BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - LSU running back Nick Brossette recently opened up like never before about family tragedy and the struggles he overcame with the Tigers.
"I just remember I was running so fast and I just heard the crowd just going crazy," Brossette described his 50-yard touchdown run against Miami on Sept. 2, 2018. "So, I was like, 'I'm not getting caught.'"
"I just started screaming and I just started crying," said his mother, Rita Brossette.
"It happened so fast and then, I scored. I was like, 'Wow, like, I really just did that.' And then after that, it woke me up and I got my confidence back," Nick Brossette added.
"I was like, 'The old Nick is back. He's back. He's back,'" Rita Brossette explained.
To the outsider looking in, Brossette's life appeared nearly perfect as his prep career came to an end at U-High. He was the star player on a team that won the state championship.He broke Louisiana rushing records. He won big awards. He had major college football programs lining up for his services.
"Mississippi State ... Texas ... I haven't even opened these yet," Brossette said.
However, there’s always a story behind the story. Growing up in Baton Rouge wasn’t easy. His father wasn’t really a part of his life, so his older brother, Mendell, who was barely a teenager when Nick was born, played a major role in raising him.
"When I was young, I came from nothing and now, I'm here at LSU. It's a surreal moment," Brossette said.
Mendell and, of course, Nick's mother, Rita, were on hand at U-High when Brossette officially became an LSU Tiger. Tears of joy would soon lead to tears of sorrow just a couple of months later.
"I went in there and he was facedown, gripping the pillows. And I touched him on his shoulder and I said, 'Mendell.' And he didn't move," Rita Brossette recalled.
"She screamed. I've never heard my mom scream like that. She was like, 'Mendell's not moving,'" Nick Brossette remembered.
"And I rubbed the back of his head and his head just fell over and blood came out of his mouth," Rita Brossette explained.
"I will never forget that moment. I will never forget how cold he was. That just really broke me down. It really broke me down. He was just so close to me. So, especially just coming in to LSU, I just didn't know how to find myself. And he supported me through everything and he was at all my games. I was like kind of empty-handed," Nick Brossette said while sobbing.
Mendell Esnault was gone after suffering a seizure and a heart attack in his sleep. He was just 30 years old. Football struggles would follow for Brossette. In 2015, veteran superstar Leonard Fournette and freshman Derrius Guice ran wild against South Carolina.
"They put Derrius in and I kind of got a little jealous. I mean, who wouldn't?"
Brossette got a chance to play, but things did not go well.
"I got the ball and then, I fumbled. And it was like the worst time it could ever happen," Nick Brossette explained.
"He realizes that Mendell is gone, now, because that was their thing," said Rita Brossette.
"I didn't know how to handle it, handle the pressure," Nick Brossette added.
"He didn't do too well with it," Rita Brossette said.
His freshman year came to an end with a torn ACL at Ole Miss. He finished the season with 12 carries for 65 yards and one reception. His sophomore year was uneventful, playing special teams and getting a grand total of 15 carries all season for 145 yards. He did have a career-long 60-yard run in LSU's 42-7 win over Missouri.
Then, in the spring of 2017, a new running backs coach arrived who kept pushing Brossette and wouldn’t let him feel sorry for himself.
"He told me he was going to be on me like I was his own son. He was going to be on me really hard because he wanted me to make it," said Nick Brossette.
"Every time he'd do something wrong ... 'Nicholas!' He would get at him," Rita Brossette described.
“When I say, he was nitpicking me with everything - my stance, allignment and my assignment, the way I walk - he would correct me on everything,” Nick Brossette recalled.
Tommie Robinson meant business. Finally, during his junior year in 2017, an opportunity surfaced to start against Troy in Tiger Stadium. Then, on the first play of the game, Brossette once again fumbled the ball.
"Well, I just tried to get as low as possible and run over him and that's when he had hit the ball and then he had got a good shot on me and that's when the ball came out," Nick Brossette remembered.
"I wanted Darrel (Williams) to get the ball when our third string back got the ball and I should have done a better job of game planning," said head coach Ed Orgeron. "I was not aware that we were going to do that and I think that's not the way we ought to start the game."
"I was ... irate for a while," chuckled Rita Brossette.
"When that moment happened until after I walked out of the stadium, I didn't want to talk to nobody. I put my hood on and I walked back to my car," Nick Brossette added.
At the end of Brossette's junior year, he was fed up and had a meeting with Coach O.
"I want to transfer. This is not the best situation for me. He was like, 'Yeah. I got a plan for you. I'm not letting you leave. You're not going nowhere. By next year, you're going to be the starting running back.' I gave him my word that I was going to stick it out. And ever since then, I just ... I went in grind mode," said Nick Brossette.
With his senior season approaching, Orgeron paid him a compliment at public speaking engagement. Then, he somewhat took it back.
"Nick Brossette's a great ... not a great, a good running back ..." Orgeron said.
"My first reaction to that was ... how dare he?" said Rita Brossette.
"I was like, 'Wow. He really said that.' And so, ever since then, I just wanted to prove him wrong. I think he was just trying to motivate me. And he motivated me in a good way. Ever since then, I got in my comfort zone and then, I didn't care what was going to happen but I just started grinding and working so hard that I just wanted to prove everybody wrong," Nick Brossette explained.
The season opener with Miami finally arrived.
Would Nick play and help the team? Or would he ride the bench again?
With less than 1:00 to go in the first quarter, Brossette broke loose for a 50-yard touchdown run. He added a 1-yard plunge to pay dirt to finish with 125 yards on 22 carries. He went on to score 12 more touchdowns during the 2018 season.
An LSU team that many people expected to be a disaster ground its way through a murderous schedule to thrilling victories, including a 36-16 upset win over No. 2 Georgia in Tiger Stadium. Brossette finished the game with 64 yards on 16 carries and a 4-yard touchdown run with less than 5:00 left.
Before his final home game as a Tiger against Rice, things became emotional again for Nick’s senior day ceremony. The family made sure Mendell was with them.
"Let's bring the blanket because we know Mendell's going to be there in spirit," said Rita Brossette.
And, Brossette didn't disappoint. He finished with 69 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns.
"I just always think about he will never go past my mind and that's why I could have easily took the high road and just say, 'Forget everything. Forget football.' But I didn't want to. I ended up in the best situation and a lot of people supporting me. So, I stuck it out and everything paid off at the end," a sobbing Nick Brossette stated.
Brossette went over 1,000 yards rushing as LSU scored its biggest bowl victory in over a decade, pulling out the 40-32 win over UCF in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl, and finished No. 6 in the country. Brossette rushed for 117 yards on 29 carries.
Now, the doubters are returning in full force. Brossette will once again hear he’s no Leonard Fournette or Derrius Guice. But once again, Brossette is hungry to prove he’s a survivor.
"He'll be okay in life, wherever he goes to work. Whether it's stay here, go somewhere else. Whether it's something with coaching. I don't know what he has in store, but Nick has set himself up that he has a very good reputation, very good work ethic," Rita Brossette explained.
"Once I get my opportunity again, I'm going to take full advantage of it. I'm not worried about it. I'm just living the moment and just enjoying it. Whatever hapens, happens. I'm just leaving it up to God. And, He's going to take care of it. I don't need to stress over it," Nick Brossette added.
Brossette was not taken in the 2019 NFL Draft, but signed with the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots as a free agent.