Ten years ago, the first Bourgeois wandered into the Waterloo football program, new to the town and the school district.
“I was late to the locker room, I didn’t know where the field was, so I threw on my pads,” Louis Bourgeois said and laughed, describing his first day of football practice. “When I ran out there they were like, ‘Your shoulder pads are on backwards.’ So all day at practice everyone was asking each other, ‘Who is that guy with the bright green shorts and his pads on backwards?’”
It didn’t take long for the program to welcome Louis (2007 graduate) and his four brothers, Tom (2009), Pat (2011) and Clayton (2013), or get accustomed to their personalities.
“I remember (Tom and I) going up to coach Rose before practice and saying, ‘Coach, make it hell,’ and he did,” Pat said. “We went up to him after practice and said, ‘Coach that was awesome!’
“He just laughed and said, ‘You guys are crazy.’”
Now with the graduation of the youngest brother, Clayton, in the spring, the Bourgeois era has come to an end, leaving the brothers with a common bond, something they can talk about forever.
“We played for them for 10 years. The coaches were there all the time, we are with the coaches more than we are with our family during the season,” Louis said. “So it was basically like they were a part of our family for 10 years.
“They gave us awards and jerseys for us to remember. We wanted to give them something to hang on the wall to say ‘remember all the times we spent together.’”
At Clayton’s Dec. 9 football banquet where he was honored with the MVP award, Mr. Football award and was nominated for the Vernie Moffitt award. The brothers gave plaques to four coaches who have remained constant in the program during their time.
“As of tonight we are all former Waterloo football players and we are proud of that,” Louis said during his speech. “Through that time the coaches have been there every step of the way, always supporting us to make us better players on the field and also better people off the field. I have been out of high school for about five years and the things that they have taught us have stuck with me and I am sure that they will stick with my brothers as well.”
But the brothers will stick with the coaches too well.
“The Bourgeois and all other families are what give this program its life,” Waterloo football coach Dan Rose said. “It will be an adjustment because they have been a big part of Waterloo football for a long time. Every year the conference coaches, because they were all good players, have been like, ‘Did that Bourgeois graduate?’
‘No, we’ve got another one.’
“It’s been kind of fun talking to these other coaches about the family and that last name.”
That last name has produced an Iron Man (Louis), Best Offensive Lineman of the year (Louis, Tom and Pat), Mr. Football (Louis, Tom and Clayton), with all four starting on varsity by their sophomore year, serving as captains their senior year, helping to take their teams to the playoffs, members of the 1,000 pound club and all-conference team members. All of them are proud that they could share those accomplishments together.
But if you ask them who the best player was, that is where the brotherly love dwindles into raw competitive spirit.
Nonetheless, all of them joke that Louis was the “smartest,” Tom was the “meanest,” Pat was the “strongest,” and Clayton was the “most athletic.”
All of them are quick to point out that Clayton was the only one to make First Team All-State.
“They are going to have to fight that one out there in the yard I think,” Rose said and laughed.
But Clayton knows his accomplishments are due to his brothers blazing the trail before him.
“If it wasn’t for these three above me I wouldn’t be here,” Clayton said.
All of the boys have pursued football beyond high school, in their own way.
Tom went on to McKendree to play his freshman year of college, while Clayton is currently looking into playing at schools such as Quincy and Truman State University. Pat is currently in school getting his teaching degree, with the goal to teach and coach football. Louis hopes to come back and volunteer with the program when he is finished with school.
“There are names out there in all football programs that people know who they are and who they were,” Rose said. “That really gives some clout to your program that people want to come back and help.”
“It’s always nice as a coach when you have former players that want to come back and give back to the program that they benefited from.”
The brothers all say they not only benefited during high school, but beyond as well.
“It’s a lot of work but it teaches you health and fitness,” Tom said, adding he knows his way around a weight room now and is safe while doing it.
After a decade of Bourgeois football, it is hard to imagine that it almost never even began. For their father, Louie, the safety of his 12 kids (the brothers have two younger sisters and four older siblings) was his top priority.
“My dad didn’t want us to play football,” Tom said. “And I was pretty upset because I never thought we would play football, but my mom snuck Louis into the program.”
“It is kind of funny how it all worked out.”
As for their dad’s take on it now?
Louis says, “He’s really happy that I snuck in.”