By Casey Gisclair
Barring a total 180-degree flip, Luke Charpentier won’t play football in the fall. In fact, his Sundays will probably be spent in the most American way possible—remote in hand, beverage close by and food on the grill.
But the former University of Arkansas lineman and Galliano native got to go out on top recently. Charpentier got to run with the New Orleans Saints.
Charpentier took part in a recent Saints’ rookie mini-camp—a two-day affair that played out at the team’s practice facility in Metairie.
The former Hog and John Curtis graduate played guard for the Saints’ offense during the weekend. Still smiling about his time with the Black and Gold, Charpentier said it was an experience he will never forget—the perfect icing on the cake to end his playing career.
“It was awesome,” Charpentier said. “It’s an experience that really filled me with pride and made me grateful for my blessings. I learned so much. Those guys at that level are so amazing. To carry those colors on my shoulders and to wear their equipment is something I’ll cherish forever.”
Charpentier’s weekend with the Black and Gold came out of left field—a time in the young man’s life when he was ready to trade in his helmet and shoulder pads for a more “common” career.
Luke Charpentier has played football his whole life. Always the strong, stocky kid from the bayous of South Lafourche Parish, he starred as a lineman at prep power John Curtis, earning scholarship offers from several programs around the country.
He chose Arkansas and was a Razorback for five seasons. The earliest of his days were rough on the win/loss sheet, but in 2014 the Hogs were able to instill some pride back into the Arkansas football program. Charpentier and the offensive line were at the center of that ascent.
Despite success at the college level, Charpentier said he made the decision that the Razorbacks’ bowl game was going to be the final one of his career. The big lineman said five years of SEC football took a physical toll on his body—aches and pains he was content to trade away in exchange for a normal life.
Planning to stay in Fayetteville to complete his Master’s degree, Charpentier opted to not participate in any pre-draft activities, bypassing Pro Day, the NFL Draft Scouting Combine and the process of hiring an agent.
“I wasn’t going to play anymore,” Charpentier said. “And I was totally OK with that.”
Then fate intervened. A couple weeks ago while sitting at work, Charpentier got a call from an Arkansas Athletic Department official. He said that representatives with the Saints were trying to reach him. They were seeking his participation in the rookie mini-camp, back toward home in Metairie, Louisiana.
As fate would have it, Charpentier said he never stopped working out—even as he was preparing for life without football. In fact, the lineman said he weighed 290 pounds at the time of the phone call—a weight lighter than his playing career.
“I guess that’s the irony of it all—I was ready to go,” Charpentier said. “So I told them I’d do it and then there I was—a few days later, playing with the New Orleans Saints.”
Charpentier’s contract with the team ran just throughout the rookie camp. Today, he is free to work for whomever. He is now on the team’s preferred list of players to call in the case of a roster emergency.
Charpentier said even after working with the team, his plans remain unchanged, and he will continue to further his education with hopes of working a “normal” adult job.
But that doesn’t mean the offensive guard didn’t have a heck of a time with the Black and Gold. Charpentier speaks of his experience in glowing terms, touting that the Saints’ rookie crop is amazing. He said that coaches gave him compliments for his awareness and football knowledge. Some of his criticisms were for not getting off the ball quick enough on a few snaps.
One mistake and the entire play is dead, Charpentier said. That’s something that he got used to in the SEC, but it’s taken to a whole new level in the NFL.
“It was unbelievable,” Charpentier said. “Those guys are just so good, and to be able to share the field with them and to be able to be coached by those coaches, it was just incredible.”
When it was all said and done, Charpentier left the field—helmet in hand, but head held up high. How better to end one’s career than donning the uniform of his hometown team—the New Orleans Saints.