The last time Standish Dobard was in Shreveport, Louisiana, he and his family were fleeing Hurricane Katrina and on their way toward a new life in Port Arthur, Texas.
“It’s a nice city,” said Dobard, a New Orleans native and the only player from the Pelican State on the Hurricanes roster. “I was there for a day.”
Dobard spent two years in Port Arthur with his family before moving back to New Orleans, where he played four years at Edna Karr High School, leading the Cougars to a 15-0 record and a Class 4A state title as a senior in 2012.
On Monday, when the 6-4, 255-pound sophomore tight end returns to Shreveport alongside the Hurricanes (6-6) to begin preparing to take on South Carolina (6-6) in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl on Dec. 27, it will be in an entirely new role.
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With leading receiver Clive Walford out for the game with a knee injury, it will be Dobard’s job to be quarterback Brad Kaaya’s new security blanket.
Filling Walford’s shoes is no easy task.
In addition to leading the team in receiving this season with 44 catches for 676 yards and seven touchdowns (the yards and touchdowns rank second on the team to Phillip Dorsett), Walford became the most prolific tight end in UM history, was named a Mackey Award finalist and a third-team All-American by the Associated Press.
“Playing behind Clive, I feel like I know everything,” Dobard said. “I watch him, study everything he does. He taught me a lot. I feel like whatever he did, I can try to match it.”
Rated the nation’s fourth-best tight end coming out of high school by ESPN, Dobard made one catch for 15 yards last season as a freshman. This year, he has played in all 12 games and made two starts. He has six catches for 115 yards.
His most memorable moment as a Hurricane to date is one most UM fans — and Dobard himself — would prefer to forget.
“[That fumble against Florida State] when it happened, it messed me up real bad,” Dobard said.
With the Hurricanes clinging to a 23-17 lead late in the third quarter, Dobard caught a pass from Kaaya over the middle and was streaking toward midfield for a big gain when FSU safety Nate Andrews jarred the bar loose from his hands. Dobard dove after it, but it trickled away and eventually Andrews pounced on it.
Florida State eventually rallied to beat the Hurricanes 30-26 and went on to win the Atlantic Coast Conference title. Miami has lost three in a row.
“Every time a ball comes my way, I’m trying to score,” said Dobard, who had three catches for 44 yards after Walford went down late in the first half against Pittsburgh. “The Florida State game I was just trying to do too much with it. I should have just caught it and went down. But I wanted to make a play and it didn’t go my way.”
Kaaya said Dobard’s fumble against FSU was a tough play to swallow, but he said he hasn’t lost any faith in him.
“Stan was a guy when I first got here over the summer that every single day — even when other guys were out chilling or not here — he was working every single day, catching balls from me, running routes, literally day and night,” Kaaya said. “We have to work on some of our timing, get our chemistry down, but I feel like if Stan and I do that, it can be really good for the team.”
Dobard certainly wants to put on a good show against South Carolina. He said he expects plenty of family members and friends to make the four-hour drive from New Orleans for the game.
When his home was flooded by Katrina, Dobard said he lost a lot of things — he even said there are friends he has never heard from since they were displaced by the storm.
After watching The U, Part 2 over the weekend and seeing how the Hurricanes put themselves back on a championship path with a win over Steve Spurrier and the Florida Gators in the 2000 Sugar Bowl, Dobard said he’s hoping the Hurricanes can build some positive momentum again by winning another bowl game in his home state.
“It all feels like it’s happening again,” he said. “It’s Louisiana.”