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The Story of Nick Brossette

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I got a call from my buddy Andrew Sunday night. When I saw his name pop up as the caller, I already knew what he was going to say. We've  had several prior discussions regarding Nick Brossette. Andrew knows him fairly well being that his brother Adrian played with Nick at U-High. We both knew about the story of Nick losing his brother Mendel in 2015 & the effect it had on him. During our discussions we often wondered if Nick would ever bounce back mentally from the tragic loss of his brother. The LSU family had been there for Nick & his family the whole time.

Leonard Fournette & Derrius Guice played the big brother role to Nick, pushing him & telling him to remain strong because he time would come where he would be the number one back at LSU especially after Nick tore his ACL later on 2015. The article below touches on Fournette's role a bit of being that big brother.

The article touches on Brossette's fumble his freshman year against South Carolina but what it doesn't mention is then RB coach Frank Wilson ripping into Nick right before the cameras caught him in tears on the bench. Frank Wilson didn't tolerate fumbles & he let Nick know about it. At that time though, I'm not sure an ass chewing was the right way to reach the kid with everything he had been through.

The article doesn't mention Guice though. Word has it that it was Guice who secretly convinced RB coach Tommie Robinson to start Brossette against Troy last year. When Nick fumbled his first carry that Troy ended up recovering, it knocked his already fragile confidence down another notch. There was another home game later on, (I can't remember the opponent but Guice was out because of injury) where Nick picked up a 1st down on a 3rd down carry to seal the game. When Nick went to the sideline, it was Guice who met up him first & had a joyous reaction from the play, congratulating Brossette on icing the game.

That play has seemed to catapult Nick into the 2018 season. You could see he was running aggressively against Miami last Sunday. The cut he made off Garrett Brumfield's (his fellow U-High alum) block, sprung him into the open field on 50 yard TD run against the Canes. Right then & there, you could see that his confidence was back. It's been a long journey for him & every Tiger fan should be proud once they hear his story.

Once grieving, now thriving: LSU's Nick Brossette runs in memory of late brother


L to R: Rita Brossette, Nick Brossette and Mendel Ensault on Nick's Senior Day at University Lab (Photo courtesy of Nick Brossette)

After his first touchdown, his teammates celebrated with him. After his second, LSU running back Nick Brossette went to the sideline and plopped himself on the metal bench at AT&T Stadium.

He smiled. And he remembered.

The Baton Rouge native remembered the early morning hours of April 19, 2015. That's when Brossette's world flipped upside-down. Rita Brossette screamed. She ran and banged on her son Nick's door. Something was wrong with Nick's big brother. 

Mendel Ensault's alarm was going off so he could wake up and go to his job at Dow Chemical in Plaquemine. But he hadn't turned it off and Rita thought that was odd.

So, she went to check on her oldest son. She touched his shoulder, she knew something wasn't right. He was cold.  She nudged his head and it dropped slowly off the pillow. Blood trickled out of his mouth. 

Rita called for her other two sons, Nick and younger brother Jaylen Ensault, to come to the room. They ran in as fast as they could. 

Jaylen lifted him by the arms and Nick held him by the legs. They laid him on the floor as their mother frantically spoke with 911. But nothing worked. 

"We tried everything," Nick said. "But he had already passed away."

Mendel Esnault had a seizure during his sleep. After that, a heart attack killed him. 

It shook the family. Rita Brossette remembers the hours after as people started pouring into the family's home. Family, friends, police officers. 

Then-LSU coach Les Miles, whose son Manny played with Nick at University Lab, showed up. U-High coach Chad Mahaffey was there. 

"Every time I blinked, someone new was there," Rita said. 

Kathy Miles took Rita to a hotel where the family stayed for a while. Manny Miles spent time with Nick, who had already signed with LSU. 

The school received permission from the NCAA to start a fund to help the family with essential living expenses since Mendel was helping provide for the family since Rita had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare cancer she'd been dealing with since 2013. 

Nick had trouble processing what happened. He says he still feels as if his big brother is on a vacation. 

"I just feel like he's gone somewhere or out of town," Nick said. "Right now, I didn't know how to deal with it coming into LSU. Now I'm embracing it."


LSU running backs Leonard Fournette (7) and Nick Brossette (4) during warm up before LSU took on the Mississippi Rebels in Baton Rouge on Saturday, October 22, 2016. (Photo by Brett Duke, | The Times-Picayune)

Rita remembers when Nick didn't know how to deal with the death -- or her cancer diagnosis. 

She said while Mendel and Jaylen and her daughter Jessica would be active with her during her treatment, Nick wouldn't ask questions. She said it got to the point he wouldn't even ask her how she was doing. 

But he wasn't being a bad son. Not at all. 

"I asked him one day why and he said 'You've always been okay. And I know you're going to be okay. So I don't need to ask,'" Rita recalled. 

So for her, she knew what was wrong when she saw her son breaking down on the sidelines after fumbling away a ball during his freshman year against South Carolina. Many thought he was upset because of the fumble -- which LSU recovered. But she knew different. 

Rita said everything hit him in that moment. That's why Leonard Fournette walked over and consoled him. He knew everything Nick had been through. 

"I was just wishing they got the cameras out his face," Rita said. 

After that game, Rita said she remembers not being able to find Nick. That night, she went to the cemetery to Mendel's grave. That's when Nick called her. 

He asked where she was and she told him. His answer? He had just left the same spot. 

Slowly but surely, Nick began to accept what happened in his life. 

"He was my father figure," Nick said of Mendel who was 10 years his senior. "He was everything. Any decision I had, he was there to support it. I went to him for advice and everything."

