By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Today's Q & A Session is with former football player Jamie Bice. Bice was recruited by Bill Arnsparger and played strong safety from 1985-1988 for the Tigers. He was a three-time academic All-SEC Conference safety and member of the 1986 and 1988 SEC Champion Tigers. After a solid LSU football career Jamie would work for the LSU athletic department and then went on to get a Law Degree from LSU in 1993 and is now a Judge in Lake Charles.
Q - What's your favorite TV Show?
Jamie - Cheers and Seinfeld, I really enjoy both of those and still laugh. But most of the time now I watch a lot of the History Channel or the Discovery Channel shows.
Q - What is your favorite Food?
Jamie - Fried white perch... I love to catch them and eat them..
Q - Who is your favorite pro athlete?
Jamie - Larry Bird
Q - Your favorite sports team?
Jamie - It's LSU. To me they are the premiere sports football team in college as well as in the other sports. It's just a great total package of athletics in the college arena. I'm also from South West Louisiana which has a big Texas influence so the Cowboys were a team that we followed when I was a kid with Roger Staubach. I loved the 49ers during the Bill Walsh/Joe Montana era. I liked the Patriots with Tom Brady. I enjoy watching the winners. I have always liked the Saints, being a Louisiana guy you got to like the Saints, and I do.
Q - Who is your favorite Music Artist?
Jamie - Clearly, without a doubt, The Beatles. They were the very best of the very best as far as a band. As far as an individual singer, the very best of the very best is Elvis Presley. Every body else is about eight touchdowns behind..
Q - What is your favorite Movie of all-time?
Jamie - I have several favorite movies. I guess the best way to break it down is by genre. My favorite drama would be The Godfather Part II. My favorite comedy would be Smokey and the Bandit. My favorite sports movie would probably be Slap Shot with Paul Newman. Favorite war movie would be either Patton or Saving Private Ryan. All of those are my favorites.
Q - Who is your favorite actor?
Jamie - I would have to say that my favorite actor is Cary Grant. He was tremendously talented in drama and comedy. Closely followed by Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, and John Wayne.
Q - I see you are from Lake Charles? Is that where you were born and raised?
Jamie - Yes, I was born and raised in Lake Charles, but my roots are from North Louisiana. My parents came from Haynesville, Louisiana, which is known as one of the football capitols of the State. My father was a really good player at Haynesville who played his college football at the University of Houston. He got a job in the sporting goods business in Lake Charles and never left. So I was born and raised there.
Q - When you were a little boy, what did you want to grow up to be?
Jamie - I just wanted to be successful. When it was football season I wanted to be a pro football star. Basketball season I wanted to be a pro basketball star. Baseball season, a baseball star. Whatever I was doing at the time I just wanted to be successful.
Q - Did you play multiple sports while attending LaGrange High School?
Jamie - At LaGrange I concentrated on football and track. Up until high school I played everything and really enjoyed it. I really loved playing basketball, but when I got to high school I knew the best shot I had at going to college on a athletic scholarship was going to be in football. So I concentrated on football and track.
Q - Can you tell us a little about your recruiting process?
Jamie - I started all four years I was at LaGrange. I starter my first game as a 14 year old freshman. I had some encouragement to attend some camps and started to get some visits early on in my high school career. I ended up taking five visits as a senior. I visited West Point because I wanted to see what the military had to offer. I visited Notre Dame, UCLA. then TCU, who was the Southwest Conference Champions at the time and then LSU.
Q - What made you chose LSU over the other school who recruited you?
Jamie - Well in all honesty LSU was always the front runner. I'm from Louisiana so I always thought it was important to represent your community and everyone in Lake Charles was pretty much LSU fans. I thought it was important to represent your state and obviously LSU Is The Big Show in Louisiana football. All the other places that I visited and all the other teams that were interested in me, I really do appreciate it. But there really was no question where I was going and It was a wonderful choice that I made all those years ago.
Q - Tell us about Bill Arnspager?
Jamie - I feel honored to have been recruited by LSU and even more honored with the opportunity to sign with LSU.
Coach Arnsbarger in my opinion may be the best pure coach ever to coach at LSU, certainly during modern times. There was one thing that you never had to game plan for when you played on a Coach Arnsparger team, and that was to be outcoached. There were teams that were bigger, there were teams that were faster, but there was never a team that was more prepared then a Bill Arnsparger coached team.
He was a great coach and he brought in great assistants who went on to fame and fortune in the NFL. Just look at some of the staff that he had. He just had tremendous coaches around him and he was a tremendous coach himself.
The year before he got to LSU, which was my junior year in high school, LSU did not win a single SEC game. The next season, he is the head coach and they win the SEC and go to the Sugar Bowl. That's worst to first. I don't know of any other coach in the SEC who has ever done that. He never lost to Alabama. In two out of the three years he coached, he won the SEC Title which is pretty unheard of.
As far as our relationship, he left after my sophomore season to become the athletic director at Florida. We always remained in touch. In fact, later in life, after I got out of law school we would talk once every four to six months. Usually it was a call that he initiated and he would start off usually asking me some legal question, but it was really just to talk. I always appreciated that he would call me his lawyer. For someone like me who always had wonderful and positive thoughts of him as a person and a coach, It's always made me feel good. I’m a big fan of Bill Arnsparger.
Q - After Coach Arnsparger decided to leave, LSU would hire Mike Archer. Can you tell us a little about him?
Jamie - Well the best that I can recall, Coach Arnsparger left and was going to Florida. There was some thought on who was going to get the job.
Ultimately Mike Archer, our defensive coordinator, got the job. He was a young dynamic coach, who was smart enough, even at a very young age, to keep a very talented coaching staff intact. His first two years at LSU, in 1987 we finished fourth in the nation, 10-1-1. Then in 1988, my senior year, we won the SEC and won some of the most significant games in LSU history.
He did really well, but was young and had some issues the year after I left. He was ultimately let go. But he was a good coach.
Q - Tell us about any of your favorite games or great moments when you were a LSU Tiger....
Jamie - It's so long ago. Games and special games you still remember parts of them but you're not as familiar as you were with them 10 to 20 years ago.
Let's talk about 1988 which was my senior year. It was a very good LSU team. It wasn't as talented as the teams from 1986 or 1987. It was a team that cared a lot about each other. It had very good players, some significant and great players. Some of the greatest players in LSU history.
It was a Up & Down Season that had some of the highest of the highs and some lowest of the lows. There's not just one important game that took place that season. There was actually a lot of important games and most of them we won.
Obviously we lost in the debacle at Ohio State when we were ahead by 13 points with a 1:48 left and got beat, so that was a low.
But the two high points that year were the Auburn game that we won 7 to 6 on the great Hodson to Fuller pass, known as the earthquake game. That happens to be the game that gets the most attention. But as a player, I think the Alabama game that took place in Tuscaloosa that year was a better game. We won that game 19-18. It was a game that went back and forth. We fell behind 15-0 but just kept clawing our way back and eventually won the game.
I had the opportunity to watch that game on YouTube the other day. It was funny, the sideline reporter back at that time was Pat O'Brien and he did a segment where he was talking to the Alabama doctors. One of the Alabama doctors said as one of the Crimson Tide players was coming off the field, said that he had never been in that physical of a game before.
That's the way I remember it on our side as well. It was a knock-down-drag-out SEC classic with us pulling it out 19-18. So we won the SEC in 1988 by beating Auburn and Alabama, 'The state of Alabama' by two points. I have a lot of satisfaction from those memories.
What really matters most to me now, and it kind of really did then, is to meet and play with some great players from all around the State and surrounding States. I remember just how lucky I was to play with great players and make some great friends on those teams. To me that's the most important memories that I have is the small things, friendships made with incredible players that I got to play with. You can't buy that.
That 1988 team again was not the most physically dominant team. It had a lot of role players, myself included. It had some superstars. It was just a good team. We won a lot of good games and I think the reason why we did was 1: Because we were use to winning, and 2: When things got tough we seemed to get better, with the exception of that Ohio State game.
I consider myself fortunate to be able to play and to be able to contribute during that four year period. I was very lucky. My four years at LSU we won the SEC twice. Honestly we should have won it all for years. In 1985 and in 1987 we were only a half a game out. In fact in 1987 with today's scenario there's no doubt we would have been in the playoff format with a chance to win the national championship. That 1987 team was a great team.
Q - When your playing time was done at LSU, did you look for an opportunity to play at the next level?
Jamie - No I didn't. I had a plan that I was going to play football as long as I could. I showed up at LSU with a bad back. I played my entire career with a bad back. I still have a bad back today. There was some physical limitations due to injuries.
I ended up doing Postgraduate School. Our athletic director Joe Dean was really really good to former players and always wanted us to succeed. He made it available for me to stay at LSU, live in a dorm, and work for the athletic department while I was going to law school. I really appreciate the opportunities that LSU has provided to me and that's why I try to give back.
Q - After finishing Law School I see you worked at a Law Firm and now you're a Judge?
Jamie - That's correct. I practiced law from 1993 until 2015 when I was elected Judge in Lake Charles City Court and I've been on the bench for five and a half years now. I enjoy that change in lifestyle and really enjoying being a Judge here.
Q - Is there anything that you would like to tell the LSU fans?
Jamie - I would just like to thank the LSU fans, I call them my LSU family because of the friends that I've made during my time there whether it was students or faculty. I tried to meet everyone that I could while I was there from the Chancellor of the University to the janitors in each department
I appreciated everyone as much as I could. I think LSU has a very unique fan base. A lot of those folks went to LSU so they are alumni. But LSU has something called ABC, and that’s 'Alumni By Choice'. It's really unique the way Louisianians come together for LSU. I appreciate those people very much.
By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Today's Q & A Session is with former LSU linebacker Jacob Cutrera. Cutrera was recruited by Les Miles and played for the Tigers from 2006-2009. He made an immediate impact both on defense as well as LSU’s kick coverage units. He was a solid contributor during his four seasons always playing at a high level when needed. He would play in 49 games, starting six times. Jacob finished his LSU career with 172 total tackles, 12 tackles for losses and one sack. He graduated in December of 2009 with a degree in general studies.
He played in the NFL for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Q - What is your favorite TV Show?
Jacob - One of my buddies mentioned that I needed to watch a fairly new TV series on HBO called Ozark. So right now that's my favorite. I'm hooked into it and binge watching it like crazy with this coronavirus going on.
Q - What is your favorite food?
Jacob - I'm really not a picky eater when it comes to food. But what would my last meal be? It would be boiled crawfish until I’d pop..
Q - Who is your favorite pro athlete?
