By Andrew Alexander
Reliving the glory days of football past is the dream of many former athletes. The chance to compete, interact with teammates, achieve a goal, and taste victory is a feeling that does not easily fade away.
Every year a group of LSU Law School students take a break from studying to become the next Fletcher Reede or Atticus Finch. Instead, they don their shoulder pads and strap up their helmets for a full-pads contact football game to raise money for charity. The game is known as the Barrister’s Bowl, and on Saturday, Feb. 7, the LSU Law Football Club will participate in Barrister’s Bowl XI at Memorial Stadium.
This year’s Barrister’s Bowl will be played in memory of Parker Rivera, the younger brother of a current law student Lauren Rivera, who recently lost his battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The proceeds from Saturday’s event will be donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in his honor.
Established by former law students Jason Durden and Jonathan Hobbs in 2004 to raise money for charity and foster community amongst the law school classes, the Barrister’s Ball pits the Gold and Purple teams against each other for full-pads contact football. And these guys mean business.
Before each game, a draft is held to place the “rookies” onto either the Gold or Purple squad. This year approximately 30 players were drafted.
“If you’re Gold, you’re Gold for three years,” Barrister’s Bowl commissioner Neal Favorite said. “The only time we do trades is under exceptional circumstances.”
Despite losing last year’s game, Purple still leads the series 6-4 over Gold.
A New Orleans native, Favorite attended the University of Florida for undergrad, before returning to pursue his Juris Doctor at LSU. After participating in the chain gang as a 1L, Favorite was moved to become more involved with the game.
“My first year serving on the chain gang, I got to see how the commissioner Dixon Wallace McMakin ran everything,” Favorite said. “It was very inspiring and something I wanted to do.”
A former football player at Jesuit High School, football runs in the in Favorite’s family. Neal’s first cousin is former LSU defensive tackle Marlon Favorite.
“Marlon’s given me a lot of tips for playing on the line and how to rip and swim,” Favorite said.
As commissioner, Favorite organizes the entire game, including booking facilities, vendors, sponsors and equipment.
After the draft, the teams endure six weeks of practice and conditioning, held in the LSU football indoor practice facility. Equipment was donated by Morgan City High School and Riverside Academy.
“You’ve got guys who work out and train by themselves, and you’ve got groups of guys who get together on the weekends and run 7-on-7 to get ready.”
Favorite said a typical team’s playbook will consist of five or six run plays and maybe four pass plays.
“Some guys strategize and love to coach and try to scheme defenses, but the play calling is usually very tailored down,” Favorite said. “Ideally you’d like to have two or three guys that can go down field and catch a ball deep.”
For first law student Hunter Schoen, it’s all about getting the “W” at this year’s game.
“Win baby, win,” Schoen remarked. “My friends say my old forty-yard dash time loses a tenth of a second every year, but I disagree.”
Schoen believes that the benefits of playing in the Barrister’s Bowl go beyond the opportunity to network with classmates.
“A lot of people want my autograph,” he joked, “and I’ve gotten more matches on Tinder,”
The game brings together players of varying football backgrounds, and Favorite wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Every year you get maybe one or two guys who played college football and a couple of guys who played other college sports,” Favorite explained. “But more importantly, you get the guys who have only ever watched, haven’t played since high school or were intramural all-stars during there undergrad years who just want to come out and have fun.”
Another important aspect of the game is the networking opportunity it presents. Since students are split into different sections as 1L’s, interaction can sometimes be limited between sections and classes.
“It’s hard to make a real connection with others at a bar, so getting to know some other people through practice, team meetings and the game allowed me to get to know a lot of other people in law school,” third year law student Billy Wright explained.
Wright was involved with the chain gang as a 1L, but wanted a taste of the action in year two, joining the offensive and defensive lines.
“I wanted to compete in the Barrister’s Bowl because I wanted to experience playing organized football,” Wright said. “I would say it’s preferred that you don’t have football experience because it makes the game more fun (or funny) to watch.”
The Barrister’s Bowl typically draws a healthy dose of support from parents, alumni and people from the community, but Favorite said he would love to see more.
“If you’re a football fan,” he said, “this is your last opportunity to catch a live football game in the Baton Rouge until next fall,”