Brossette remembers his brother every way he can. His header photo on his Twitter profile is of him and his brother. And if he ever forgets, he can just look down on his left forearm. He got Mendel's name tattooed on his wrist soon after he passed away. That summer, he added a rose. By Christmas time, Mendel's face was there. 



LSU running back Nick Brossette (4) fumbles the ball during first half action against the Troy Trojans in Baton Rouge on Saturday, September 30, 2017. (Brett Duke, | The Times-Picayune)

It was his way of remembering his brother but it also allowed him to focus on the field and playing running back for LSU. 

"That's his dream," Jaylen said. "He talked about playing for LSU before he even went to U-High and we were kids and we'd play in the yard. We'd watch LSU games on TV and he'd say 'Mom, I'm gonna play for them, watch!'"

Oddly enough, the one game Rita wasn't able to watch in person is when Nick's freshman season ended prematurely. 

It was going to be a cold November game in Oxford, Mississippi, as the Tigers traveled to take on Ole Miss. Nick didn't want his mother, still in treatment at the time, to sit in the elements for hours on end so he never ordered her tickets for the game. 

Instead, Rita stayed at home. And Nick just happened to tear his ACL. He got surgery and was a full-go for the 2016 season as he played in all 12 games but had to bide his time behind Fournette and Derrius Guice. 

In 2017, Nick again had to wait his turn behind Guice and Darrel Williams. But after the BYU game, he went to LSU coach Ed Orgeron and for the first time, thought about transferring. 

"I talked to him," Nick said. "He said he wasn't going to let me leave. He told me I had stuff to prove. I just couldn't do it." 

Later that month, Nick hit his low as an LSU running back. On the first play of LSU's loss to Troy, Brossette was tackled after getting a handoff and ended up fumbling the ball away. Troy recovered. 

After the game, Orgeron said he wasn't sure what happened on the play but said "our third-string running back" got the ball. Guice was sitting out the game with an injury and Williams was set to be the starter. 

Nick said the vision Orgeron had for him was a little harder to see after the game against Troy, but slowly it stared to come into focus. 


University Lab running back Nick Brossette hoists the state championship trophy on Friday, December 5, 2014. (Michael DeMocker, | The Times-Picayune)

Fast forward to the offseason and Nick started to become his old self again. He was heading into his senior season at LSU and needed to get back to the "Old Nick."

See, the "Old Nick" was the most prolific running back in Louisiana history. He rushed for 1,000 yards in five seasons -- even as an eighth grader -- and finished his career with 9,214 yards in his time with U-High. His touchdown mark is the state record with 163 - and if you take away the 22 he had as an eighth grader, he'd still own the state mark. 

The "Old Nick" was a four-star prospect coming out of high school and an All-American selection. 

When he was warming up on Sunday against Miami, Rita saw something she hadn't seen in years. The "Old Nick" was back.

"I saw it in his eyes," she said. 

LSU and Miami were knotted up at 3 late in the first quarter. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow noticed the safety coming down for a blitz and called an audible for a run to the left side. Brossette hit the hole and dashed for the end zone -- and his first touchdown in an LSU uniform. 

Rita and the seven other family members in attendance at the game, including Nick's godfather and godbrother in from San Diego, went crazy. Rita said Jessica is usually the emotional one in the family but this time, it was Rita who had tears streaming down her face. 

"I looked at Jessica and say I know Mendel is jumping up and down in heaven," Rita said. "I know he's tearing it up." 


University Lab offensive tackle Garrett Brumfield (77) paves the way for running back Nick Brossette on Saturday, November 30, 2013. (Photo by Peter G. Forest)

Then Rita realized who opened up the hole for Nick's touchdown -- left guard Garrett 
"Bruiser" Brumfield. 

The two current Tigers were teammates at U-High and like Nick, Brumfield had to wait his turn to start at LSU. He redshirted his first season and played sparingly in the following two seasons before finally becoming a starter in his fourth season. 

"Seeing him having to sit and wait, that's hard for anybody," Brumfield said. "But that's the definition of grit. He wouldn't quit. He had an undying pursuit of what he wanted to do and I'm just so happy for him."

Brumfield also said he noticed the "Old Nick" on the field. 

"He's got his light back," Brumfield added. "He's definitely had his ups and downs. Now, I think it's the height of his up and I want him to keep climbing and shining and feeding off that energy that he has now."

Miles, the LSU coach when Brossette arrived, remembers Nick as a "pudgy eighth grader" sleeping at the Miles family home and saw first-hand how he transformed in a college prospect. And ever since his U-High days, Miles says he always had confidence in what Nick could do on the football field. 

"I watched that game against Miami and that's what Nick Brossette is," Miles said. "That kind of back. I was thinking about his older brother in heaven watching that man run. I was just so happy for him, I can't even tell you."


LSU running back Nick Brossette (4) runs for a 50-yard touchdown during the 2018 Advocare Classic between the Miami Hurricanes and LSU Tigers at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Sunday, September 2, 2018. (Photo by Michael DeMocker, | The Times-Picayune)

In the second quarter, Brossette rushed for another touchdown from two yards out. He finished with 22 carries for 125 yards. The 22 carries were more than he'd had in any of his first three seasons. 

It was only after the second touchdown when he sat on the bench that he started thinking about it. 

He remembers seeing his mom in the stands and that's when it hit him. 

"Just looking at her, I was just like, 'Wow,'" Nick said. "I actually felt like myself."

He said he just knew Mendel was in heaven, smiling down on him and dancing. He was finally able to relax and embrace his role as LSU's starting tailback -- which Orgeron called him on Tuesday.

"This what I been waiting for," Nick said. "I got my opportunity. Now I'm ready to take full advantage. I just want to show out.

"This is a dream come true."


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