Cajuns Quarterback Haack Moved By Mission Trip To Haiti

LAFAYETTE, LA (AP) — After spring practice earlier this year, and before summer conditioning, preseason camp and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's 2015 football season got underway, Brooks Haack took a trip.

         More than any handoff he will make, than any pass he will throw, than any game he will win, it impacted the Ragin' Cajuns starting quarterback in a way no on-the-field experience possibly could.

         As he and a handful of other UL students made their way around the Haitian village of Minoterie, all they had to do was look down to feel the warmth.

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         It came from the kids near their knees and waists, the heart within them and the grins spread wide across their faces.

         "They all just wanted to be touched by someone in our group," Haack said during a bye week for the Cajuns. "Just seeing that, and seeing how happy they were ."

         As his voice trailed off, Haack paused for no longer than he usually does between hut and hike, then continued.

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         "Some didn't have shoes; some didn't have shirts; some didn't even have any clothes on," he said. "But it's one of those things that, 'We're all God's children, and we see that.' "

         The UL contingent's mission visit was co-sponsored by Chi Alpha, a campus Christian student organization, and Cajuns 4 Christ, the chapter's Bible study group for student-athletes.

         Accompanied by trip leaders Blair Claypoole, a former Cajuns volleyball player now working with Chi Alpha, and ex-UL women's basketball assistant coach Sallie Guillory, the group included, among others, Haack's football teammate Chris Prater and women's basketball players Keke Veal and Jodi Quinn.

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         Like so many who make such trips, the Cajuns – and Haack in particular – were quite moved during a 12-day May journey in which they stayed with Mission of Hope in Titanyen and worked in Minoterie.

         "Getting them out of the country and seeing – especially (in) Haiti – the incredible poverty, all of a sudden it changes how they view their own lives," said Eric Treuil, Chi Alpha's UL campus pastor and a longtime chaplain for the Cajun football team.

         "Not only that, the (Haitian) kids they were with – these children gravitate toward these guys. They love them. They're so happy.

         "They have no clue that they're living in the poverty that they're in," Treuil added, "so for the players it was a big wake up – like, 'Wow, with what we think we need to be happy, we're kind of missing the boat.' All of these athletes that went, it kind of opened up their eyes."

         Haack had a chance to take a similar trip when he was in high school back at home in Katy, Texas, but circumstances prevented him from going.

         "When Eric (Treuil) approached me about it," the redshirt-junior QB said, "I thought, 'Man, what a great opportunity to do something I've thought about doing before.' "

         Four months later, Haack recalls the kids he encountered as if they were still clinging to him.

         He remembers scenery in the small Caribbean country devastated by, and still recovering from, a 2010 earthquake.

         He reflects on how things simply assumed at home near Houston and in Lafayette are so treasured there, like water and sanitation systems.

         "There was trash all over the roads," Haack said. "There was trash everywhere.

         "I do realize (now), really, what you do take for granted. Like there, you only get one shower a day, you only get a certain amount of water. Here, we accidentally leave the water running sometimes. It's something you don't even think about. It's just one of those things that it makes you cherish every little thing more and more."

         Haack may never forget some of the work he and other Cajuns did there, from planting trees to painting bathrooms to moving dirt and rocks so a school's foundation could be built.

         "Trees there are heavenly for them," he said, "because they don't have many and they don't have much shade and it's always hot, so whenever they get any kind of tree – whether it's a fruit thing or anything – they just love it.

         "We moved dirt over miles and miles. It was one of those things that it was tough, but you knew what you were doing it for and you knew it was for a good cause. So you just sucked it up, and kept going."

         Mostly, though, the images that may remain etched in Haack's mind long after his football days are done are those of the children.

         "They just wanted to be around us, and just talk to us," he said of the Haitian villagers. "Everybody was very welcoming – and obviously the kids loved us, and we loved the kids."

         The youngsters in Minoterie knew around what time the Cajuns were coming into town each day, and each day the same ones were eagerly awaiting their arrival.

         "You can just see how happy they are in their smiles," Haack said. "They have zero cares in the world. They just want to be held, and to be playing with us. I thought that was really cool."

         – by AP/ Reporter Tim Buckley with The Advertiser

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