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Mustangs draw inspiration from alumni in NFL

Assumption High School assistant coach Richard Abarr (center) directs the Mustangs' linebackers through a drill Monday. (Photo by Kelly McElroy/Staff)

-- Fifth in a 13-part series

NAPOLEONVILLE — From Brandon Jacobs to Tramon Williams to now Jordan Mills, the lone high school in Assumption Parish has quickly become a launching point for NFL talent.

Over the last 10 years, Assumption High has sent Jacobs, a former Giants and 49ers player who is now a free agent, Williams, a Green Bay Packers player, and now Mills, who was taken by the Chicago Bears in the fifth round of April's draft, to the NFL.

In fact, second-year Mustangs head coach Anthony Paine said Mills spent a lot of time preparing for the draft by working out at the Assumption High weight room during the times that Mills was back home in Napoleonville preparing for the draft.

"Once Jordan's senior season ended at Louisiana Tech, he was in our weight room just as much as some of our kids," Paine said. "They see him around, and see his work ethic. It can only be a positive for us. We have a good relationship with him. We are excited for him. He is our third NFL player in a 10-year time span, so hopefully that newfound tradition continues."

The Mustangs wrapped up two weeks of spring football work on Friday by trying to improve fundamentals and looking for some new offensive players to replace former standouts like quarterback Cameron Blame, offensive lineman Hunter Alleman, running back Acquindas Brown and wide receivers DeJuwan Oliver and Malik Mills, who are all set to soon graduate.

Paine said Ty Domangue, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound junior-to be, is in the lead to replace Blame at quarterback.

"Physically, we have the bodies to fill in (on offense)," Paine said. "What those guys lack is Friday night experience. We have some big strong kids. Some of them are a little behind in the system because some of those older guys took a lot of those reps from them. This spring, like in any, our focus is technique and fundamentals, alignment and responsibilities and those kinds of things, but to also get those guys we are counting on those reps and up to speed so they can contribute for us on Friday nights."

Justin Chaisson, who will be a senior next year, is one of just a couple of offensive returners for the Mustangs, who went 6-5 overall and made the first round of the playoffs this past season.

"This spring has been a learning experience for a lot of guys," said Chaisson, the team's starting center. "We are out here getting as much work in as possible. We are going over the basic stuff and getting better. We are working. We have a few young ones on offense, but they are aggressive, and they are picking it up pretty fast."

On defense, the Mustangs have eight players coming back, and Paine said the group of Clay Cooley (defensive tackle), Regis Lang (defensive end) and linebackers Austin Hood, Kennedy Pellegrin and Joseph Thompson will be some of defensive leaders of the Mustangs.

"I'm confident on that side of the ball," Paine said, "and I think our offense is capable. It will be if those (offensive) guys are confident and capable on Friday night to take control of it. I expect some nerves and jitters, but I think we will be OK."

Lang, who will also be a senior, said the defensive unit is familiar with one another, which should help the Mustangs stop people from scoring.

"We have a motto on defense," Lang said. "If the opponent doesn't score, they can't win. If we do our job, we can win games. We have a lot of guys coming back on defense. We know each other's strengths and weaknesses, and we have chemistry. We have a lot of young guys who are coming out hungry. They are ready to eat. They are ready to work hard. That is what we need to win. Our goals are to compete for a district championship, make it to the playoffs and have a winning season, and I believe with the team we have, we can complete all those goals."

Paine said he likes where the Mustangs are right now and that in some of his current players he sees some of the same drive and determination that took Jacobs, Williams and Mills from the Assumption practice fields to the NFL.

"The guys who play for us represent out parish," Paine said. "We don't have much, but we are going to work for what we do have and make the most of what we have, and I think our kids do that, so I'm confident with the group we have. I am feeling like we are a little further along at this point than we were at this time last year."

Coming Sunday: Ellender