The words began to spill out of him.
Christian Vincent sat there and began to open up to the older man who, for all intents and purposes, was more of a stranger than a close family member. Yet, for whatever reason that evening, the introverted Vincent felt comfortable telling one of the counselors at the youth leadership camp he had attended for years what was troubling him.
There was a darkness and pain inside of himself — pain that not only lingered but grew from the suicide of his father the year before.
“I literally let out everything to him,” Vincent said. “He actually had me call my mom. How I was depressed and alone. I didn’t know how to deal with anything. My big thing was that my dad has committed suicide, so does that mean that I will do the same thing? That weighed on me. It was very overwhelming.”
“I got a phone call from camp,” Vincent’s mother, Christie House, tearfully remembered. “It was one of the counselors and he said that he was with Christian. He said ‘he wanted me to call you’. I was not ready for that. It took me completely off guard.
“He said ‘he didn’t know if he believed in God anymore’” House recalled. “That he was having dreams and thoughts I am going to shoot myself one day. He said, ‘mom I never tried to kill myself but these thoughts worry me.”
Vincent didn’t kill himself.
In fact, not only did Vincent deal with those thoughts by tackling them head on through counseling and prayer, and with the love and support of his family, but also by being a member of the Lafayette High football team.
“If coach or my mom would have let me quit… I would be a totally different person right now. My life would be totally different.”
‘Something special about him’
House refers to her second child as a blessing.
In the summer of 2000, House was a recently divorced mother of a young child who supported herself, and her young son Brett, by working as a manager at Express in the Mall of Acadiana while also tending bar on the weekends.
House’s ex-husband decided to take their son to see his family back home for an extended vacation. The then-26-year-old House, like many 20-somethings, was enjoying some time to herself.
That is when she met Christian’s father, Ryan Luna, and began a brief relationship. Soon after House found out she was pregnant with her second child — a baby boy born January 29, 2001, named Christian Vincent.
To most single moms, having a second child would be a cause for depression and anxiety but not for House who credits Vincent’s birth as a blessing and a large reason why she is the successful person she is today. House became a successful real estate agent who now co-owns a local brokerage.
“I tell people all the time that the sitatuion was not ideal and I wish I could have picked a different dad for him,” House admitted. “At the end of the day, though, Christian truly saved me. Christian was here for a reason. He put me back where I should have been. There is something special about him.”
The relationship between House and Luna spanned the spectrum of being tumultuous to non-existent to cordial. Even though House would eventually marry again, and having another boy named Ryker, her second son who she nicknamed ‘Flash’ would have his biological father absent for the better part of his life.
That all changed when Christian arrived in middle school.
“I really don’t remember him being around all that much, but when I got to middle school that’s when we started hanging out every other weekend,” Vincent said. “We got really close. I could see a change in him and we really bonded. He was a pretty funny guy and he always liked to make people smile.”
Vincent and his father would bond by taking hunting trips to Mississippi, he would kill his first deer with his father, go fishing, eat out at a local restaurant and watch TV together.
Four years ago, suddenly those bonding visits became less and less frequent.
“Towards the end we stopped hanging out,” Vincent said. “I hadn’t really seen him for a couple of weeks. It was weird. I never thought anything about it. I really didn’t think anything was wrong. I just thought my dad was having a tough time and that I would see him again.”
Vincent would see him again — one final time.
House had to deliver the life-altering news to her then 14-year-old son one late summer afternoon. Vincent was was sitting in one of his oversized chairs in his bedroom playing video games. He had no idea what had happened.
“She walked in and said ‘your dad is in the hospital and that’s all we know so far,’” Vincent remembered. “We get in the car and driving and she gets another phone call and she got real silent. I asked what was wrong and she said ‘your dad shot himself.’ I broke down and cried all the way to the hospital.”
Vincent arrived at Lafayette General with his mother and remembers seeing his grandmother waiting for him, as well as his other aunts, uncles and family members. The mood was somber. His father was on life support.
“Everyone’s faces were so cold and white and looked painful,” Vincent said.
The teenage boy suddenly was forced to deal with impending death. Family members told Vincent if he wanted to say his goodbyes now would be the time.
The young boy was hesitant.
The scene was eerie as his father laid motionless in a hospital bed.
