By JACK WEATHERLY
Walk-ons are known for their enthusiasm. They are not scholarship players. They have to scrap and hustle just to make the squad.
Rudy Ruettiger was a legendary walk-on for the Notre Dame football team. A movie bearing his first name made him a legend.
Brandon Landry and Jack Warner brought that kind of enthusiasm as walk-ons on the LSU basketball team in the ‘90s.
And that hustle is the spirit of their chain of restaurants known as Walk-on’s Bistreaux and Bar.
Landry and Warner built the first one in the shadow of Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge in 2003. The restaurants now number 36 around the South, according to Jeff St. Romain, who with his business partner, Matt Gallagher, will open their second Mississippi Walk-on’s in Ridgeland.
St. Romain said franchisees have signed deals with the company on 120 eateries.
St. Romain and Gallagher, both of whom live in Madisonville, La., bought the rights for Mississippi from Hattiesburg, where they opened their first one a year ago, to the Tennessee line, St. Romain said. They have plans for two in Jackson and one each in Flowood, Oxford and Southaven.
The Ridgeland store will be built in the third phase of the Renaissance at Colony Park, which has drawn a lot of controversy in the past few years, with the case going to the state Supreme Court, where a plan to build a Costco Wholesale store was blocked, only to undergo a change to comply with city ordinances. It will be opened next year.
An objection by opponents of the wholesale store was heavy motor traffic.
That helped sell St. Romain and Gallagher on the site.
The store will initially hire about 200 people to man the high-energy eatery, with a leveling to 175 on a continuing basis, St. Romain said.
To keep customers entertained, there will be 75 to 80 flat-screen television sets, he said.
Reflecting its Louisiana roots, the menu will feature Cajun cuisine with mainstream offerings such as burgers and fries.
There will be a list of mixed drinks and wines to go with 48 brands of beer.
Drew Brees is hardly a walk-on. He is all-pro quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. But he bought in to the company and owns 25 percent of it, according to St. Romain.
“He’s a great brand ambassador,” St. Romain said.
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