Warning to Jesuit opponents: Blue Jays defense could prove Hazard-ous to your success | Prep Sports

Warning to Jesuit opponents: Running up the middle against the Blue Jays defense could prove Hazard-ous to your success.

Hazardous as in John Joseph Hazard V, Jesuit’s stout defensive tackle otherwise known as Sonny, who enters his fourth and final year as a Blue Jays starter already having earned the respect of virtually all of his Catholic League brethren.

“Baby J.J. Watt’’ is how St. Augustine coach Nathaniel Jones refers to the 6-foot-2, 295-pound son of former Jesuit All-American and LSU team captain John Hazard in deference to the younger Hazard’s disruptive style of play reminiscent of the Houston Texans five-time All-Pro defensive end.

“Sonny is every bit of what you want out of a defensive tackle,’’ Jesuit coach Mark Songy said. “We love him on the inside, but we will move him around. I don’t remember the last time he’s played poorly. We really count on him to be destructive and to be a guy who makes everyone else around him better. And he does that. You can’t say that about too many kids.’’

Similar to his well-known father, who volunteers as a coach for Jesuit’s eighth- and ninth-grade teams, the younger Hazard emerged last season as a force whose turbulent style earned All-Metro recognition despite toiling to a large degree in the shadow of teammate Perry Ganci, another 2018 All-Metro front four selection as an end who now plays for Nicholls State.

“I think Sonny and Perry complimented each other real well,’’ Songy said. “In order to have some success against us, (opponents) had to pick one of them that they were going to double team, and that certainly freed up the other guy.

“When they doubled Perry, Sonny was able to make a lot of plays. And when they doubled Sonny, which was very often, that freed up Perry for some one-on-ones. We’d like to see that happen again with a kind of a pick your poison with these guys up front.’’

That double- and triple-teaming of Hazard continues to occur regularly at Jesuit practices, something that Songy anticipates extending into District 9-5A play where the Blue Jays are coming off a 6-6 season that included a 3-3 mark good for a three-way tie for third in the Catholic League. Jesuit advanced to the Division I state quarterfinals.

“I know right now we’ve got to put two guys on Sonny regardless of the situation,’’ Songy said. “He’s really gotten comfortable with drawing that double team and having to fight through it.’’

“I consider myself a student of football,’’ Sonny Hazard said introspectively. “I love it, and I love to learn about the game. I have an intensity about me. When the game’s on the line and somebody needs to make a play and everybody’s got to be at their best, I think that’s when I’m at my best, in the big moments when it matters.’’

Hazard, too, relishes in all things related to being a football player, including conditioning be it running the levees in Lakeview near his Metairie home or gassers (“You’ve got to be in real good shape when that fourth quarter rolls around’’) or being blocked by multiple opponents on each snap.

“I personally love playing defensive tackle and nose guard because you’re as close as it gets to the ball,’’ Hazard said. “The whole play starts right there, and it’s a great position to affect the rest of the play.’’

Affect plays Hazard does.

Last season, his third as a starter, under the direction of defensive coordinator Troy Baglio, who doubles as his position coach, Hazard recorded 13 tackles for losses and eight sacks totaling minus 140 yards. He registered 67½ overall tackles while earning All-District 9-5A honors. 

“The head-up nose guard position can really dictate how a play’s going to go,’’ Hazard said. “And it’s just a lot of responsibility that I really can’t wait to have on my shoulders all year playing the interior. I love playing inside.’’

Hazard’s effect on plays by drawing incessant double teams extends beyond making tackles. His mental makeup is such that he enjoys seeing teammates make plays.

“When you play nose guard, you’ve got to be all right with three people blocking you and nothing happening to you besides you just eating up space,’’ Hazard said. “I’m OK with that as a teammate. If I’m not making a play, but my teammate is, that’s fine. The team made a play. That’s what I want.

“I don’t need to have stats. I just want to win. And I want my teammates to have those great opportunities. If those come through double and triple teams, then it comes through double and triple teams.’’

“Most (kids) are worried about doing their job and not making a mistake,’’ Songy said. “Sonny is worried, very unselfishly, about making situations available for others to make plays and rallying some young guys around him. He’s just really comfortable in what he does. He can do what we’re asking him to do.’’

“I would love to call myself as good of a teammate as I can possibly be,’’ Hazard said. “I try to be there for all of my guys. I try to make sure that if there’s anything that somebody is having a problem with, especially with the mental side of the game, I try to help them.’’

This season Hazard’s godfather and close friend of both Songy and his father, former Brother Martin and LSU standout Tommy Clapp, has joined Jesuit’s staff to assist Baglio in tutoring the defensive line.

Songy anticipates the addition of the hard-nosed Clapp, who has instructed Hazard for years on the side, as further benefitting Hazard as well as all of the other front four players.

“All of the coaches that I’ve been coached by, they (teach) the right way and they make sure their players (play) the right way,’’ Hazard said. “I think that’s important thing to say because nobody picks it up on their own. They’ve got to be taught.’’

Hazard has applied his lessons well enough to have attracted college interest from a host of Division I and state schools that include UL, where he committed earlier this summer in what Songy describes as “a quiet thing.’’

A full academic qualifier he has run the 40-yard dash in 4.95 seconds. In the weight room his lifts total 375 pounds in the bench press, 500-plus in squat and dead lift and a hand clean of 290. Hazard chose UL, over offers from Tulane, Houston, Rice, Nicholls State, McNeese State, Northwestern State, UL-Monroe, South Alabama and New Mexico State.

Noticeably missing were offers from LSU and other Power 5 conference programs for reasons Songy said are tied to Hazard’s height and lack for potential future girth.

“I never got an offer from LSU and I think that’s because they have a really good recruiting class and they’ve got the guys that they want,’’ Hazard said in an cognizant display of maturity. “I chose UL because of their staff and the culture and the program that they’re building there with coach Billy Napier.

“They’re doing stuff with that program that I think needs to be done in Louisiana. I’ve always thought that Louisiana needs a second ‘powerhouse’ so to speak. The state is so talent rich. So I’ve always thought that Louisiana could use another big football program. UL has put a lot of money into their program . . . and they are a program that only has places to go that are up.’’

His commitment is solid, saying that, “I’m committed to the University of Louisiana. That’s where I’m going. I’m not someone who goes back on their word and I gave those guys my word. I really want to be in Lafayette. I love that city and I love that team and the coaching staff, just everything about it.’’

As the only son and youngest of four siblings of John Hazard and Joceylyn Boudreaux, the younger Hazard is about more than just football. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking, fostering large rescue dogs, playing video games and going hunting and fishing.

Though in regards to football, his favorite player and one he has tried to study and emulate — and no, it’s not J.J. Watt — is recently retired All-Pro and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kyle Williams of the Buffalo Bills.

Ever a student of the game, Hazard said, “I’ve been watching Kyle Williams’ tape since I was a kid. He’s an absolute stud.’’

Soon, it will be time to apply all that he’s learned to his final season at Jesuit where he is among seven returning defensive starters and 13 overall who are to lead a team carrying huge aspirations.

“Our expectations are to win,’’ Hazard said in exclamation. “Go undefeated. I don’t want to lose a single game. I want to finish our year in the Dome (playing for a state championship). That’s the goal. And I can’t wait to get to football season.’’

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Adam Jacob

Military veteran and medically trained.

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