A May 6 Sports article incorrectly said that Frank Landry, father of Washington Redskins first-round draft pick LaRon Landry, first met team owner Daniel Snyder at an airport. They met in an auditorium at Redskins Park. The article also incorrectly said that Landry was one of three players from Louisiana State University taken in the first round of this year's NFL draft. There were four.
'Dirty-Dirty' Landry: Just What the Redskins Need
Sunday, May 6, 2007
AMA, La. On the couch near his kitchen table, Frank Landry is thinking about the serious things that shape a man and his family: about race and transition and history and the moment in time when life for blacks and whites in Louisiana would never again be the same.
The old order was changing. Five years into the integration of Louisiana public schools, African American families such as the Landrys were given a choice to send their children to Carver, the old black high school, or Hahnville, the white school. Frank attended Hahnville, and more than 40 years later, he sifts for the right memories to best illustrate the completeness of the change and its effect on him.
There was the time during a football game when he tried to speak to an official, who responded, "Get your black hands off of me." And then there was the simple, material proof that his family had made the right choice.
"It was like a whole other world," he said. "The basketball goals had nets in them. The schoolbooks were new. Their baseball gloves weren't worn out. I mean, the leather was soft. We had home and away jerseys. The black schools had one. I talk to my kids about it, about these things we had to go through so they wouldn't have to, so they would have it easier than we did. Sometimes, I think they understand it, and sometimes I don't."
As Landry spoke, a hum, low at first, grew near, vibrating the kitchen floor ceramic tiles underneath his feet, like a freight car on the Union Pacific railroad that has snaked along the Mississippi River since before World War II. His wife, Rhonda, ignores the hum even as the back wall vibrates and the classic tuxedoed jazz figurines that rest atop the television shiver. The reverberations are joined now by the unmistakable thump of rap music.
Rhonda has heard it before, almost daily. The source is not a train or an earthquake, but a ghost-white Hummer H2 with blindingly shiny 30-inch rims loaded with enough subwoofer power to devour the remaining fragments of Frank Landry's story of integration, which succumbs to the generation gap and an overwhelming dose of bass.
"Oh," Rhonda says. "That's just LaRon."
A Heavy Hitter
The entrance of LaRon Landry, full of lyrics and thunder, speaks precisely to why the Redskins made him the sixth overall pick in last weekend's NFL draft. He is a hitter, and the Redskins need one.
"If they go over the middle, I'll bet on him. I'll give him a dollar if he take T.O. out," said Lou Valdin, Landry's coach at Hahnville High. "He'll shut him up because he can hit you and hurt your whole family. Interception for a touchdown or put a guy in the hospital? That's a tough decision for LaRon."
Once unsure of being able to cover elite wide receivers, Landry hears the name "Randy Moss" and says, "No problem." At LSU, he won a national championship as a freshman under Nick Saban in 2003, drew the nickname "Dirty-Dirty" because of his frequently borderline hits, and was one of three Tigers -- along with quarterback JaMarcus Russell and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe -- to be drafted in the first round.
Here in Ama, a speck of a town of 1,285 inhabitants, at home surrounded by friends and family roots, Landry's personality, both the raw and the cultivated, emerges. Landry wears the competitor's edge sharply. In many ways, he is just a kid, 22 years old, not far removed from high school jobs at Popeye's Chicken and the Winn-Dixie Supermarket, still addicted to his PlayStations.
"I love Madden," he says with a sunburst. "It's the only game I play."