Al Louis-Jean was chosen as a cornerback on the Globe’s All-Time All-Scholastic football team. As part of the project, he discussed his football life with us. Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: What do you remember about the high school recruiting process and campus visits? That must’ve been hectic, right?
ALJ: Super hectic. It happened so fast. As soon as that sophomore season ended, I went to a camp and I did very well versus some of the best juniors and seniors in the area. After that, it went from kind of local toward more schools from way out there reaching out. I saw how crazy it was getting and I knew quickly to get to the point because you still wanted to focus on the team. Before my junior year was even over, I was like, “Man, I’m just going to go to Miami.” But, the recruitment period was like the movies. It was more than that, you know, phone calls, being pulled out of class or practice, the visits, where they try to sum up what it would be like to be there. They bring you through the football facility, and then you go around campus, you get near the team inside of practice or their meetings, then at night, you get to go back with the players and see what life is like away from the football facility.
For the most part they always have beautiful women who walk you through some parts of the process that the coaches are not going to do and then when you go to the parties and stuff after with the players. It excites you just to see their lifestyle, the difference from high school to college. Some of the players will tell some girls, “This is the man, right here. This is the recruit,” and they’ll try to get you to come to their school in whatever type of way, showing you a lot of love.
Q: Your third year ended up being the final one of your college career even though you had only played two full seasons. What was your motivation to enter the draft so soon?
ALJ: It was my chance. I graduated high school early so I could get ahead because I know “Man, if you go here and you play at a high level, you’re going to have a chance to go three and done, how the best players do. That’s what was in my head. I broke my foot my sophomore year, and then my junior year, my season didn’t quite go how I wanted it to, so it was a pickle. I had a talk with my family, and had a lot of consideration over it. I just decided it would probably be better for me to take my chance now. Rather than wait to see how this could go. I just came off a year where I broke my foot and I was going through disciplinary things as well, I already had a couple of strikes down to my name being suspended for a game for violation of team rules.
People were saying it’s a bad decision at the time, but I just said “You guys just don’t know how good I am.” It’s almost like Kyrie Irving, he played, what, one game at Duke and he goes to the NBA. It kind of doesn’t make sense. But I know I’m good enough to play. I don’t care what I put on film. I know how hard I worked. Going into my rookie year, by the grace of God, Chicago gives me a chance to come in and prove myself and I light it up every chance I get.
Q: When it comes to being an undrafted guy, there’s got to be a lot of anxiety that comes with it because you don’t have the same kind of protection as someone who was drafted early. How does it feel to live with that looming over your head?
ALJ: Everything you do is a big deal because you don’t really get too many chances to even prove and show your ability. It kind of puts you into playoff mode at all times, so I would say I reacted well to it. It helped me play a little bit better, to be a lot more detailed and more strict towards my own standard as a player. The small chances that you get are like “Hey, you’ve only got one start, so if this is a game where you start, you’ve got to make it.” Sometimes you kind of feel like, “Man is this gonna work out? Like this is crazy, I’m not even getting the chance to get any reps in practice,” so it’s a long road.
Q: You bounced around to a few more places after your stint with the Bears, but you never made the regular season team. Why do you think that is?
ALJ: I was making plays, but as an undrafted guy, when you get brought in your chances are slimmer. I was not performing to a capacity to make them jump me, or keep jumping me over this guy and that guy. But my rookie year, I did do that. I was just playing very sound after that. Good, but not over the top.
Q: How do you reflect on your career? If you had another chance, would you spend more time at BC?
ALJ: Would it have been smarter to stay and try to work that out? Who knows, because we could easily be talking about Al Louis-Jean who played at BC and got his degree. I don’t really regret the decision just for the fact that it could have went the other way and I never get a chance to play in the NFL. It went how it did and the lessons I learned made me into the noble man I am right now.
Read more about the Globe’s all-time All-Scholastic football team
- Meet the Globe’s all-time All-Scholastic football team
- Tell us your Massachusetts high school football memories
- ‘I was at home on the football field’: Doug Flutie reflects on his football career
- Pete Kendall doesn’t regret all the trash-talk he dished out, but tried to play the right way on the field
- If Mike Croel played in today’s NFL, he thinks he might be ‘ejected out of every game’
- Q&A with Pete Cronan: Football was ‘the first thing I did that people thought I was doing well’
- ‘My mother was the athlete of the family:’ Darren Flutie talks about a life centered on sports
- Art Graham explains what made him a deep-threat receiver for the Patriots
- Gosder Cherilus reflects on the life lessons learned at Boston College and the NFL
- Al Louis-Jean in his own words: Leaving BC early ‘made me into the noble man I am right now’
- Pat Hughes reflects on how he landed at Boston University, and other aspects of his football career
- What was Tom Nalen’s strategy for blocking bigger opponents? ‘Holding. It was the only way.’