Sept. 1, 2009
Rome, Ga. - Shorter College's football opener last Saturday night did not end the way the Hawks had hoped, as Lenoir-Rhyne held on for a 21-14 win in Hickory, N.C.
For Lonergon Honore, however, the Aug. 29 game was a benchmark that all football players relish - he played in the first game of his senior year, a luxury denied him four years ago to the day in his hometown of New Orleans by a storm named Katrina.
"I'll never forget it," Honore, who anchors the Hawks' defensive line at nose guard, said about the events that took place after Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans on Monday, Aug. 29, 2005.
"We were supposed to open my senior season that Saturday before it hit," Honore remembers. "We were on the bus and ready to go when the coach told us to get off and go home because the emergency evacuation had been declared."
Instead of hitting the field for Warren Easton High, New Orleans' oldest public school, Honore, his mother and his sister hit the road immediately, as did many of his relatives.
It was a wise move.
Their homes were in the city's now infamous Ninth Ward, which was devastated when the levees failed and flooded the area.
Like many of the Katrina refugees who made it out of the city, Honore and his family made their way to Texas where they found a room in a hotel in Galveston. After spending two weeks and knowing that their home had been destroyed, along with all of the belongings they couldn't carry with them, the family made their way to Cobb County to stay with an uncle.
Instead of feeling sorry for himself, Honore never looked back. Instead, he focused on what was ahead and did so with optimistic thoughts and a concern for others.
Once in Georgia, he enrolled at South Cobb High to finish up his senior year - Honore joined the team and finally did have his opener in October that year - where he also wrestled and helped the school finish sixth in the state championships.
Then a new door opened when he learned about Shorter College at a career day, heard about the school and its new football team, and as Honore proudly proclaims, "I took her up on it."
Being relegated to the Hawks' scout team and seeing little live action for the past three seasons, Honore is now be one of the team's mainstays on the defensive front where he uses his short but powerful 5-foot-9, 285-pound frame to plug the middle.
"He's a remarkable young man," said Shorter defensive line coach Jimmy Rosato, who is also a New Orleans native. "He was the captain of our scout team last year and after the season ended we sat down and talked about what he needed to do to play. He did a remarkable job during the spring and we told him he needed to come back in great shape and he came back in shape.
"That's a tribute to the hard work he put in. He's a team player and when he's not playing, he's helping others."
Honore's helping hand is not limited to the football field.
While Honore is wrapping up his senior season playing the game he loves, he is equally as passionate about his Early Childhood Education major and having the opportunity to work with children after graduating.
"I can't see myself doing anything else," said Honore, who in addition to working with his church in Cobb County also worked at a summer camp for special needs children. "I love working with kids."
"He's a special kid," Shorter head coach Phil Jones said. "He cares about people and especially kids. He spends his summers with them because he wants to. We talk about caring for people, but Longeron is all about being his brothers' keeper.
"People might look at him and his family's situation about losing everything they had, but he doesn't think that way. He's more concerned about others and caring about them, and he treats his teammates and his coaches that way."
"You would never know what he and his family have been through," Rosato added. "He always has a smile on his face. That tells you about the quality of person he is and how he was raised. We're better off he came our way."
Honore will never look back on what took place four years ago when Katrina wiped away one part of his life. His eyes are firmly focused on the future - not one in which he is someone who lost everything, but one where he gives everything he has to others.
"It's slowly starting to come back," Honore said about his former Ninth Ward home in New Orleans, pointing out that his grandmother is the only member of the family who has gone back. "The neighborhood is almost near to what it was. But I can't see ever going back. There's nothing there for me.
"I've had more opportunities here. I've got new friends and a new home. I love Shorter - it's a nice feeling for me."