Senior defensive tackle ready to continue career, serve in Coast Guard
By LAUREN JETTE
For Liberty Hill senior Colby LaDuque, signing with the Coast Guard Academy on April 26 was about more than an opportunity to continue his football career.
It was also about getting to serve his country.
“I’m going up there to play football, but it is part of something bigger,” LaDuque said. “I’m part of a group of people who are on the same route I’m on. They’ve worked hard in school, they’ve done well in sports and they want to work as a team to serve their country. I’m looking forward to being someone that other people can count on and really forming a brotherhood up there, being a part of something else.”
After considering West Point and the Air Force Academy, a summer camp with the Coast Guard, “half boot camp, half show you the campus” sealed the deal for LaDuque, along with the campus’ proximity to the water.
“(The camp) was a real neat experience and I loved it. The campus is beautiful, it’s right on the water and I love being on the water. It’s something that I really liked about the Coast Guard, is I’m always going to be on a boat,” LaDuque said.
“I’ve always been down on the coast and I love fishing and all that. I know I’m not going to be fishing the whole time I’m there, but it’s something that I might be able to enjoy when I’m off.
“You’re helping people and it’s a service academy that’s meant to help people, but it’s also protection,” LaDuque added.
“It’s border security, it’s cleaning up oil spills, attending the coast line, it’s a lot of things they do that I didn’t even really know they did until I started looking into it.”
After playing flag football in Kindergarten and then progressing to tackle football soon after, LaDuque’s main sport has always been football.
“I really like the intensity of it. It’s a really aggressive sport where you couldn’t do a lot of the things you do on a football field on a basketball court or on a baseball field and it be socially acceptable,” he said.
“I like that part of it. It’s a team sport, not an individual, where it could be in some other sports. It’s depending on other people and I like the team aspect of that.”
For most of his varsity career with the Panthers, LaDuque has played as a defensive tackle, which requires both strength and intelligence.
“Football’s an aggressive sport and out of all the positions it’s one that you have to be really aggressive with and kind of nitty-gritty, it’s really physical,” LaDuque explained.
“It’s on the line, defensive tackle, because your goal is not the person in front of you, it’s the running back or person behind them, so you have to figure out how to get behind this person in front of you that’s trying to block you and get behind them.
“It’s kind of strategic, so you have to learn technique and hand moves and stuff like that but it’s also, you have to be powerful and hold your own,” he added.
“It’s a mixture of using technique and force. Technique has always been my strong suit. There are guys that I go against who are a lot bigger than I am, so technique has always been my strong suit.”
The ability to be aggressive on the field made him a valuable asset to the Panthers, according to head coach Jerry Vance.
“Colby is a very unique individual, he was always quiet when he was around me, but he has that rare ability to flip a switch on the football field and be one of the best defensive tackles we have had,” he said.
“Big, strong, quick and as I said, he turns that switch on and someone had better watch out. He’s a great young man, super student and what a great future he has. I’m tickled to death he has the chance to play at the next level. He will succeed.”
LaDuque said his highlights from his career are two wins against Burnet in the playoffs, and this season’s regional quarterfinal game against Waco La Vega, which was played in steady rain and near-freezing temperatures.
“Even though we lost, defensive-wise, we played a really good game. The younger guys got a lot to take away from that game,” he said.
“I felt that I left everything out there that I could. I’m satisfied with the way I played and we wished we could have gone further, but I really enjoyed that game. It was raining, it was cold, it just kind of embodied football.”
The conditions were also an insight into the kind of weather LaDuque will be trading the Texas heat in for at the end of the summer.
“I’ve only ever lived in Texas, and Texas to Connecticut is a big difference. But I’m looking forward to it, it’s a new opportunity,” he said.
“It’s one of the few opportunities I would have had to go play at the next level, so I’m very thankful for that opportunity. I know it’s going to be a little bit colder. I’m looking forward to it, but it’s definitely going to take some getting used to because their average temperature up there is in the 50s, 40s.”
LaDuque will have four years to play football and obtain his government degree, before starting his five-year commitment as an officer in the Coast Guard.
One lesson in particular learned through years of football will help him the most.
“Being accountable, I think is a big thing that the Coast Guard harps on,” LaDuque said.
“People are relying on you, you’re the last possible source of help. You’re accountable for them, also it can get rough out there on the seas, so you also need to be accountable to the rest of the crew because they need to be able to count on you to be doing the right thing at the right time. That’s something I definitely learned through football, you’ve got to watch out for your boys and be a part of something bigger.”