LYDIA — Cars lined Weeks Island Road for blocks as football players, students, family and community members made their way to say goodbye to 19-year-old Derek Olivier.
Olivier was shot and killed last week as he was helping a friend change a tire near the Arkansas Baptist College campus in Little Rock, Ark., where he was a freshman playing on the football team.
Friends and family who couldn’t fit into the sanctuary mulled around between the vestibule and front of the church talking among themselves, using words like “tragedy” and “senseless.”
Scattered in the enormous crowd were jersey-clad athletes paying respects to one of their own.
Willie Ware, 22, is from New Iberia, but plays as a running back on the Arkansas Baptist Buffalos team. He and Olivier had been lifelong friends, he said, with Olivier’s father coaching Ware in Pee Wee football.
Ware was one of about 100 players and college staff that traveled the seven hours from Little Rock to New Iberia in two buses. He said Olivier was making an impression on the field and in the classroom at Arkansas Baptist.
“He was a redshirt, but he stuck with us,” Ware said. “Not too many didn’t know him.”
Ware was in New Iberia when Olivier was killed. He said Olivier was going to come with him, but wasn’t sure if he needed to be there for Arkansas’ game.
“He was a good character,” Ware said. “He kept us laughing.”
Arkansas Baptist Financial Aid Director Roderick Dunn said in the few months Olivier was in Arkansas, he was about business and wanted others to be also.
“I could tell Derek truly left a positive impact on all the students he encountered. He was a role model. He had a determination in trying to get his degree, and that's what he wanted all the students to do.”
I could tell Derek truly left a positive impact on all the students he encountered,” he said. “He was a role model. He had a determination in trying to get his degree, and that's what he wanted all the students to do.
Kelly Frilot was one of several mothers who accompanied all 61 New Iberia Senior High football players to St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Lydia for the funeral services. She said Olivier and her son Ross Frilot had grown up together in Grand Marais.
“He was a character,” she said. “He always made them laugh. He was a good person to hang around with.”
The NISH players, who said they found out about Olivier’s death during halftime at last week’s game, had to wait outside the church for some time before they could figure out where to go. The sanctuary was packed.
As they waited, they tried to come to terms with where they were.
“We couldn’t believe it was Derek’s funeral we were coming to,” Daniel Lewis, 16, said.
He and Olivier both played cornerback at NISH.
“You wouldn’t think it would happen to him,” receiver Michael Boutte, 17, said.
Tyler Champagne, 18, films the games for the teams and said Friday’s game is dedicated to Olivier.
“We know he’ll be watching over us,” he said.
NISH and Arkansas Baptist players were joined by players from Westgate and Jeanerette Senior high schools.
Meme Boutte, Olivier’s cousin, was outside before services started and commented on how people continued to stream into the church.
“With Derek’s personality,” Boutte said, “I’m not surprised.”
Neither was Olivier’s mother Alma.
“To tell the truth, we weren’t surprised whatsoever,” she said. “We love everybody that showed up to support us. It was amazing.”