Jacob - My favorite pro athlete of all time, ... when I was a kid, my brother and I were really big into the 1990s Chicago Bulls, and of course Michael Jordan. With that documentary coming out how could you not pick him? He was just extraordinary to watch and it's fascinating now to see, as me playing in a professional sport. I kind of know the ins-and-outs and it's kind of similar across the board with basketball and football the way that teams are run. It's fascinating to see now and what I thought back then, as how everything goes down behind closed doors. I'm really enjoying that TV series.
Q - Who are your favorite sports teams that you enjoy following?
Jacob - LSU is number one. Always has been, always will be. I watch professional stuff but If I have a professional team that I pull for, it would be the two teams that I played for, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Q - Who is your favorite music artist?
Jacob - Music, man, I really can't pick out a favorite. It really depends on my mood. I can listen to country and then go straight into rock, then hip hop. I really don't have a preference when it comes to music. Before I would play a game I would just about blow my eardrums out with some heavy rock. That would get me going. A little hip-hop here and there. Yea, my ears would be ringing when I take my headphones off.
Q - What is your favorite movie?
Jacob - I'm an ex-football player and ex-linebacker so I enjoy contact and violent things. So I like the old gladiator-style movies. My favorite was the movie Troy with Brad Pitt. I thought it was a great movie. Nothing has topped that since. I like the entire Rocky series also.
Q - Who is your favorite actor?
Jacob - That's a tough one. There are so many good ones. I really enjoyed funny movies , so Will Ferrell comes to mind. That's the type of humor that I really enjoy.
Q - I see you're from Lafayette. Have you pretty much lived there all your life?
Jacob - Yes. Born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana. My parents are from the Morgan City area. But, yes. I grew up in Lafayette.
Q - When you were a little boy, what did you want to grow up to be?
Jacob - My family is a big sports family. My mom played tennis here in Lafayette at ULL. My aunt played tennis at UL-Monroe, which was called North Eastern Louisiana at the time and she is in the Hall of Fame over there. So growing up we were playing tennis, football, baseball, basketball, whatever the season was or the flavor of the day, we were doing it. I always dreamed of myself doing something in the sports world.
Q - Did you play multiple sports at Acadiana High School?
Jacob - I did. Up until high school I played basketball, I ran track, played baseball, and of course football. When I got to high school I played football, but they had a conflict with you playing track, basketball, and baseball. I chose the sport that I thought I was the best in, and that was baseball. So I played baseball my freshman and sophomore year but then I tore my labrum in my throwing arm playing football and that put a damper on my baseball season. From there on out I ran track. Contrary to popular belief, I could actually move pretty good. I was on the 4x1 team and I was the anchor. Was on the 4x2 team and also ran the 200. I enjoyed that and I think that if your a football prospect who has dreams of playing football on the next level, that track is maybe the best thing that you could possibly do for yourself. Especially if you're looking to get better and want to improve your speed. Not being able to play baseball was like a blessing in disguise, because it allowed me to run track and to train, get faster, stronger, and more explosive.
Q - Want to tell us about any memoriable personal and/or team accomplishments while playing at Acadiana High School?
Jacob - Up until my senior year at Acadiana we had never gone as far as the semi-finals and lost.. Never had Acadiana made it to the finals. My graduation year was 2006. 2005 was when Hurricane Katrina hit.
Obviously we couldn't play in the Dome my senior year. Actually we beat Hahnville in the semi-final game and advanced to the state championship. With the Superdome in the condition it was in after Katrina, they moved the game to Shreveport, Louisiana and we played in Independence Bowl stadium. It was a cold night and we were playing number one ranked West Monroe. They had a ton of guys that went on the play college ball. I'm really the only guy from my team that went on to play big time D1 football. I think we were just inexperience on that level of play. It was a good game until the very end. They got late touchdowns that made the score look worse than it actually was. It was a hard-fought game. I wish that we could play it over again and Acadiana could go into it with the same confidence that they have now. Now they just walk into a stadium and they know they're going to win. They just have that type of attitude and it takes that type of attitude to have the winning program that they have now. l look at it like we were the building blocks to where they are at now. I'm proud of my school and I wish nothing but the best for them going forward.
Q - Can you tell us how your recruiting process went?
Jacob - There was so many. Once a big school offers you, it's like monkey see-monkey do. All the rest of them pretty much fall right in line. I think Ole Miss was my first one, then they just started pouring in.
Then I ended up getting invited to LSU Junior Day with all the top prospects in the state and in the surrounding areas. A guy comes up to me and my parents and says, “Hey, would you mind walking with us? Coach Miles wants to talk to you in his office.” .. We go talk with him and he offers me on the spot. .. I grew up such a die-hard fan. Growing up in my house, it wasn't about any professional team. It wasn't the Saints, or anything else, it was all LSU. Me being so young and with LSU being my absolute dream school, I committed on the spot.
The only regret I do have is not taking my official visits to other schools. I wish I would have done that. But I had no interest at all in going to any other school.
Ole Miss had offered me and at that time Coach O was their head coach. I had no interest in going to Ole Miss whatsoever. But when I tell you that he called me. He called me, it wasn't any assistant. He would call me a couple of times a week, every week until I signed the papers my senior year to go to LSU. I remember telling my dad, "Hey, Dad I'm not going to Ole Miss, but I'm starting to really like this dude. He's awesome.” .. He just has a way with guys that he can relate to you. There are some recruiters that you come across, you speak to them and they really can't relate to a younger person. But Coach O just has it. It shows in the recruiting classes that he's bringing in currently at LSU. You can just tell that he has that relentless mindset, that he's going to get you no matter what. But LSU had a lot of talent there that Junior Day and I was one of the few that they decided to offer that day. I'm very fortunate.
I was actually concerned, because Nick Saban and his staff was recruiting me. When he left to go to Miami I was worried about what was going to happen. But sure enough Coach Miles picked up right where they left off. Everything just worked out great. I had committed so the pressure was off of me in the sense that I could now just focus on my senior year and not have to really worry about all these other schools and talking to all these other guys.
Q - Can you tell us a little about Les Miles?
Jacob - Coach Miles is an extraordinary guy. He truly cares for his players, his team, and their well-being. You come across some of these other coaches that it’s strictly business with them. They don't ask you anything about your personal life. They don’t ask how your mom and dad are doing. Every time I got to speak with Coach Miles one on one, he would always ask how my dad was doing. He just loved my dad and my family. That made me feel good. I know he cared and he would always say, “You and your dad have the same kind of relationship as me and my dad, and I appreciate that.”
He is just a good wholesome guy. I was sad to see him go but I thought his time was kind of running out. Coaching at LSU and playing there is a stressful situation. The pressure to win is always there. I felt more pressure to win at LSU then I did on any NFL team that I played on and that's just crazy. I just thought that teams were getting a beat on what we were doing at LSU and kind of figuring us out. I think the timing of the change was right. But I have nothing but good things to say about Coach Miles and the way he ran things when I was there.
Q - Tell us about any favorite games or moments you have from being a LSU Tiger?
Jacob - There are so many. Maybe something that everyone doesn’t know, the fans out there, but during the 2007 national championship year, as you know we lost two games that year, both came in double overtime. We were playing in the SEC Championship game against Tennessee and had just beat them, and I to get into the National championship game, two or three other teams needed to lose. All of the stars aligned in those teams ended up losing.
We were on our way back home from just winning the SEC Championship Game and I'll never forget. It's a little more relaxed when you charter a plane. They have rules but they don't really apply. There is a lot more moving around and you don't need to keep your seat belt on. No one is really enforcing stuff like that. Some of the players were playing cards and others are just talking among themselves.
The pilot comes on and he announces that the last team that we needed to lose, lost. As soon as he does that everyone starts jumping up and down and is going crazy. Well the weirdest thing that I have never experienced on a flight, and I've experienced bad turbulence, and all kind of things. But everything's on the plane went dark. All the lights went out. It felt like the engine shut off. I'm not kidding. Then we free fall for what felt like forever. We didn't nose dive, it just felt like the bottom fell out of the plane and we just dropped, we were dropping. Suddenly, all the lights and everything came back on and everyone's looking around, freaking out and screaming, “What’s going on!” .. The weirdest thing was the pilot never came on to tell us what just happened or to tell us that everything was alright. He just went about going home as normal and everyone's just sitting in their seats all freaked out. It was a roller coaster of emotions for sure. I don't know if that story is out there, but now it is.
Then there's winning the National Championship in 2007. A lot of my best moments obviously happened during that year. In the moment in that National Championship year, you’re so focused on what you need to do, that it's hard for you to enjoy the moment as a player. You're so focused on obtaining that goal and you can’t really enjoy the process that's actually going on around you. You can, but you can't. So this year, I as a fan and a former player really really enjoyed watching them play and couldn't be happier for them. That Championship was for every former player. That was for every Tiger out there. It was really special to be there and witness all that. All the stuff that you don't get to do as a player, that the fans get to enjoy. That was special for me.
Q - Tell us about your NFL career?
Jacob - I came off a good senior year. I thought I played pretty well. Well enough to get drafted. Ended up not getting drafted and signed a free-agent contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. My agent and I felt like that was the best opportunity for me to make the team and play somewhere.
That's one thing about LSU, we set a record in this year's draft with the amount of players that were drafted, which is incredible and special. It speaks volumes for the program that we have there.
To that point, what doesn't get talked about much is that if you go to LSU and you don't get drafted, it's not the end of the world. Every guy out there who has the desire to play in the NFL, if you go to LSU you will get a shot. A chance somewhere. You will go to camp and you'll have an opportunity. With most schools that's not the case. LSU has a program that is respected so much around the country and by the NFL that just by going to LSU, opportunities arise. The respect is there and it's noticed big time among the NFL.
I went to Jacksonville and worked my butt off. Beat out a few drafted guys which was really cool for me. Then making the 53 man roster was a special thing. I spent about a year-and-a-half over there and got bumped down to the practice squad. When you're on a practice squad any team can pick you up and put you on their 53-man roster.
Almost immediately Tampa Bay grabbed me and I was fortunate to now only be 3 hours away from where I was living. So that worked out great.
Another Funny Story is... That all happened in I believe week five. Tampa had won three or four games at the time. They were having a pretty good season, and my first game there we played the Saints in Tampa. We ended up beating the crap out of them. I remember calling my dad and saying, “Man, dad I think we are really good. I think we will make it to the playoffs.” .. Well after that we didn't win a single game the rest of the season and the entire coaching staff ended up getting fired.
I played another year and ended up getting a few concussions. My fourth year in a preseason game against Miami, I got another concussion right after we had our daughter a few days before.