“The nurse came out and talked to us,” House said. “The nurse said that Christian’s dad was unresponsive and on life support. The nurse assured him that he couldn’t see anything because he was all bandaged up so if he wanted to talk to him that he could.
“So he and I talked,” House said. “I told him maybe he could talk to him about the things that he never got to say — both good and bad. I told him that this was his chance to say everything or anything. If he wanted to yell at him that’s OK, or if he wanted to hold his hand that would be OK, too.”
The young boy sat in a chair next to his father. He tried to think about the good times the two had together … watching TV … that first hunting trip to Mississippi.
“I held his hand … and I just talked to him and said my goodbyes,” Vincent said.
A few days later, on Thursday, August 25, 2015, Ryan Luna died. He was 38.
The next few days and weeks remain a blur for Vincent.
There are snapshots that he remembers. Like serving as pallbearer for his father’s funeral services at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Abbeville, or that he wiped away a tear on a napkin and then placed that in his father’s hand before the coffin was closed.
The main thing Vincent recalls from that time is the raw emotion his father’s suicide was causing him.
“I was very angry and very confused,” Vincent said. “Why would this happen to me and my family? I just kept asking that. It was very hard to go back home and laying in bed and trying to sleep.”
Even with the support and love from his family and his football family, Vincent would continue to struggle with what had occurred to his father long after his death.
“After my dad died I would have breakdowns at school and stuff,” Vincent said. “It was a really dark time for me.”
Football & Family
Vincent was able to find solace during that time in many different ways.
For one, finally being able to let all of those thoughts out helped him come to terms with his father’s suicide. Yes, he was still upset and angry about it, and yes he still missed him greatly, but it wasn’t crippling anymore.
The love and support of his family also greatly helped, but so did the fact that Vincent had the Mighty Lions football team. Vincent began to thrive under the watchful eyes, and firm guidance, of head coach Rob Pool and his staff.
“Lafayette High has been a different experience for me,” Pool said. “We went 0 and 10 one season and I just thought that it was about what we were doing with the kids. It is not about wins and losses. It is about developing relationships with them and teaching them about responsibility and hard work. It is about the kids.”
Was it easy being fussed at for a blown coverage or not wrapping up the right way on a tackle? No. Vincent admits that it was extremely hard and that he thought about quitting more than once but he never did. At the end of the day, Vincent appreciated the tough love the coaches provided — the type of tough love his father might have given him if he was still alive.
Making sure Vincent wasn’t treated differently because he lost a parent to suicide was fundamentally important to Pool.
“Christian was in my position group,” Pool said. “I just coached him from snap to snap. I never treat anyone different. If I notice that there is something wrong I will wait to after practice and pull them aside and talk to them. You can’t treat players differently.”
Vincent never became a highly recruited star prospect as he spent his first three seasons playing junior varsity and special teams. In fact, Vincent didn’t become a starter until this last season — his senior season.
Nor did the Lions make the postseason in his four seasons or have a winning season any of those four years. Pool resigned earlier this month after four seasons at the helm of the program.
What Vincent did get from being a Mighty Lion was being part of a football family which developed friendships like the one he has with fellow senior Derezz Landry.
The two became fast friends while playing on the scout team together in 2018. Vincent played on the scout team, working to become a starter for his senior season. Landry, meanwhile, was on the scout team for being forced to sit out his junior season due to LHSAA rules after transferring from Acadiana.
This past season both played as starters — Vincent at safety and Landry at running back.
“It was amazing,” Vincent said. “For us to be on the field together — it made a big difference for me.”
“It really was cool,” said Landry, who jokes that Vincent’s love for country music is finally rubbing off on him. “Scout team last year was me and him. It felt good playing with him on Friday nights this season.”
That friendship with Landry, and from the rest of the team, as well as the lessons learned from the team and Pool and his staff is why Vincent proudly wears his Lafayette High letterman’s jacket.
For Vincent, his time as a Mighty Lion was about finding a home through a team and a coach that helped him transform from a depressed young and lost boy to a confident young man.
“I think without it I don’t know where he would be today,” House said. “I think he would be with a different group of kids and doing other things. This team has given him the opportunity for people to rely on him and that means something to him.”
“Football changed me,” Vincent said. “This team changed me. Being a Mighty Lion changed me.”