Unexpected Intersection

Sept. 15, 2005

By Jessica Garrison



RUSTON, La. - They make an unusual pair, Kropog and Oestereicher.


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 Archbishop Rummel High School in Metairie, La., in 2004, and went their separate ways.


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 New Orleans, redshirted his first year, bulked up and looked forward to becoming a force in 2005.


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 New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina. Kropog and his teammates made it from New Orleans to Jackson to Dallas to Ruston in two weeks, sleeping everywhere from gym floors to converted dorm rooms along the way and eating donated box lunches that made it hard for Kropog to maintain his weight; Oestereicher said his old teammate had dropped close to 20 pounds through the ordeal.


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 Ruston, La., was home, after their nomadic few weeks.


Neither Kropog nor Oestereicher's home was flooded in the storm, though both suffered wind damage. The Kropog family's weekend home in Mississippi, however, was blown completely off its foundations.


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 Mississippi State and get a handle on their class schedules, they have been embraced by the La. Tech community.


"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 Louisiana this week. She can be reached here with comments or questions.



Football Home

La. Tech's Brad Oestereicher and Tulane's Troy Kropog were high school teammates.