I had seen a neurologist before going into that season and they were kind of hinting towards that I shouldn’t play anymore. They really couldn’t tell me one way or the other, but did tell me once you keep getting them the way I was, the symptoms seem to last longer and longer. I ended up getting another one and sure enough they were right.
At that point I made a decision. After the team put me on IR, I decided I was done. I got four years in and proved that I can play at this level. There was nothing really else for me to prove. I'll take the health that I have with me now and hopefully live a longer life because of it.
Q - Can't you tell us a little about what you're doing now for a career?
Jacob - After that 2014 season my wife, new born little girl and I decided to move back to Louisiana. We ended up choosing my home town, Lafayette. I took about a year off, just wanting to cool off for a little bit.
An ex-teammate of mine, Ace Foyil was working at Stryker Orthopaedics at the time. He was with the general manager of Stryker and Ace had just saw one my brother in the hospital, who sells medical devices as well. He asked how I was doing and what I was up to these days. My brother told him and apparently the manager of Stryker told Ace to call me and see if I'd be interested in a position in Lafayette. He called and I heard it out and six interviews later I end up getting the job. The job was, basically we have the implants that replace total knees, total hips, shoulders.
I did that for four years and now I'm with a Johnson & Johnson Company called Ethicon. So we are in surgery. We are known for our sutures but we have everything from surgical stapling to electro-surgery stuff, bio-surgery stuff. We could be in any kind of surgery case in really any specialty. Day to day I'm in the hospitals and in surgeries.
My pardner and I have 25 hospitals that we cover, so we stay pretty busy and I'm enjoying it.
Also my dad and a few other guys like Craig Steltz, some former players that are buddies of mine. Josh Scobey, I played with him in Jacksonville, he was our kicker. Also John Parker Wilson, former quarterback from Alabama, and Smylie Kaufman, we all are owners for a 'Walk-Ons' in Hoover, Alabama. We just opened up in late December.
Q - Is there anything you want to tell the LSU fans?
Jacob - The LSU fans are like no other fan base in the Country. I haven't seen any other that can come close to them. The passion and the love that they have for their teams and their school doesn't go unnoticed. I can tell you that the players really enjoy their support. Thank you...
By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Today's Q & A Session is with former football player Craig Rathjen who was recruited by Jerry Stovall. Rathjen played fullback for the Tigers from 1982-1985. The 6'3" 205lb, Houston, Texas native helped open up holes for running backs Dalton Hilliard and Garry James. Unfortunately Rathjen had to miss his senior season ('86) due to a back injury.
At one time Craig was also an Executive Committee member and Chairman of the Finance Committee at the Tiger Athletic Foundation. He also served on the business school‘s Dean’s Advisory Council.
In 2015, a ceremony was held to unveil the naming of Tiger Stadium's Gate 8 in honor of the Rathjen & Rutland Families. Their gate represents a million dollars of support to LSU Athletics! The family members include former Tiger letterwinners: Craig Rathjen (LSU Football 83-85), Donna Rogers Rathjen (LSU Gymnastics 83-85) and James “Pepper” Rutland (LSU Football 70-72).
Q - What is your favorite TV Show?
Craig - Game of Thrones. ... I love the storyline. It was amazingly directed. The sets were so complicated. I thought the acting was some of the best I've ever seen. How can you not like a show that has dragons. It is just so enjoying to watch.
Q - What is your favorite food?
Craig - That’s pretty easy, my favorite is ice cream.
Q - Who is your favorite pro athlete?
Craig - Before I get to my favorite pro athlete because that’s pretty hard, let me tell you a little bit about the local athletes and people that were directly or indirectly from Houston. We have a lot good ones. I loved watching Roger Clemens. His children went to the same high school as mine so I got to interact with him a little bit, and watch his kids grow up. He has two of them in the minor leagues right now.
Ray Childress was a defensive lineman for the Houston Oilers, I think he was the second pick overall. Ray is someone who I've admired for a long time. He is tenacious and doesn't let anything stop him. He was a great football player.
Then Nolan Ryan obviously, Roger and Nolan both may be the greatest pitchers ever. So I love Nolan.
Earl Campbell, I love Dalton Hilliard. I've always said he was the best I've ever been around. Earl Campbell was pretty special.
Mary Lou Retton, who in 1984 was the first U.S. gymnasts to win an all-around gold metal was incredidle. By the way, Mary Lou Retten's daughter, McKenna Kelly, just finished an outstanding gynastics career at LSU last season.
Then my new guy that I've liked since he was a teenager, from Houston and he played college ball with my son at Rice is Anthony Rendon. Anthony was on the Nationals last year, play third base and won his first World Series. He got traded to Anaheim this year. I think Anthony is on his way to be a Hall of Famer. Those are kind of the Houston guys. ..
But my all-time favorite is Muhammad Ali. He was the best athletes of his time maybe even one of the greatest ever. He was flamboyant and no one has been more entertaining than Muhammad Ali as far as I’m concerned.
He competed in an individual sport, right? There was never any question whether it was the people around him, or him. It was him walking into that ring. I just think it was amazing what he was able to accomplish. I don't pick favorites just by going by their athletic performance. Muhammad at the time stood up for things that were his strong beliefs in a time where there was enormous pressure for him not to do the things that he was doing. It cost him money. It cost him titles. It cost him prestige. But at the end of the day he came back out on top. The struggles he went through and the choices that he made makes him one of the best athletes and people ever. So yes, my favorite would be Muhammad Ali.
Q - Who is your favorite sports team?
Craig - I'll give you a couple because giving you just one is hard. LSU football team obviously. I'm a season ticket holder. If I can't make it to a game, I'm watching it on TV. I love what Coach O has done. I think all the coaches have done an excellent job. So excited about last year. Big fan and we raised four children who are all big Tiger fans even though none of them went to LSU. Although I'm about to get my first tiger, my daughter has just been accepted into their MBA program so she'll be going there next year.
We love LSU gymnastics as well, like I mentioned my wife was a gymnast at LSU. We follow them and my wife and I try to make every home gymnastics meet.
As far as football goes in the NFL, I love to watch the Saints. They are my favorite team even though I'm from Houston. I've always struggled with Houston football teams. We could never seem to quite put it together.
I think the Rockets from a basketball perspectives have done a great job. The culture around the Rockets is good, the ownership has done a nice job there.
From a baseball perspective, I've been a Yankees fan from as far back as I can remember. I don't really have a reason for being a Yankees fan other than when I was growing up they had the tradition. They won all the time. But what I think I really liked was the interaction between their owner, George Steinbrenner and their manager, Billy Martin. Steinbrenner would fire Martin and then rehire him and then fire and rehire him again. They have this love-hate relationship. I never understood it but I just thought it was the greatest thing ever. So I think they would be my favorite baseball team. It's hard to pick just one favorite. I love all the sports in the SEC. I'll turn on the SEC network and I'll just sit there all day and watch that stuff.
Q - Who is your favorite music artist?
Craig - Once again I’ll get there kinda slowly. We kinda have to do this by decade. In high school I was a big Jim Morrison of The Doors fan. They were my favorite. They really weren't over popular when I was in high school, but for some reason I was just drawn to their music.
When I was in college my favorite bands were Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes, and The Rolling Stones. I'm pretty much a big classic rock fan.
As I become older, I would say now I spend a lot of time listening to Chris Cornell when he was with Soundgarden and Audioslave. Big fan of his.
But if you going to go for the all-time favorite I think I'd have to go with The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Q - What's your favorite Movie?
Craig - I have like three favorite movies. My favorite comedy and I seen this movie over 10 times is Talladega Nights. The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is the full title I think, with Will Ferrell. It's a family favorite. Every time we get together we usually watch Talladega Nights. We quote the movie all the time. So that's my favorite comedy.
I would say that Gladiator with Russell Crowe is one of my favorites, and finally would be the original Matrix with Keanu Reeves. If you had to make me pick I would say the Matrix is my all-time favorite. I know not too many people would look at that and say that it's a great movie, but I loved the movie.
Q - Who is your favorite actor?
Craig - That's a hard one and its not maybe a good one, but he's the one that makes me laugh. It's got to be Will Ferrell. Great actors that do a good job, simply entertain us. You got to get a good laugh in life. I value the comedy.
Q - You said you are from Houston, is that where you lived most of your life?
Craig - I was born in Oklahoma but moved to Houston when I was little. I believe I was one year old. I've been here my whole life. I grew up in the Memorial area and went to Memorial High School and played some football and baseball there.
Q - When you were a little boy, what did you want to grow up to be?
Craig - When I was a little kid all I wanted to be was a little kid. My dad was a successful businessman. He would teach me about the stock market and teach me about real estate. Just business in general. He was very serious about business. I was more interested in playing video games or watching sports on TV, playing football or doing something.
My vision and what I wanted to do, you know obviously sports was in there. I suppose if I could have become a professional ball player that would have been great.
I started at LSU as a petroleum engineer because my dad told me that was a great profession. I think my first week of class I found out that wasn't cut out for me. They told us to pull out our big sheets of paper and to start drafting. Now they do it all on computers, but back then I was like, “Oh, This isn’t going to work.”.
Then I moved to geology because he told me if I wasn't smart enough to be a petroleum engineer that I should try geology. By all means, I hope I don't insult any geologist. But then I realized I don't know much about rocks either.
I ended up going through the business school and that worked well. Until I was about a junior I still didn't know what I wanted to do. I interned one summer at Howard Weil and I kind of fell in love with that. That's what I've been doing for 33 years. Well that's a long way to answer, but I didn't know what I wanted to do.
Q - Did you play multiple sports at Memorial High School?
Craig - I played both football and baseball. In football I was pretty much a I-formation or pro-style fullback. In high school they actually gave me the ball. In college they decided not to give me the ball but we can talk about that later. I had about a thousand yards rushing as a fullback so I had a good career in football. When I was a sophomore we went to the state championship game and lost, but we had a good team. As a junior and a senior we won District but didn't get that far into the playoffs. That was a great experience.
I love what football provided with the bonding and the team experience. That worked well for me for a long time in the family and in the business.
As for baseball, I did baseball just for fun. I wasn't knowledgeable on how to play the game. I played baseball like I play golf now, I just try to hit the ball far. I could hit the ball pretty well, but if you hit me a ground ball or a fly ball there was a 50% chance that I was going to miss it. As a junior I ended up playing designated hitter. I hit like .444 with nine home runs and made like honorable mention or second team All-State just as a DH. No one needs just a DH in college, especially one that if your playing first base and the ball goes between his legs two or three times in an inning. My baseball career was probably pretty limited. But I enjoyed it.
Q - What was your recruiting process like?
