Big Game For The Big Easy: Special Coverage|
Sept. 15, 2005
By Jessica Garrison
Troy Kropog, the 6-3, 287-pound offensive lineman from Tulane towers over his high school teammate Brad Oestereicher, a 5-11, 177-pound kicker for Louisiana Tech. Oestereicher, though, is the big man on this campus as the two have reunited for the fall football season their teams will share.
Kropog and Oestereicher graduated from
Oestereicher went north to Louisiana Tech, where he played all 12 games for the Bulldogs, scored 15 points and handled kickoff duties. Kropog chose Tulane in
Kropog's decision turned out to be fateful - the end of camp should have been his coming out party. Instead, it became a nightmare evacuation of
It seems that surviving the hurricane is just the beginning of the Green Waves' ordeal. The entire team, as Tulane coach Chris Scelfo pointed out, is the equivalent of college freshmen in their experience on this campus. They get lost on the way to class, need directions to the dining hall, and have almost 12,000 new faces to get used to on top of their concerns about families, friends, homes and football.
The pressure has weighed on Kropog.
Oestereicher called him Monday night, Tulane's first in town, and invited him to hang out with some of Oestereicher's Tech friends. Kropog took him up on it and brought a teammate along. Oestereicher quickly noticed a difference in his high school friend. He seemed down, tired and a bit overwhelmed by his new environment.
"In high school he was always smiling," Oestereicher said. "I think he just misses home. It'll take him a few weeks to settle in."
Tulane director of football operations Dennis Polian understood the sentiment - he said the hardest part of settling down at La. Tech was convincing himself, along with coaches and players, that
Neither Kropog nor Oestereicher's home was flooded in the storm, though both suffered wind damage. The Kropog family's weekend home in
Still, Kropog is hanging tough. "I'm just happy we're having a season," he said, walking off the field after Tulane's first full practice here. "This season, football means a lot more. Everyone's eyes are on us now."
As the Green Wave prepare for Saturday night's game against
"People here are really sympathetic," Kropog said. "They make an effort to come up to us. We just have to do our best to get through this."
Luckily, Kropog will not be doing it entirely on his own. Oestereicher is grateful, in a "strange way," that he can be Kropog's connection to the Tech community, a part of home when home is entirely uncertain.
That's what a teammate, past or present, is for.
Jessica Garrison is an Assistant Editor for CSTV.com and is on assignment in
La. Tech's Brad Oestereicher and Tulane's Troy Kropog were high school teammates.