On July 2nd, 2018, running back T.J. Wisham stepped onto UL’s campus after transferring from Army.
“Leaving Army, making that decision to leave, I made a list of schools,” Wisham says. “I started off by narrowing it down by the major I wanted to do. I knew about Louisiana-Lafayette coming out of high school being down the street. Then I started looking at their programs. The few schools that were interested in me, Lafayette just started to look like the perfect fit. I came to Lafayette one day when they had a camp, spoke with the coaches, got a tour, and that was the selling point right there. I felt the vibe of the new staff, felt the family atmosphere. That sold it.”
He earned a spot on the Ragin Cajuns football team. However, earning a spot on the team as a walk on, didn’t earn him a spot on away-game trips. He had to watch his teammates on TV during his first season in Lafayette.
“That was probably the low point,” Wisham says. “Seeing the guys I practiced with, seeing the guys I played with the year before all play knowing that I couldn’t be out there playing.”
Exactly 406 days later, an ordinary team meeting turned into a day Wisham would never forget. On August 12, Wisham was put on scholarship.
“It was a relief,” Wisham says. “When I made that decision, there was a lot of doubters. I even doubted in myself sometimes because it was such a big and life-changing decision. But my family was there from step one. They supported me. I knew even on my bad days I could call my mom and call my sister, and they would give me something that would uplift me. When I saw them, it just brought tears to my eyes because they knew about every step of the way. It paid off, and they were always there.”
The support for Wisham hasn’t stopped at his family. His coaches, teammates, fans, even Sports Center Anchor Scott Van Pelt were taking to social media to congratulate number 23.
“It’s been insane,” Wisham says. “We’re in camp, and I’m very in tune with camp. I’m trying to do as much as I can in the field and in the classrooms with coaches so the phone has been blowing up quite a bit, but I’ve been trying to make sure I get back with everyone who texts me but it’s been crazy. The support and the love just makes me want to practice harder.”
“T.J. is very deserving,” head coach Billy Napier says. “Not only is he a heck of a football player, but also an upstanding young man and an outstanding student. We’re excited for him and his family.”
“When T.J. was awarded his, that brought tears to my eyes man because I can relate, you know,” senior defensive back Deuce Wallace says. “I know that feeling, it’s like finally man. All this hard work, all that time you put in, finally pays off and everyone can see it.”
Wisham did a lot of waiting. In that waiting, he did a lot of learning. He believes everything happens for a reason.
“Stay true to myself,” Wisham says. “Work. Trust and believe in God. His plan will always work out, regardless of the distractions and every bump in the road. Everything will always work out as long as you stay true to yourself and work hard.”
It’s those lessons he’s now using to inspire the other Ragin’ Cajun walk-ons.
“I’ve always found myself to be a leader,” Wisham says. “I think naturally I’m a leader. I like taking a stand in leadership because you always need one. I like to follow as well because to be a great leader you’ve got to be a great follower. Being a leader, especially in the walk on group, I took pride in that because I saw in my freshman year at Army what it took to win games, what it took to win bowl games. Part of that was scout team. Walk ons were the backbone of the team. Without walkons, a scout team, you really can’t prepare as much as they would like for the games. So I took pride in that, and tried to share that with the other guys. It worked out.”
The industrial engineering major will run with one of the top-10 running back corps in the country this season in the Cajuns 2019 campaign, aiming at the Sun Belt conference championship and a bowl win.