Craig - Most of the schools in Texas were recruiting me. My first choice at the time was SMU. If you can remember that was the time that they had Craig James and Eric Dickerson in the backfield together with the Pony Express. They were beating everybody, just all of a sudden they started winning, right? Then we found out why they were winning, because they were paying their players. I had an official visit scheduled to SMU and Ron Meyer who was the head coach there at the time decided to leave to go be the head coach of the New England Patriots. SMU decided to bring in Bobby Collins from Southern Mississippi. I've never heard of Southern Mississippi and I certainly hadn't heard of Bobby Collins. No disrespect to either one of them. So I decided to cancel my SMU visit.
I took official visits to the University of Texas, TCU, and LSU. I also took some unofficial visit to A&M, Rice, and University of Houston. I went on my visit to Texas. I sat down and talked with the coach Fred Akers and my experience with Texas recruiting in football was, ‘If you weren’t like the number player in the state, they kinda go, we would like to have you but we're Texas, so if you don't want to come here it's okay.’ .. That was their recruiting model. So that wasn't so special in my eyes. They also had some running backs that were young and very good and they were also bringing in the number one running back in the state. They were full in the backfield and I certainly didn't feel like a priority.
TCU back then weren't nearly the program that they are today. It was a good school. It was a good program. But they just weren’t at the quality of play that they have been recently. I liked TCU, but it just didn't feel like home.
The interesting part of my recruitment is kind of like the way I see everything in life over time. We had won District and we were playing in the Astrodome during the playoffs. I think we were playing Madison High School Houston and I had a long run for a touchdown. The only two things that I remember about the game is that I had a long touchdown run and we lost. Later I hear from George Belu, who was the offensive line coach and the Houston area recruiter from LSU. George had been at the game and it was the only game he saw of mine, and wanted me to take a visit to LSU.
I sit back these days and think, “How many times in my life has one person given me an opportunity to do something as special as play football at a great University?” … All I think about is that's how fortunate I am in certain regards of life. What if George Belu had gone to go get popcorn and didn't see my long touchdown run? He probably wouldn't have noticed me the rest of the game and I never would have had that opportunity. One of the main reasons why I went to LSU is because of Georgia Belu. I love that man and he loved me and gave me an opportunity that changed my life. I've got to be honest, I would have to say that he is the main reason.
When I went on my official visit, I think the turning point that put it over the top was walking out of the tunnel, stepping out onto the field, walking through the double goal post, I'm looking up at the stands and imagining that place full on a Saturday night.
Q - Can you tell us is there any other reasons why you chose LSU?
Craig - I don't think I've ever been to Louisiana prior to my official visit. I was an only child who grew up in Memorial which is a pretty affluent neighborhood and I wasn’t used to anything remotely like I was going to experience in the LSU athletic dorms. I hadn't run into people from South Louisiana that I had a hard time understanding. I certainly hadn’t experience some of the people from New Orleans that had different ways of thinking than me. When I visited LSU there was an instant appreciation for the culture. I love the walking around the campus seeing the old oak trees and the architecture. It felt so warm. Then, in the stadium, the experience of that was special. I like Jerry Stovall as a head coach. I like the running back coach who was Darrell Moody at the time. He was a nice guy and he did a good job. I just love the culture. I love the people. It just felt like home.
Q - Can you tell us a little bit about Coach Stovall?
Craig - Yes. I think everybody would tell you pretty much the same thing about Jerry. One of the nicest men you could ever meet. He was very transparent and straightforward. If he had a problem with you he would tell you. If he liked what you were doing he would tell you. He'd be the first to yell at you and the first to hug you. From that standpoint he was great.
He did a great job with the coaching staff and was a great recruiter. When I came in in 1982, that was a great recruiting class. Offensively w e had Gary and Dalton come in. Wickersham at the quarterback position. We had Mitch Andrews at tight end. Curt Gore at guard. It was a pretty strong recruiting class. The defense was amazing.
In Coach Stovall's first year we went to the Orange Bowl. Lost to Nebraska but had a great year.
Then the next season we lost Mack Brown as our offensive coordinator and brought in Morris Watts. Our first game of the year was against Washington and they were ranked pretty high. Definitely in the top five and we beat them like a drum, so I thought we were off to a good start. By the end of the year we ended up, I think we are still the only team that didn’t win a game in the SEC.
You're talking about a lot of the same talent that the year before had gone to the Orange Bowl and had a great year. You're talking about the same team that the next year had a great year and went to the Sugar Bowl. There was just some drop off. I contributed it to the loss of Mack Brown and it cost Jerry his job. As a player you never want to see your coach get fired.
As far as I'm concerned Jerry Stovall is one of the finest men I've ever met and I have nothing but total respect for the way he carries himself. What a great athlete he was also. The stories of his playing career are simply outstanding.
Q - How did you and the team handle the coaching change?
Craig - I'll speak for myself. At first I was angry that the coaches were on the chopping block. It became apparent to me in our game against Tennessee. Darrell Moody was the running backs coach and you can just see it in his face. The tension to win and the pressure they were under to keep their jobs. I remember Gene Lang was playing fullback and Gene was playing fine. Coach Moody pulled Gene out the game because we weren't moving the football. Then he put me in and I thought I was playing fine. But we weren't moving the ball. At halftime he told both Gene and I that we weren't going back in. The pressure that you could see on Moody was enormous. So I believed Garland Jean Batiste was playing in the second half and Garland was playing fine. When you think about it I think the reason why we weren't moving the ball was because we kept running the ball right at Reggie White. I don't think anyone runs the ball on Reggie White. The man was a beast.
After the game we were in the film room and I think coach Moody had a chance to review the game film and he came to us and he said, “Look, I reviewed the game film and you guys were playing fine. You weren't the problem.” .. That's when you can see that there was at least an awareness that their jobs were on the line.
Bob Broadhead brought us all in to let us know what was going on. I would say pretty much everyone was a little angry with it because Coach Stovall was lovable and he was our leader. You would have a hard time not wanting to defend that man.
Q - Want to tell us a little about Coach Arnsparger?
Craig - I've got to be honest with you, as great as Coach Stovall was, the best coach I ever had was Bill Arnsparger. He came in with a different mindset. Jerry Stovall was hard-nosed, old school. Arnsparger was very stern and had rules and would stick to them. He had come from the atmosphere or the environment of pro football.
Jerry Stovall treated us like young adults. He had an early curfew. He wanted to know where everyone was at every moment.
Arnsparger came in and he held you to a high standard, but it was your responsibility to meet those standards. He treated you more as grown men and that you were responsible for yourself. A lot of people would screw up and he would say, “I'm sorry, but you need to go find something else to do.” .. That occurred for a while and then It stopped occurring because everybody got the message.
Bill Anrspager was obviously a great mind. He was a great defensive coach and had great coaches around him. Morris Watts was gone and we brought in Ed Zaunbrecher and I think Coach Zaunbrecher made a big difference in the offense.
I think the main thing that Bill Arnsparger did was he would focus on you knowing what you were supposed to do. Whereas Coach Stovall wanted to watch you do it at full speed and I think we ended up going into some of those games in the 1983 season with dead legs. Specifically our running backs would have been tired. Dalton and Garry, when you have dead legs it's hard to play at the level that those guys were capable.
Arnsparger’s practices would go like this. We would scrimmage obviously in the preseason and then only scrimmage before the first game or two. But then after that it was pretty light from a contact standpoint. It was more running through your plays and making sure you knew what to do against different fronts and how to handle it. We went into the games with fresh legs and you started to see the talent that was on the field start to live up to their potential. From then on as long as I can recall, Bill Arnsparger’s teams were always in the top ten.
Q - What were some favorite games or moments you had as a LSU Tiger?
Craig - Let's see, I think my favorite game is going to be, and anyone who came in and was around in 1982, would have to say the Florida State game to go to the Orange Bowl. It was like nothing I've ever seen.
The fans apparently had bought all of the oranges in Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas. How they got them into the stadium is still beyond me. To get in with boxes of oranges? It was amazing, it started early and I realized early that I better keep my helmet on.
Some of these oranges had been frozen and they were still pretty hard. I remember a coach or two were getting hit by them and they told us all to put our helmets on. I specifically remember Dalton, and I can't remember how many touchdowns he scored, but at least on one or two of them that oranges we're coming at speeds that I couldn't imagine and in numbers that were just ridiculous.
I want to say that we got several penalties from the fans throwing all the oranges that night. We stepped on the accelerator and Florida State I didn’t think was never really in the game.
My other recollection from that is that I recall the day after the games we would historically take a jog around the field several times. That day we weren't able to take our jog because all of the oranges were still out there and there were too many of them. It was an amazing thing. I think anybody would say the same thing, players or fans. I still don't know where all those oranges were coming from. A lot of them were coming from the student section, but they were coming from the regular fans too.
I guess my other favorite game happened during the next season in Houston when we were playing Rice. It was my first time back in Houston to play a game and I scored my first touchdown as a Tiger. It was a trap right up the middle and I talked to Wickersham after the game. He came up to me and said, “Hey, you know I almost audibled out of that play.” .. He said that there was a linebacker on our left side that was going to blitz, but didn’t check out of it and left it on, and it ended up working because the guy just ran himself out of the play. There was nobody in my way and not even I could have screwed that one up. Scoring in front of my home crowd, with my high school coaches there, and my parents there. So that was a special experience.
Q - Why didn't you play in 1985 for your senior season?
Craig - In my junior year around the middle of the season during practice we were in shorts and shoulder pads and we were running one of those 50% drills where you go through it and you know what you're doing. Basically, all I did at LSU was block, so I was lead blocking on a linebacker and the linebacker either didn't remember that it was a 50% play or he just wanted to remind me that he was there. But he came into the hole and hit me pretty hard. We had to rerun the play because clearly it just didn't work out so well. So, on the next play I went full-speed and I dove at his knees and ended up rupturing a disc in my back and then I limped through the rest of my junior year. If it would have been my knee or something like that I would have tried to rehab it. With it being my back, the idea of possibly screwing it up in a bad way wasn't appealing. I talked to Arnsparger about it and we both decided that it was best that I shouldn't play in the ‘86 season.
Q - Did you try at all to pursue a professional football career?
Craig - No. During my junior year I saw that they came out with these draft reports. I was projected as a late round draft choice. There wasn't any chance that I was going to have a lasting pro career under any circumstance. The reason why I played at LSU was because I was willing to do something that not a lot of people wanted to do. I hardly ever carried the ball. I hardly ever caught a pass. I ended up running into people that were twice my size. The only other thing I could do well was line up at multiple offensive positions. I was able to learn all of the responsibilities for those positions on the left and right side. I found out pretty quick that they didn't need me to run the ball when they had Dalton and Garry back there and they didn't need me to catch the ball when they had Eric Martin, Herman Fontenot, Wendell Davis, and Rogie Magee. Blocking was all that was left for me.
