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Southern's Ladarius Skelton willing to change, adapt to play in HBCU Legacy Bowl and beyond

'I feel like God put me in a position to be great, and take chances with the opportunity'

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On February 17, 2022, Team Robinson and Team Gaither gathered for Day 3 of practice at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center in preparations for the 2022 HBCU Legacy Bowl at Tom Benson Field at Yulman Stadium on Saturday.

Arguably, Ladarius Skelton is the face of what the HBCU Legacy Bowl can represent for players from historically Black colleges and universities.

Skelton played quarterback at Southern University in Baton Rouge, and played it well enough to become a three-time Bayou Classic Most Valuable Player in the rivalry game against Grambling State, and to total 3,168 passing yards and 25 touchdowns, and 2,095 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns.

But when the invite was extended to play in the inaugural Legacy Bowl – Skelton and Team Robinson will face Team Gaither at 3 p.m. Saturday in Yulman Stadium on Tulane's campus – Skelton's was extended as a running back.

And he jumped at the opportunity to add to his resume, show his abilities and to increase his chances of playing professionally.

"I feel like God put me in a position to be great, and take chances with the opportunity," he said.

That said, it's a challenge for the 6-foot, 225-pounder who played three seasons at Southern. Touching the ball on every single offensive play is different from receiving an occasional carry and having different responsibilities, and learning them in a fraction of the time used to perfect the art of playing quarterback over the course of his athletic life.

"It's just baby steps as a transition," Skelton said. "It's not really a big transition, because everybody that touches the ball runs. At this point, at the running back position you just have to work on your footwork, work on reading gaps and reading the defensive line just to make the right move and hit the right hole. I working on that as we go through this process.

"(But) it's real different. I'm being patient, but it's real different. The ball in your hands every play, and not having it every play, it's a total change.

"It's testing my patience a lot. And I've been working on my patience for years. I'm still working on it."

What helped sell him on the idea was a call from legendary Grambling State quarterback Doug Williams, the first Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl (XXII, with Washington, and was named Most Valuable Player) and Tampa Bay's first-round pick (No. 17 overall) in 1978.

Williams informed Skelton that he'd play running back in the Legacy Bowl.

"It's an honor," Skelton said. "You don't really get those opportunities. When I was in high school, I didn't get any coaches calling me from the big schools, so for him to call me, it was really big."

Skelton took the call and knew exactly what to do from there.

"It's a blessing, and I take my blessings and I really run with them," he said. "I don't try to look back. I try to run fast as hell, forward."

On February 18, 2022, Team Robinson and Team Gaither gathered for Day 4 of practice at Tom Benson Field at Yulman Stadium in preparations for the 2022 HBCU Legacy Bowl on Saturday, February 19.

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