the value, those championship rings, they’re gathering dust on the counter .

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