Q - Can you tell us basically what your doing as a career now?
Graig - Sure.. First let me tell you what I'm doing as far as my family goes. I'll update you on that. I spend a lot of time with my wife Donna for 24 years. Donna, like I mentioned was a LSU gymnast. We have four kids. The oldest is 30, youngest is 19. We spend most of our time trying to parent those guys. They have all turned out great.
My oldest son, Jeremy, is working in New York at a private equity firm. My second son, Beau, works here with me at UBS. Then my daughter, Kirby, just graduated from the University of Arkansas and as I mentioned she's going to the LSU MBA program, and my youngest son, Colton, just finished his freshman year at the University of Texas. From a business perspective I've been in the financial services industry for 33 years. As soon as I got out of college I went to work for Merrill Lynch for 10 years and I've been at UBS for 23 years.
My main focus of the business is consulting for three types of clientele. One is non-profit. So essentially any charitable organization we do the financial consultant for that type of client. We do corporate retirement plans, 401K, and pension plans. And then finally we work with high networth families to provide them with consulting services regarding their finances.
I've been fortunate. Funny that I told you that I didn't know what I wanted to do and the only career I ever had has been this financial services industry. It's kind of funny the way things work out.
Q - Is there anything you want to tell the LSU fans?
Craig - Yes, obviously thanks. Without the fans, there wouldn't have been the opportunity for me to play football and as I've mentioned a couple of times that opportunity that I was given has been truly one of the most important decisions that I've made and one of the most rewarding decisions that I've made. Without them and without their support, my life would have been changed meaningfully. I'm grateful every day for the experience that I had with them and the experience that I had with the University, with the coaches, and the other players.
By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Russell Grant was a shooting guard for the LSU basketball team for two seasons (‘87-’88 & ‘88-’89). Grant, 6'2" 175lbs, is from Louisville Kentucky and played his high school ball at Trinity High School. He was known for his long range three point shooting while with the Tigers, and will always be remembered for his involvement in the final seconds of the 1989 Georgetown game in the Louisiana Super Dome that LSU won 82-80 in dramatic fashion. Grant currently lives in Florida and is a huge LSU sports fan.
Q - What is your Favorite TV Show?
Grant - Curb Your Enthusiasm
Q - What is your Favorite Food?
Grant - Steak
Q - Who is your Favorite Pro Athlete?
Grant - Larry Bird is my Favorite ever.. Recent athlete who is in the NFL would have to be the Honey Badger, he is my favorite. Then Burrow. Don't know how I can't have Joe Burrow there now. Those are my LSU guys. Tom Brady is another one of my favorites.
Q - Your Favorite Sports Team?
Grant - It's all LSU.. There is nothing that can compare to that. Nothing gets me going like that. I'm not from Louisiana and I like the Saints, but it's not a passion. I'm not hurting for three days if they lose.
Q - Your Favorite Music Artist?
Grant - Man, there's a lot. I'd say U2. Ozzie Osbourne is another one. U2 played in the PMAC my freshman year and we had great seats for that. Then I saw them again a couple of years ago in Seattle.
Then Ozzie, here's a LSU twist. Ozzy was playing in Orlando and Geert Hammink was with the Magic at the time with Shaq. So Geert and I went see Ozzy on a Friday night. Saturday night was Bulls vs. Magic in the playoffs, game three of the Eastern Conference Championship. Game four was Monday. On Sunday, we were at Shaq's house riding jet skis all day. I went home and told my wife that we were moving to Orlando. I live in Orlando now.
Q - Your Favorite Movie?
Grant - Caddyshack.. Shawshank Redemption is another that stands out in my mind.
Q - Your Favorite Actor?
Grant - Larry David
Q - So I see you are from Louisville, Kentucky?
Grant - Yes, Lived there from zero to 18 years old.... 18-28 was Louisiana.. and 28-51 in Florida..
Q - When you were a little boy, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Grant - It was all basketball.
Q - Did you play multiple sports while attending Trinity High School?
Grant - I played basketball and soccer. I quit soccer after my sophomore year to concentrate just on basketball.
Q - How did your recruiting process go and what made you choose LSU?
Grant - I wasn’t recruited heavily at all. How I got to LSU was Ron Abernathy was from Louisville. Coach Abernathy came by with Rudy Macklin who is also from Louisville. He found out about me because there was a game that I had my tooth break off on the floor. The game that Coach Abernathy saw put me on a different platform with Colorado, Colorado State, USC, and LSU. Other schools were showing very mild interest and this is my senior year. Usually by your junior year you have made your decision. This is how late it all came together.
So how I came to LSU was I had family in New Orleans and took a visit down there. That was my journey to LSU. Meeting Coach Abernathy and Coach Brown. It's interesting being from Kentucky and having that whole vibe. So while I had this lifetime vibe, when LSU was giving me my chance, all my loyalty just shifted in the snap of a finger. Kentucky has been in my rear view mirror ever since. I don't like them now. I always did, but when that change happened, it's kind of weird how your loyalty changes. It just changes and all goes out the window when you have this other school giving you a chance.
You always get into conversation with people, or athletes get into conversation, Now if your Shaq or Michael Jordan, well, your different. But for a majority of players the conversation gets to, "Do you want to be a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a small pond?" .... I knew that answer, but a lot of guys don't. They say they want to go to the biggest schools and do, but when they don't get to play, they bail. This happens because they really didn't know what they wanted. So for me, do I want to go to a small school and have a glorious career? Maybe? But that's not what I wanted. I wanted to be in the biggest and the brightest lights and if I ended not playing, then I just ended not playing. Doesn't mean that I wasn't going to try to play, but I just wanted to be on that stage no matter what it took. Versus going to a small school and scoring 15 points a game and start for three or four years, it's not what I wanted. It's not LSU. It's not the NCAA Tournament, It's not the Super Dome playing against Georgetown. It's not any of that. But what it also meant was sitting on the bench a lot. I've always had a good sense of my skill set. What I was, what I wanted, what I didn't want. It helps you navigate that. I was like everyone else. I played a lot and was All-whatever when you were in high school, then you go to college and your sitting the bench. It was a big adjustment for me but it didn't get the best of me. I was able to stay the course because I knew what I wanted.
Q - Other then the Georgetown game, what are some of your other memorable games and moments while playing at LSU?
Grant - Yea, I think we had six buzzer-beaters that year. We beat UNLV and that's the game a lot of people seem to forget about. That was a great UNLV team minus Larry Johnson. We beat them at the buzzer. We beat Vanderbilt at the buzzer. But that season was the Chris Jackson show. You just watch his skill level combined with his quickness and athletic ability. We still haven't seen anyone else do what he did at the college level scoring wise. You would have to go back to Pistol Pete. That doesn't mean Chris was the greatest player to ever play college basketball, I wouldn't go there. There has been other different type of players that are hard to compare to each other.
You talking about a guy who can score from day one who comes into college basketball, I just haven't seen it. But I saw that one and I saw it up close.
This is a good memory for me and I started that game, when we went to Florida. It was December 10th 1988. We go there and Chris scores 53 points. He didn't take a shot in the first nine minutes of the second half and it was only his fifth game. He was one who would get everyone involved, so he didn't score for 9 minutes. He had 26 points at halftime and 27 points during the back end of the second half. He fouled out four guys and this is the weird part that I'll never forget. The students had gotten to the game early and they were hammering Chris. I can't remember what they were hammering him about, but man they were hammering him. Then at the end of the game they were bowing to him. I have never seen that before at a sporting event. The student section was bowing to him. Getting down on their hands and knees and bowing to him.
You see a lot of big things that has happened in sports, and for me I was up and close for that. It's hard to top that and what he was able to do, just from scoring with the ball and making it look that easy. We knew he was that good in one way. But in another way you would think, "Okay what's Georgetown going to do to him? What’s UNLV going to do to him?" Georgia, had this guy, Patrick Hamilton, "What was he going to do to him?" Then there were all these other good defenders and you would wonder, "How is this all going to work out?" For the most part it didn't matter who was on him.
When he would get in game competition, he would get that feel, like an adrenaline. When he would get that look in his eye, it would go to a whole different level. So when they did try to put that elite defender on him or a Stacey Augmon on him, it didn't matter. It was like he would turn into Superman. The footwork that he had, to shoot with such balance and rhythm. If I would shoot with Chris straight up, I still wouldn’t be as good as him, but it would be close. But when you put him on the move, that’s when nobody is close.
I remember the first time I ever saw Chris Jackson. He walked into the bottom gym wearing blue jeans, takes the ball and he just makes it, makes it, makes it, makes it. Then he started to do it off the dribble. Then he dunks it like it's nothing and he's only 5’11”. I'm watching him and I'm supposed to be doing my work and I just stop and stare at it. It's been 10 or 15 minutes and he hadn't missed a shot. It was just bottom of the net, bottom of the net, bottom of the net.
When someone shoots it,... like you can tell between a pretend shooter and a real shooter. It looks different, how it rolls off their fingers different, the sound is different when the ball hits the net. I was just mesmerized watching him shoot. I was like, “This is incredible.”....
That whole thing saved the season. Coach Brown at Mahmoud's jersey retirement recently talked to us about that. We had lost Stanley Roberts, Vernel Singleton, etc.. CBS called Coach Brown and tried to get him to cancel the Georgetown game, they begged him. They said, “We don't want this game, it's a disaster. We can move it to next year. We'll do the same thing next year, we're not doing this game.” … Coach Brown said, “Nope we're playing. We will see you there.” …. Which is a Coach Brown story, that's what he always does.
Q - Can you tell us a little about Coach Brown?
Grant - When someone gives you an opportunity and a chance to do something that you want to do. I didn't have 100 different opportunities, Everyone needs an opportunity or a chance at some level, so I'm still very grateful for that.
Coach Brown would always create this 'US' versus the world mentality, and he takes the worse situation and turns it into sunshine. He’ll take the worse thing that's happening with the team and create the biggest opportunity out of it. Not only does he do it personally but he gets buy-in from the team on that. While I'm playing for Coach Brown, if I was inferior athletically to who I was playing against, I never thought that at the time. I knew what I had to do and what I couldn't do. He had you believe in yourself more than who you were actually.
He didn't beat you with X's and O's. Coach Brown, he just did basketball. He could have done a hundred different things and may have been better successfully at those if not equally successful. So I don't think he looked at the basketball X's and O's as much as the players. So he had to get the most out of his players, not that the X's and O's didn't matter. Like in the Georgetown game for example, His thing in these time outs in these pressure games, “Do you believe we’re gunna win!?” .. Makes you think, “Quit talking about that and draw up the play”... It sounds crazy, but he never really drew up plays. He would just say, “Here's what's going to happen now… We’re gunna do this, this, this and this, and this is what’s going to happen. This guy is going to miss a free throw, and here’s what we are gunna do.” … It was really weird stuff, right?
