September 8, 2005

Forever changed

Tyler Unsworth didn't know if he had it in him.

The 6-foot-8, 279-pound three-star offensive lineman from Slidell (La.) Northshore saw his entire community virtually whipped off the map by Hurricane Katrina. Parts of the town are still under 8 feet of water and many of his teammate's houses are gone, blown away by the 140 mph winds and flood water.

That's when Unsworth sprung into action.

Just like he is aggressive on the football field, Unsworth decided he needed to do something to help his community out. So after returning from Houston, where he had to drive his grandparents to safety before the storm hit, Unsworth has been volunteering his time around Slidell.

With a chain saw in one hand and fighting back the tears, Unsworth went to work.

"It's sad," he said.

"I've been going around town, trying to help do some construction work. I went to a part of town (Wednesday) that we've not been able to get to the past couple of days because of the water. It's finally gone down some there, and we were hoping to go pick up what's left of one of my teammate's house.

"It's just sticks now. There's nothing there but sticks and the slab."

That type of devastation is pretty common, he said.

"A lot of my friends' houses are still under 6 feet of water," he said. "It's pretty nasty. We just got power back about 8 p.m. last night, so we were pretty fortunate. It's amazing what a big difference a couple of miles and a couple of blocks can make.

"There are three exits in Slidell. The first exit, closest to Lake Pontchartrain is totally destroyed. The second one is where Slidell High School is at, and there is still around 8 feet of water there. We're the third exit from the lake, and it came to within a few blocks of our house."

But Northshore didn't escape without damage.

"Our press box is gone," he said. "The scoreboard was ripped in half by the storm. We're hearing that it'll be early October when we start school again. I was seriously starting to think about going to school in Houston, but the more I thought about it the more I thought about how far behind I would be and how tough it would be for me to come in and play with people that I don't know.

"Besides, I couldn't leave my friends, my family and teammates behind in a time like this."

When he decided to stay he made one request to his parents. Since his house only had minor water damage from about 4 inches of flash flooding from the rain and many of his teammates don't have a home, he's going to have at least six teammates come live with him.

"We have a lot of stuff messed up, but our home and our family is fine," Unsworth said. "I talked to my coach, and he told me to try and round up as many of the players that I could find and tell them we're going to have practice again on Monday.

"I started to call a lot of the guys, and it seems like they're scattered all over the place and many of them are going to leave and go somewhere else because their houses are gone.

"I finally got a hold of our quarterback, and he was in Atlanta with family. I told him about us starting back up practice and he started to cry. He said his house is gone, but I told him he has a place to live with me. He's going to come back. I feel bad for the guys that have lost everything. I came back home with only water in my basement and others came home to 8 feet of water and trees in their living room."

Unsworth said having teammates come live with him is the least he could do.

"We have plenty of room, and I don't care if we don't," he said. "This was something that I had to do."

Unsworth knows life will some how try to return to routine and football will be a big part of the healing process. With scholarship offers already on the table from Alabama, Mississippi State, Southern Miss, Texas A&M and Louisiana Tech and heavy interest from LSU, he knows he has a bright future to look forward to. Still he also knows things are never going to be the same.

"Football is in the back in my mind, and that's one positive thing that I've held on to throughout this whole thing," he said. "But I can't help but think about how different my senior year has become. It's never going to be the same as before.

"Our school is going to be split up. We're going to be going to school from 3-9 p.m. at night and practicing in the morning. The school spirit is gone. We're not going to have homecoming or prom. It's never going to be normal, and I'm forever changed by this."

But Unsworth said at least one of the changes is a good thing.

"I never thought I would be so unselfish," he said. "I've always been a good guy and willing to help, but seeing people hurting changes everything. You want to do everything you can to help people out, and I'm not going to stop until we get this community back on its feet."



Rivals.com is your source for: College Football | Football Recruiting | College Basketball | Basketball Recruiting | College Baseball | High School | College Merchandise
Site-specific editorial/photos Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved. This website is an officially and independently operated source of news and information not affiliated with any school or team.
About | Advertise with Us | Contact | Privacy Policy | About our Ads | Terms of Service | Copyright/IP policy | Yahoo! Sports - NBC Sports Network

Statistical information 2007 STATS LLC All Rights Reserved.