Injured during his junior season, Pirates' senior looks to make an impact this season

PORT CHARLOTTE

In the first game of the most important season in his career, Marc Jean-Louis took a handoff and headed up field.

The Port Charlotte High junior running back felt a tug at his jersey from behind and put his right arm out to break his fall to the turf.

“When I went to catch myself, my forearm broke,” Jean-Louis said, of the 2017 opener.

Instead of putting together a highlight reel for college recruiters to see, he spent the next five games on the sideline.

“It was super hard. Junior year I knew was the most important year,” Jean-Louis said. “I had a good sophomore year. So junior year would have been doing what I had to do and senior year would have been icing on the cake.”

His junior season was off to a solid start with 41 rushing yards on his first seven carries, an average of 5.9 yards per attempt.

“I don’t want to say I was depressed, but you go into a sad phase,” Jean-Louis said. “You’re not with your team, with your boys and things like that. You’re in a cast and you’re not doing anything basically. It’s hard.”

He returned for the final four games of the season, the final three of the regular season and the crushing loss at Naples in the first round of the playoffs.

But Jean-Louis was not the same. He wore a big cast to protect the injury and tried to limit the number of times he went to the turf.

“I was good enough,” he said, saying he was around 60 percent. “If I had to go out of bounds I would go out of bounds after getting as much yardage as I could.”

Jean-Louis gained 128 yards on 21 carries and scored two touchdowns, caught four passes for 101 yards and a score and went 1-for-2 as a quarterback with the completion a 74-yard TD in a 24-21 loss to rival Charlotte High.

While the production was there, most of the interested colleges backed off. Currently, Jean-Louis has interest from Division II schools, such as Wofford, Jacksonville and Stetson, a path he does not mind traveling.

“I just want to play,” he said.

But Jean-Louis is hoping a strong senior year will rekindle the interest among the bigger schools that had interest before, such as South Florida.

The 5-foot-9, 160-pounder is versatile. Along with playing running back, he lines up at quarterback, wide receiver and plays defensive back in certain defensive packages.

He does not have a preference where he plays. “Whatever the team needs me to do the most I’m going to do it to the best of my ability,” Jean-Louis said.

Quarterback has been the most challenging position with calling audibles and reading complex defenses.

“I’ve been in the offense for a while,” said Jean-Louis, who played quarterback three years in Pop Warner in the Port Charlotte Bandits organization. “The plays I know.”

While looking back fondly on his time playing football growing up, Jean-Louis recognizes the differences.

“It was just fun, super fun,” he said of his time with the Bandits. “It was probably the best football of my life, to be honest, because there wasn’t too much thinking. You just get the ball and just run. That’s how it was.”

On high school football, Jean-Louis said, “You have to do more reading. It’s more like being levelheaded and staying on the same track. There’s a lot more distractions to being a high school student. So to be able to stay focused and know what you’re playing for and who you are doing it for is the hardest part.”

The senior knows this will be the final time he will be playing with the kids he grew up with on the gridiron.

“It hits you,” Jean-Louis said. “For some it’s going to be over with and for others hopefully God helps you go on to play at the next level. It hit you as a senior to see all the kids you’ve been playing with when you were younger.”

As a senior, Jean-Louis plans to take more of a leadership role.

“Coach takes pride in player leadership rather than coaches' leadership,” he said. “We as the captains he’s picked, we try to lead by example.”

Aspiring to enter the medical field and be a registered nurse, Jean-Louis is hoping for a rebound season.

“I’m 110 percent,” he said. “I feel good about the team.”

Jean-Louis, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.48 and the 100 in 11.4, gained 29 yards in the spring classic against Riverview.

“We’re young,” Jean-Louis said. “The spring game was really good for us. The players have grown since spring. Riverview’s whole front seven were returning players, so that was a good game to show athletes if you want to play at the varsity level, this is what you are going to see. It was a good game. We are developing well. We should have a good season.”