Then think about sports, you always end on a make? Coach Brown was big on that. Every practice ended in a positive outcome, everyone. It didn't matter how bad things were or how mad he was, practice never ended on time with us, It's when a good thing happened.
I'd like to share one more thing with you? When we went to Mahmoud’s celebration Coach Brown was talking to me, Richard Krajewski, and Wayne Sims actually. He said, “Look around. Look who’s in this room right now. You have every type of religion, every type of race, every type of financial level from high to medium income, to low. But in this room where we are, we are all the same. We all get along. We all respect each other for who they are.” …
That’s just the kind of stuff that Coach Brown has talked about for 30 years. I guess now at our age it means more because we understand it more now. All that drippy stuff, not that we used to laugh at it, but we were young and immature and we didn't understand the underlined meaning to all of that stuff.
Coach Brown's wife, she would just talk about how proud she is of all of the players. She said, “If we would have to do this all over again, I wouldn't trade anyone of our players for another player.” … meaning she wouldn’t trade Russell Grant for Michael Jordan.. Now I probably would have.. LOL.. The point is they are eternally grateful for the people that they've influenced and for the type of people that were around them. Just the way that Coach Brown goes about things,... It's refreshing and It's unique. I know Wayne Sims was talking about how all those things that he told us has impacted every single thing we have ever done. As you get older you just appreciate that stuff a lot more.
Q - Want to tell us a little about what you're doing now?
Grant - I've been in the automotive sector for 20-something years and I have a consulting business now where I help dealerships organize their marketing activity.
By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Tommy Banks was recruited to LSU by former head coach Gerry DiNardo. The bruising fullback from West Monroe became a four year starter lead blocking for running backs Kevin Faulk, Kendall Cleveland, and Rondell Mealey. Fans will always remember his seven yard scoring run against Florida, whiched helped LSU upset the #1 ranked Gators 28-21 in 1997. In his final game as a Tiger he would have a two touchdown performance in the 2000 Peach Bowl. Without a doubt, Tommy Banks will always be remembered as one of the greatest full backs to ever wear the purple and gold.
Q - What is your favorite TV Show?
Tommy - Scrubs
Q - Your Favorite Food?
Tommy - Steak
Q - You Favorite Pro Athlete?
Tommy - I'm a big Atlanta Braves fan so my All-Time would be Dale Murphy. Currently I'd have to say Freddie Freeman.
Q - Your Favorite Sports Team?
Tommy - LSU Tigers and the Atlanta Braves
Q - Who is your Favorite Music Artist?
Tommy - I really don't have a favorite artist. I kinda like genera of late 80s music, so any of those hair bands. I really can't name just one favorite band or artist. I really don't listen to much music these days.
Q - What's your Favorite Movie of All-Time?
Tommy - National Lampoon's Vacation
Q - Who is your Favorite Actor?
Tommy - Tom Cruise
Q - Did you grow up in West Monroe?
Tommy - Yes, lived in West Monroe up until I left to go to college.
Q - When you were a little boy, what did you want to grow up to be?
Tommy - I wanted to be either a professional athlete or a doctor. I'm not really sure when the doctor idea came into play. I guess it was a thing that was just always there, but yea, those were the two things that came to mind.
Q - Did you play multiple sports at West Monroe High School?
I did. I played baseball for four years, I played football for four years, and I did power lifting for three years.
Q - Want to share any of your personal or team success in high school athletics?
Tommy - Yeah, actually during the beginning of my freshman year I wasn't at West Monroe. I went to Ouachita Christian which is a private school here in Monroe. Then I transferred to West Monroe shortly after school started. At the time I wasn't playing football only baseball. But then Coach Shows doing what he does, convinced me to come out and play football. So in my freshman year was when West Monroe won the state championship for the first time ever. It was the deepest we have ever gone into the playoffs and it was a pretty big accomplishment that year.
Then in my senior year we won our second state championship. That was a pretty big accomplish given the reason that we lost 15 to 16 of our 22 starters off of the previous years team. We were only predicted to finish third or fourth in the district. Nobody really gave us a chance to really do anything but we won our first out right District title that year and winning the state championship. So that was a huge accomplishments there.
As far as baseball, we went to the state tournament every year. In my junior year we lost by one run in 13 Innings to Brother Martin in the state championship game, that ended up being a classic game. In my sophomore and senior year we made it to the semi-finals so we had a pretty good baseball program also.
Q - Tell us a little about how your recruiting process went?
Tommy - Recruiting back then was a lot different than it is now. We didn't have the internet or all of the five star rating stuff like that. I started to get some letters after my freshman year. Then it just kind of progressed over the next few years.
I was only really recruited in football. I think I could have went to some JUCO school to play baseball, but of course it's difficult to compare LSU for football to a junior college for baseball. So of course I was always going the football route. My only regret as far as recruiting, in my senior year I wanted to wait until the end of the season before I would go on any official visit. Well with us winning the state championship I didn't have many weeks to go on recruiting visits. So I only took two. One to Texas A&M and one to LSU. I wish I was able to take more. It would have been nice to see what some of the other school's campuses were like. But it was different back then, we really didn't commit early. Basically a lot of guys would commit a month or two before Signing Day. Totally different experience than it is now. I can remember when I went to one of LSU's camps they were having and I hadn't committed yet. The LSU recruiting coordinator back then asked me.. “Why haven't you committed yet? Every time I see you, you're wearing an LSU cap.” …They were just all surprised that I hadn't committed. I knew deep down LSU was always the place that I wanted to go. I just wanted to make sure that I took time to really weigh on the decision heavily, and finally I committed.
Q - So what really made you choose LSU over the others that recruited you?
Tommy - More of really just being from Louisiana. Usually if you're from Louisiana your favorite team is LSU. Actually when I was growing up, LSU wasn't my favorite team. It was actually North East which is ULM now. Basically it was because I lived in Monroe and that was back when they were in double-A and won a national championship. So I went to all those games while I was growing up because it was just a 15-minute drive. I just didn't know any difference because I was only ten years old. Of course the older I got, I started paying more attention to LSU. The only two recruiting trips I went on was to Texas A&M and LSU. Texas A&M has a great school and has a great campus. But being from Louisiana and knowing what Tiger Stadium was all about, that left pretty much no doubt that's where I was going to go.
Q - Can you tell us a little about Coach Gerry DiNardo?
Tommy - Yeah there are a lot of things that can be said about Gerry DiNardo. He was a great recruiter. I think right around the time that I was recruited they were just starting to rank recruiting classes and he had a top 10 class at that time.. He landed Cecil Collins, he brought in Kevin Faulk. He was a really really good recruiter. Actually he wasn't a bad coach. I just think a couple of years when I was there they had some things that happened. I just don't think he made right decisions on personnel and it cause a downward spiral that ended up costing him his job. As far as a man, I respect him. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about him as a person and neither as a coach. I think he just made a couple of bad decisions, which a lot of people do sometimes. But I haven't seen him since he left LSU. I know he did some coaching at other schools and I think maybe he was a commentator for a little while. But I haven't heard about where he is now. I wouldn't even know.
Q - How did you and the team handle the coaching change with Saban coming in as the new head coach?
Tommy - When they announced that he was the coach they held a team meeting. I didn't know about the meeting. I don't remember where I was. Back then everyone didn't have cell phones like we do now. So they just trying to let the word go out. But I wasn't at the very first meeting. I also heard it wasn't a very good meeting. He basically took a look at the team and said he didn't think we would be able to win any ball games just from looking at us. I think he did that just to try to get us going a little bit. He was one of those guys that makes you say, “What have we gotten into?”... but as the season went on by the end of the year you liked him a lot. It's kind of crazy now because he's like the devil here in Louisiana. But I still respect him as a coach and a person. When I hear the hate, I say, “ Yeah I get why you hate him..” … I still respect him and I still root for him when he's not playing LSU of course just because I know what kind of guy he is.
Q - Can you tell us about your favorite games or moments you've had as a LSU Tiger?
Tommy - Yes, of course I know the game that stands out the most is the ‘97 game against Florida, the big Sports Illustrated game. We had played a few games already and I remember the first SEC game was against Mississippi State at State and we won that game. I remember in the locker room after we had such a big celebration. I wasn't used to that. I wasn't used to a regular-season win causing that kind of celebration. That's when I started to realize how important every single game was in college football. In high school it's different. You could lose a couple of games during the regular season and still be fine after you get into the playoffs. When you're in college of course it's a lot different. Then that Florida game comes along and I remember I was warming up on the field, stretching before the game and Steve Spurrier was walking by only a couple of yards away from me and I just remember thinking, that's when I really realize that this is Big Time football. With us winning that game I'm sure he threw his visor a lot. That win was such a big moment.
Another big moment was my last game in the 2000 Peach Bowl. I ended up catching two touchdown passes and we ended up coming back to win that game. That game is also known for Rohan Davey making his appearance in the second half and leading the team to victory. So those were a couple of big moments during my freshman and Senior year. My sophomore and junior years are the kind of years that I’d like to forget about a little.
Q - When your career at LSU came to an end, did you try to move on and play in the NFL?
Tommy - Yes I signed a contract with the 49ers. I went out to camp a couple of times with them. Tom Rathman was their running backs coach at the time, and of course he's known as perhaps the best fullback in 49ers’ history. He was friends with our strength and conditioning coach Tommy Moffitt, who told me I had a good chance to make the team and be the backup fullback with the 49ers and get some playing time. So I went out to a couple of mini camps, then at one point while I was out there it finally hit me that my love for football wasn't there anymore. I've been playing since I was 5 years old and as far back as I could remember. I just didn't have that drive anymore and I knew that at that level you couldn't get by just on talent alone, you have to want to be out there. So I turned in my playbook. I left, came back and finished school and here I am today. However many years later and four kids later and now a family practice Doctor.
Q - Can you tell us a little about what you do now that your playing days are over?
Tommy - I had a couple of odd jobs after I completed college and decided that wasn't what I wanted to do.
My childhood goal of being a professional athlete, I had the opportunity but ended up turning it down.
So sure enough I had an opportunity to go to med school and ended up doing that and finished up. Did residency here in Monroe. Now I have a clinic in West Monroe, Family Practice Clinic. I'm seeing patients of all ages. I'm married, have four kids with one on the way. We are having our fifth child in November.
Q - Is there anything you would like to tell the LSU fans?
