It looks a lot different, but J.C. Brignone has finally returned home. Although escaping from Hurricane Katrina with their lives, he and his family left the coast and moved to Georgia, but the initial trip home, and seeing the devastation in the area, left everyone in shock. He is home for good now and is in the process of rebuilding, and is ready to get that behind him and to hit the football field again in Mississippi, but this time as a Bulldog.
"I moved back (to Pass Christian) the Tuesday before last," he began. "I moved in with one of my teammates, and my parents are staying in one of the FEMA campers. As of this week we should be getting one of the FEMA campers for our house, because they just got done clearing all the lots in Pass Christian and they used to be condemned because everything was so terrible to live in.
"We are getting a FEMA trailer on there, and Brent Gordon, who was one of our linebackers, went and played in Dallas and he is ready to come back and they are giving us a FEMA trailer. Me and him are going to move in because the FEMA trailer for four is not for a 6-2, 290, and a 6-1, 250 kind of guy and our parents. So we are going to have to move in as two adults in our own trailer. It will kind of be like moving off to college.
"I'm just glad to be home. You can't beat home. As terrible as it looks, there is nothing better than being at home."
While most of what Brignone knew while growing up is gone, most of his high school survived the storm, and with a little help from other schools across the nation, classes are back in session.
"The bottom floor was completely ripped out and I think the school got 30 feet of water," he explained. "I don't think anything got to the carpet, but they changed out the carpet just in case and made the whole bottom floor a breezeway that you can just walk into and see what happened. The whole top floor had no damage at all, but all the books and stuff were gone, so all the schools in the nation that were part of the same association – we are all Brothers of the Sacred Heart – they gave us books and everything like that so we are kind of getting settled now. People are starting to come back for second semester. I have just been working with the power lifting team.
"It was hard not waking up and seeing all your friends from school, especially with a school that had almost 600 seniors. It was cool for the first while (going to Georgia), because coming into new surroundings is always fun, but after awhile you get a little homesick, especially when know there is nothing there anymore."
While he lost contact with a lot of his friends during the months he was out of state, the MSU coaches – who he committed to soon after moving - stayed in contact.
"I kept in touch with them pretty well. I saw coach Beamer three times, that's my recruiting coach, when I was in Georgia. I got to see coach Croom and he got to sit down with my parents and had a conversation for a couple of hours. I had to leave though to go to wrestling practice."
Football helped keep Brignone's attention off of the bad situation, but an injury soon after he arrived in Georgia almost put an end to everything. With all he had been through, he decided he couldn't let that happen.
"I got hurt," he explained. "I broke my hand the week of the Brookwood game. I went in and I was sitting out, because it hurt pretty bad and I had a cast on.
"We went in and we were losing, and this team had done so much for me that I didn't feel I could leave them hanging like that so right before halftime I went in and got dressed out and played some in the second half. We scored two touchdowns and got a little closer, but we ended up losing anyway because it had just gotten too far out of reach.
"I just kept playing the rest of the year, just padded it up until I got back to where I was." All of that happened in his first game, and throughout the injury, he didn't miss a single game.
"We ended up 10-3," he said. "I got a little bump on my hand where the break was because I wasn't supposed to play with it, but you can't really keep me away."
So what is he doing now that he is back at home?
"I had to come home and start working," he said. "I had bigger priorities of getting peoples' houses built and getting peoples' lives back together, especially ours. We've got to start from scratch. It's like starting over.
"When you are driving, it still looks like a hurricane came through just last week, but you just have to fight through and be a bigger man about it. I think that's where me thinking about being able to go and play next year is going to help get my mind off of everything. It makes me want to work and finish this out and get on out of here and go to college.
"I am working with my dad right now. He's got his own contracting company. We actually had our trucks down to the rims yesterday. We had 4,000 pounds of cement in the truck."
Brignone will graduate from St. Stanislaus on May 26 and will enroll for the second term of summer school at MSU. A new beginning once again, but this one will come with a lot better set of circumstances.