UL's Shane Vallot living a dream ahead of national TV game in front of hometown crowd

Cody Junot
Special to the Advertiser
UL's Shane Vallot sings along to the UL fight song to celebrate the win as the Ragin' Cajuns take on the Liberty University Flames at Cajun Field on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019.

Lafayette native Shane Vallot has always walked around the Ragin’ Cajuns football complex with a big smile on his face, and that smile is still there, it’s just bigger.

The grin and joy from Vallot has increased, and it’s almost certainly spread to his coaches and teammates too.

Because these days there’s a lot to smile about.

The team is off to a 4-1 start as the Cajuns prepare to host Sun Belt-favorite Appalachian State on Wednesday night in a nationally televised game on ESPN2. UL boasts one of the country’s top rushing attacks, and Vallot, a former walk-on from Comeaux finds himself right in the center of the Cajuns' potent running game.

UL leads the Sun Belt, averaging 314 rushing yards per game while only surrendering five sacks all season, which also tops in the league.  

There has been a smooth and nearly seamless transition for Vallot, who has taken over at center. But heading into fall camp, it was not a given that Vallot would be the one to replace Cole Prudhomme who was lost for the season after suffering a knee injury in spring drills.

More:Prudhomme injury leaves UL with big decision at center

“When Cole went down, I was in the film room 24/7 trying to get better at everything I do,” Vallot said.

Between the extra film sessions and practice work with offensive line coaches Rob Sale and DJ Looney, Vallot has turned himself into one of the Sun Belt’s top centers.

“I think we’re very lucky to have two offensive line coaches because they're both great offensive line coaches,” he said, “Coach Looney can go anywhere and coach the offensive line, and Coach Sale can go anywhere and coach his own offensive line.”

From the archives:UL assistant Looney draws praise

From the archives:Sale joining Napier at UL a 'no-brainer'

After five weeks of play, SouthernPigskin.com’s advanced metrics rank Vallot as the conference’s second-best center. Not bad for someone who picked up the position in the middle of last season.

While Vallot relies on the tutelage of Sale and Looney at practice, on the field he transforms into the Cajuns offensive line coach. A fitting role for a guy who wants to coach after his playing days are done.

“Everything I do now, I do it as a player and as if I was a coach. I try to understand not just the defensive front, I try to understand everything, the secondary,” Vallot said, “I try to see everything for our guys and for when I'm done playing.”

Still, as much fun as the team’s start has been, Vallot and his teammates recognize the opportunity that awaits them Wednesday evening at Cajun Field, and for Vallot, the game being at home makes things all the more special.

The Cajuns have never beaten the Mountaineers, including a pair of losses a season ago, something Vallot is very aware of.

More:How the Cajuns are preparing to avenge 2018 losses to App State

“It's a motivation to go out there and make history. We want to make history next Wednesday night,” he said. 

And having the opportunity to make history in front of his friends and family is something Vallot’s dreamed of since he was a child growing up in the Hub City.

“I've always dreamed of playing in Cajun Field. It's fun, I love playing here. I think we can do some big things.”