By Jason Pugh, Northwestern State Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations
HOUSTON – Milling around the Hilton Post Oak Hotel at The Galleria on Thursday morning made things feel a bit normal for three members of the Northwestern State football team.
As coach Brad Laird, wide receiver Gavin Landry and safety P.J. Herrington handled their responsibilities at Southland Conference Football Media Day, there was a feeling of the way things were ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I did the Zoom version last summer, and it was a weird feeling,” said Landry, who is back for his sixth season at Northwestern State. “To have the opportunity to be here today and represent Northwestern State University is something I’m excited about. It brings a sense of normalcy.
“To feel like football is in the air in general, but to have something like this kick it off and talk about football and expectations and to see other players around the conference, it’s something we’re excited about and excited to be a part of.”
Both Laird and Herrington echoed Landry’s sentiments about the normalcy permeating the hotel on Houston’s southwest side.
And while the Demons expect to play a “normal” 11-game season this fall, each of the three NSU representatives found positives in the six-game spring 2021 season that concluded April 10 with a thrilling two-point, walk-off win at Incarnate Word on April 10.
“Anytime you go through the spring, you’re competing against yourself,” Laird said. “Those 15 days are Northwestern State vs. Northwestern State. Let’s look at the positive. We had nine weeks this spring to compete against six different teams. We learned a lot about who we are. That will benefit us as we move forward.”
The spring served a greater good for the individuals who donned the Purple and White in game action as well.
Herrington used the six-game spring season to acclimate himself to Division I football after two seasons of high-level play at East Mississippi Community College.
“This spring was good for me to get into the playbook, since I came in and played right away,” he said. “We learned to play with each other and to build a bond with each other. Now that we’re back, I feel like our bond is stronger. We play for each other. We care about each other. It’s a brotherhood now. It’s bigger than football.”
Landry, who suffered a season-ending knee injury midway through the 2019 season, was grateful for the spring season allowing him “ultimately, to get back to myself.”
Ahead of Thursday’s media activities, which included a live question-and-answer segment on ESPN+ and additional media opportunities, the Demons were chosen fifth in the annual Southland Conference preseason poll, voted on by league coaches and sports information directors.
None of the Demons, who open the season Sept. 4 at North Texas, were concerned with the opinions of the voters.
“Preseason polls are preseason polls – based off last year,” Laird said. “We’re not going to finish where we did last year. That’s up to us as coaches and players to change that.”
Added Herrington: “We really don’t pay attention to it. People are going to say what they’re going to say. We know who we are. We have to turn the Ls to Ws. We know what we can do, and that’s all that matters.”
Landry found additional motivation in the Hilton lobby, leading into the ballrooms that hosted Thursday’s events – a piece of hardware he shared with his NSU teammates.
“I sent a picture of the Southland Conference championship trophy to our team GroupMe and said we need it,” he said. “We’re excited about it. Guys are committed and expect to win. We look forward to proving everyone who put us down there wrong. We’ve got a great group that we’re excited going to battle with this fall.
— Featured photo by Erik Williams, Southland Conference