Tommy - It's been said time and time again by current and previous players that LSU fans are the greatest. There has never been a time that when I needed something, someone didn't step up. When I was in medical school I had some rotations down in Baton Rouge. I had a family down there that took me in and let me stay there. They were big LSU fans. They are all over the country. When I was in school I did some rotations in different parts of the country and there are LSU fans everywhere that would give you the shirt off of their back for you. Such a wonderful experience. Then they have the games in Tiger Stadium. You can't ask for anything better than that. It was an amazing experience. I've met a lot of amazing people and I'm proud to say that I'm a LSU Tiger.
By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Lionel Turner, a linebacker from Walker,LA played at LSU from 2001 to 2004. He started at middle linebacker his junior and senior season for arguable two of the best defenses in LSU history. During those two seasons the Tigers would go 23-3 including a national championship in 2003. Turner was called the hardest-hitting linebacker in the SEC by the Sporting News in its 2003 preseason college football issue. He would be named 2003 Honorable Mention ALL-SEC and 2004 First Team All-SEC.
Q - What is your Favorite TV Show?
Lionel - Family Fued
Q - Your Favorite Food?
Lionel - Bolied Crawfish
Q - Your Favorite Pro Athlete?
Lionel - Russell Wilson
Q - Which Sports Team is your Favorite?
Lionel - Pittsburgh Steelers
Q - Who is your Favorite Music Artist?
Lionel - I listen to a lot of Zydeco Music. So I love Little Nate and Chris Ardoin.
Q - What is your Favorite Movie?
Lionel - Harlem Nights
Q - Who is your Favorite Actor?
Lionel - Denzel Washington
Q - Did you grow up in Walker?
Lionel - Yes, I was born and raised in Walker. Until I went to LSU, I had always lived in Walker.
Q - When you were a little boy what did you want to be when you grew up?
Lionel - Believe it or not, I wanted to be a baseball player. Baseball was actually the first sport I ever played.
Q - Did you play multiple sports at Walker High School?
Lionel - Yes, I played basketball and football.
Q - Tell us a little about your recruiting process?
Lionel - Pretty much all of the SEC schools were recruiting me. I actually committed to LSU when Gerry DiNardo was the coach, but when he got fired, I kind of opened things back up. Nick Saban actually spoke with me when he was the head coach at Michigan State, but I told him no because that was too far from home. But when LSU hired Coach Saban, Walker High was the second school he visited to recruit and to recruit me.
Q - Can you tell us a little about Nick Saban?
Lionel - We use to always say that he was like a drill sergeant. He was so hard on us, but as time would go by we would begin to realize why he was like that and it was to always to get the best out of each of us. He wouldn't stop pushing us until he had our best.
Q - Can you share any favorite games or memories that you have from being a LSU Tiger?
Lionel - Got to say the best memory was the 2003 SEC Championship game and the National Championship game that season.
Q - What was it like winning the national championship in 2003?
Lionel - It was an incredible feeling. Winning the SEC Championship and winning the National Championship is always your main goal at the beginning of a season and for us to reach and complete those goals was simply incredible. The last few seconds of the game felt like a life time to run down. It felt like it would never come. When it finally got to all zeros on the clock it was like a sight of relief. It was like... "Yes, We finally did it!"... All the hard work and dedication finally payed off.
Q - Your final season at LSU was in 2004, can you tell us about your NFL experience?
Lionel - At the end of that season Coach Saban left LSU to go coach the Miami Dolphins and I actually signed a free agent contract with Miami. A couple of other former players ended up joining me down there with him. When it was all said and done I didn't make the roster cut. I figured that I had pursued my dream of making it this far and felt like my body could only take so much. Your mind tells you one thing but your body tells you something else. I had played football since I was five-six years old and simply decided enough was enough.
Q - So could you tell us a little about what you're doing now?
Lionel - I work for MMR Group. It's a big electrical and instrumentation company. We work in a lot of plants, places like that. I work at the main headquarters in Baton Rouge. I've been there since I finished my football career, so it's been like 14-15 years.
Q - Is there anything you want to tell the LSU fans?
Lionel - Geaux Tigers!!!
By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Today's Q & A Session is with former LSU quarterback Josh Booty. He grew up in Shreveport, LA and played football, baseball, and basketball at Evangel Christian Academy.
As quarterback for the football team, he threw for 11,700 yards and 126 touchdowns, becoming the first high school player in history to throw for more than 10,000 yards, (despite missing four games of his senior year because of a broken hand). Booty was named the USA Today Offensive Player of the Year and was named the National High School Player of the Year by at least six associations, including Parade and the Football News.
As a shortstop for the baseball team, he was a four-time All-State choice at shortstop. As a senior, he batted .429 with 20 intentional walks, 25 stolen bases, and 12 home runs in 70 at bats. He was the starting shortstop for the U.S. Junior Olympic National Team that won the silver medal. He was a USA Today All-American shortstop. Booty won a silver medal in the 1993 U.S. Olympic Festival. He was the 5th pick overall in the 1994 MLB draft by the Florida Marlins. Highly recruited by major college football programs from across the country, he would sign to play football and baseball at LSU. However, once the MLB draft happened, Booty decided to sign with the Marlins for a then-record $1.6 million signing bonus.
After five seasons playing baseball, (which included winning the World Series with the Marlins), Booty began to miss football and decided to fulfill his dream of playing in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night.
He would play for LSU for two seasons before moving on to play for both Seattle, Cleveland, and Oakland in the NFL. Booty would then retire in 2007.
Q - What is your Favorite TV Show?
Josh - Peaky Blinders
Q - What is your Favorite Food?
Josh - Boiled Crawfish
Q - Favorite Pro Athlete?
Josh - Tiger Woods
Q - Your Favorite Music Artist?
Josh - That's a tough one.. I'd have to say, George Straight
Q - Your Favorite Movie?
Josh - All of the Indiana Jones movies
Q - Who is your Favorite Actor?
Josh - Harrison Ford
Q - Your Favorite Sports Team?
Josh - The Los Angeles Lakers when I was growing up and I've loved following the New England Patriots through the past few years with Belichick and Brady. Ever since I played against those guys in the NFL and watched how they did it. They were like a well-oiled machine. I just admire how they do things.
Q - I see you were born in Starkville, Mississippi? How long did you live there and when did you move to Shreveport?
Josh - Yes, my dad was a quarterback at Mississippi State. He was finishing up there when I was born. When I was in 2nd grade we moved back to Shreveport where they grew up. Both my mom and dad went to Woodlawn High School in Shreveport. That's where Terry Bradshaw, Joe Ferguson, and Robert Parrish went. My dad graduated with Robert Parrish. My dad was an All-State, All-American quarterback. He had signed with Arkansas and then transferred to Mississippi State after his freshman year. While I'd Arkansas they lost their entire coaching staff to the NFL. The new staff wanted to run the football and installed the wishbone. My dad was a passing quarterback and wanted to go somewhere where they threw the football, so he transferred out.
But yes, until I graduated high school and signed to play pro baseball when I was 18 or 19, I lived in Shreveport the entire time.
Q - When you were a little boy what did you want to be when you grew up?
Josh - I wanted to grow up to be John Elway.. He played both football and baseball. Two sports athletes were always my favorite, like Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson, and John Elway.
Q - We know that you played football and baseball in high school. Did you play any other sport?
Josh - I played basketball. I was the starting point guard during my freshman and sophomore year on the high school team. In my junior year I quit playing basketball. My dad wanted me to focus mainly on football and baseball. He just thought that was the smartest thing to do.
Q - Tell us how it felt to be a part of helping build and playing for a school with such a winning program?
Josh - My senior year was the first state championship that Evangel ever won. My freshman year we didn't make the playoffs. Sophomore and junior year we won District and made it to the quarterfinals where we lost to Oak Grove both years. Oak Grove went on to win the title both of those years in “1A”. They were a very strong football team.
The deal was we were doing it different. We were throwing the football. We were in a 9-yard deep shotgun. We were running no-huddle, with four and five wide receiver sets. That's why we broke State and National records and started to get a lot of publicity. While everyone else was running it in the early 90s like Haynesville, Oak Grove, and West Monroe, we were throwing it and no one could cover us. We just started to break all kind of records.
We were doing stuff that no one else had ever done. That's what put Evangel on the map. Kids started watching how we played and fell in love with how we were getting everyone the ball and everybody was in the paper. There was a lot of media hype around what I was able to accomplish. To be honest with you, with all that stuff going on and with me being the number one recruit in the Country, people started noticing Evangel. We definitely put them on the map.
Q - With all of the success Evangel was having with football, I'm guessing baseball was working out the same way?
Josh - Yea, it was good. Not as many people get into High School baseball the way they do with football. I had a great High School coach and we were good. Personally I enjoyed baseball more than football until my senior year just because we probably had more success. We were always in the playoffs and I was All-State for 4 years in a row at shortstop, which I was loving. For me that was really cool to be All-State every year as a high school player. I got to play a lot early at Evangel because the school was so new and I was the guy. I was the shortstop and the quarterback, so I would get all the reps. So I had four years of football and four years of baseball. Not many kids get to start in both sports for four years. I was very fortunate.
Q - I see that you were a part of a Junior Olympics Baseball Team. How did you get involved with that?
Josh - After my junior year I got invited to participate in the Junior Olympics. During the odd number years, when the Olympics aren't happening, they hold the Junior Olympics.
They call it the Olympic Festival. Everyone competes in Olympic style games. So I played in the Olympics Festival. It’s broken down by North, South, East, and West. I made the USA team based on that Olympic Festival.
Then we went and played the World Games which is basically played all over the globe. We played China, Australia, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Dominican Republic. So we really got to travel and play. We got beat by Cuba in the gold-medal game.
It's a funny story but we had seven first round draft picks on our USA team as seniors in high school. Alex Rodriguez batting third, I batted fourth. We had gone undefeated until Cuba beat us 4-1 in that final game for the gold medal in Canada. The pitcher for Cuba ended up being my teammate a year later with the Marlins. Livan Hernandez. He struck out 17 of us. Paul Konerko hit a solo home run (of course he hit 500 homers in the Big Leagues), Paul was batting fifth in the lineup and that solo home run was the only hit that Hernandez gave up that day in the game. It was a nasty. Three years later he was the MVP of the World Series against the Indians. So we didn't feel so bad after that.
Q - What was your recruiting process like?
Josh - I took my 5 official visits and I narrowed them down in my mind. These places were good baseball and good football schools at a high level. Like LSU baseball was at the very top, Skip Bertman, national championships. I waned to play short stop at LSU.
Todd Walker was like a big brother to me. He was LSU's second baseman at the time and he grew up in my area and he and I became very close. His grandparents lived right across the street from us, I grew up with Todd, watching Todd, playing with him or against him. He was a couple of years older than me but he had so much success early at LSU it made me want to go and play baseball at Alex Box.
Skip Bertman was so amazing to me in his recruiting process. He would tell me, “Whatever you want, full scholarship, shortstop, freshman year, you're here you're our guy.” I did take five visits. I went to Miami when Dennis Erickson was there. I went to Stanford when Bill Walsh was there. I went to Texas, Gustafson was there on the baseball side and John Mackovic was there on the football side. Then I went to Mississippi State to visit with good friends Jackie Sherrill and Ron Polk. So those were my top five.
So I signed on a football scholarship and was going to play baseball as well and I did that during my senior year of football before baseball really even started. So I was going to LSU before my spring baseball even started which was a plus so I can get that out of the way and focus on football so I could have a great season and try to get drafted high. Then make a decision on whether to go pro or go to college.
Q - Where were you when you heard that the Marlins' drafted you 5th overall?
Josh - I was at my house. My agent Jeff Moorad, who is the super agent. Leigh Steinberg and Jeff Moorad, they are super famous. The movie Jerry McQuire is based on Leigh. So these guys were the top guys. They had Will Clark they had Matt Williams they had Manny Ramirez. They had Troy Aikman, Steve Young. They have all these guys. They were the top agents in the world. So I've decided to go with them because they had both baseball and football clients. It felt like a good fit and Moorad the baseball guy became like a big brother to me and he said, “We can get you positioned with the Marlins at five because they are a new franchise and they have Wayne Hysinga, their late owner who was a very very wealthy businessman. He started Blockbuster, Waste Management, and Virgin Records. So we knew if I got drafted fifth they would pay me more than the teams who are drafting before them. I said to myself if I can get the record then I would go. Moorad said that he thinks he could get that from Florida, but I would have to sign a no-football clause in my contract. I said, “Well if they'll sign me for more money/signing bonus then anyone has ever signed for in the history of the draft, then I'll go.“ I probably could have gone maybe in the top 4 to a smaller market ball club, but Moorad said that I wasn't going to sign and would go to LSU to play football if I didn't get signed to the biggest contract ever. That's how that all happened.
So I ended up with the Marlins at five, but I knew I was going to get picked by them. I had a real good feeling when they told me that they were going to draft me at five and we will pay you what you want.
Q - Please tell us about your history with the Marlins and why you decided to leave to play football for LSU?
Josh - Yeah that's a long story but I'll keep it quick. It was for four years. I did the single A, double A, triple A, the big leagues. I had call ups in my contract which was nice.
So I was in the big leagues at age 20. I was on the 1997 World Series team as a bench player and got a ring.
In 1998 I started on opening day at third base for Jim Leyland. I got hurt about a month into the season and got sent down to Triple-A. I struggled like crazy trying to hit the curve ball. All during that time I played great defense and was named ‘Minor League Defensive Player of the Year’ but struck out a ton. I was a home run hitter. I was all or nothing. I wanted to be back in the Big Leagues and didn't like the Minors.
I began to miss football and my brother Abram was at LSU. Quick story, in 1997 we won the World Series. A week later I leave Miami and drive to Baton Rouge to watch LSU upset #1 Florida in the game that the goal post came down. Abram had over a hundred yards receiving in the game against Spurrier and that defense that Florida had. I said, "This is better than the World Series. This is insane in Tiger Stadium.” … I just felt like I had to come back and play. I wanted it so badly. I wanted to play with my brother. I missed Louisiana and I missed football.
So the Marlins took me off the 40 at the end of ‘98 and told me I would start in Triple-A again. I told them “no” that I was going back to play football. So Moorad helped get me out of my contract for a Triple A salary.
I was ready to go back and play football to see if I liked it. I told myself I was going to take it one year at a time to see if I liked it. The first year I went back to LSU Gerry Dinardo was the head coach, Bob McConnell was the offensive coordinator, and Lou Tepper was the defensive coordinator. It was a struggle of a lifetime But it was fun just getting back into football.
Q - Can you tell us a little bit about Coach DiNardo?
Josh - I like the DiNardo as a person. I thought that because we struggled and I had come in and there was a lot of hype around my situation. To be honest with you, he wasn't real sure how to handle it. We had other quarterbacks on the roster. I think the fans really wanted me to play. Tough situation for him with me being out for four years. My football background was shotgun, four and five wide outs, no huddle.
At LSU they would line up in I-formation, have double tight ends, had me under center. Run, run, play action, it just wasn't my game. It was very tough for me to adjust to that style of football. It just wasn't what I grew up doing.
Tim Couch had the same situation. Tim is a great friend of mine. We played in the NFL together in Cleveland. Well Tim played at Kentucky and they had a run first team. That coach got fired and Kentucky hired Hal Mumme which lead to Tim Couch becoming the first pick in the NFL draft, because they went with four and five wide outs, shotgun with a wide-open passing offense. Hal Mumme’s Air Raid Attack.
You're only as good as your system, your coaching, and the players that you have around you. There was nothing I could really do to be honest with you, other than just try to make plays out of nothing. We just didn't have much going on and like I said it was the biggest struggle ever. It was a struggle, but man, it was a fun struggle. It will make you tough. It made me tough.
Q - How did you and the team handle the coaching change after DiNardo was fired and LSU brought in Nick Saban?
Josh - We actually were all happy. We just struggled so much and we knew that are coaching staff wasn't as good as it should be. We never felt prepared to be honest with you. We worked hard but not smart, like not watching game film. We really needed an upgrade. I felt like we needed a coaching upgrade and I feel like everyone on the team felt the same way. We just needed to bring it into the new Century.
Then Chancellor Emmert who is now head of the NCAA said that LSU was going to hire Nick Saban. We knew Nick was coming from Michigan State. He brought in Jimbo Fisher which was huge for me because Jimbo liked to toss it around a little more. He would get me in the shotgun more with three wides and two backs, we did a lot of that. He would utilize the tight end more in the passing game. Robert Royal was my tight end who really stepped his game up. Josh Reed, I talked him into playing wide receiver which was huge because he was a running back who wasn't getting any playing time and he blew up and won the Biletnikoff Award.
Then Saban started recruiting Devery Henderson, Corey Webster, Bradie James, Trev Faulk, guys who could really play. They were all young but we had talent now. Jimbo would call plays that would give us a fighting chance. We still struggle that times, but we ended up 8-3. There was some tough games in there for me like the UAB game. We did beat Alabama at home that year for the first time in like 28 years, that was big. We ended up running off five straight SEC games in a row.
My last game that year was in the Peach Bowl. It was tough because we had a real rough first half. I was sacked a bunch. Then Saban pulled me and put in Rohan Davey. Rohan had a good second half and we ended up winning the game. Jimbo started calling quick throws so the sacks would stop happening. Josh Reed went off on a couple of real nice plays, taking one quick slant to the house. We really looked good. That was kind of the end of it for me at LSU because I was 25 years old at that point, so I felt it was just time to see if I could go to the NFL at that point. I just felt like I didn’t want to be in college another year at 26 years old.
Q - Can you tell us a little about Coach Saban?
Josh - He was military. He was by the book. No nonsense. He had a personality one-on-one you could talk to him and really engaged in a back and forth conversation. I really never had that with Gerry DiNardo. With Saban it seemed like there was a lot more that was factual, he would just tell you like it is. Gerry was not a bad dude at all, he just got overwhelmed that last year. We were so bad that I just didn't get to spend a lot of time with him. With Saban it seemed like we were game planning. We were really game planning. We would all sit, order pizza, watch game film. He understood how to coach us. It was like, now we're getting somewhere. Now we were watching film on a different level and actually learning from watching film. We really didn't watch film with DiNardo, we just didn't spend a lot of time watching film. Jimbo would come in there and teach the reads and who we were playing and what they were good at and what they were bad at. Basic one-on-one probably, we just hadn't had any of that. So basically we got our upgrade. Boy were we happy. The biggest thing that ever happened to LSU was when Chancellor Emmert brought Nick Saban in when I was there. It gave LSU the opportunity to have a real good football program. Saban hired well. He built the facilities. He recruited his butt off. Now fast forward it 20 years and the second biggest thing that ever happened at LSU was opening up the offense so our athletes could make plays in space like they did last year. It all Dominoed off of Saban. He helped put LSU back on the map.
Q - Can you tell us about any favorite game or moment that you had as a LSU football player?
Josh - It was just seeing us going from being poor as a team to really having some life and some energy around the program.
Tommy Moffitt was another huge piece of LSU's success over all of these years having him there with his strength and conditioning program. I show me took pride in all that stuff. I knew they had to make big steps and they did.
Saban and Jimbo were awesome. just seeing everything start to transform right before my eyes. I knew I wasn't going to be on a national championship team or the really good that was going to come out of it, but just seeing it going from whatever it was to a business-like approach. It just simply had to happen.
Q - So you decide to enter the NFL draft. Could you tell us how that process happened for you?
Josh - Mike Holmgren drafted me in the sixth round. I really thought I was going to go in the third round. Jerry Jones had called me the night before and told me they were going to draft me in the third round. Then as I was watching they drafted Quincy Carter out of Georgia actually, so then I knew I wasn’t going to Dallas in the third.
I just kind of trickled down and ended up getting drafted in the six round. It was tough to swallow really, but I did get drafted. I had been drafted high in baseball so I have seen both. I’ve seen getting draft really early and then having to wait around and get drafted late, so I can relate to everyone who has ever been drafted.
It was tough sitting around, but it was cool because Seattle had a great group of guys. I went through camp with Matt Hasselbeck and Trent Dilfer and Seattle had a great franchise.
I ended up getting picked up by Cleveland off of the Seattle practice squad. I was with the Browns for two and a half years with Butch Davis, we have a great staff. In 2002 was the last time Cleveland had been to the playoffs and that happened during my second season there.
A couple of years later I went to camp with the Raiders the year JaMarcus got drafted and Al Davis was still alive, which was cool. I was backing up there in camp and got released two weeks before the season started because JaMarcus really wasn't ready to play and Al Davis freaked out and wanted to bring in Daunte Culpepper. So Daunte came in, they released me and that was the end of my football career. I enjoyed my time in the NFL.
At that point I went and worked with my agent some. My brother was playing at USC, so I was staying around football. Then he made it to the NFL for a couple of years backing up, so I watched him a little bit. Then my dad was coaching at Calvary so I spent some time there.
I won a sports reality show on the MLB Network called "The Next Knuckler". So four years ago I got back into baseball and went to spring training with the Arizona Diamondbacks, that was fun. Then after that I got into business and said I was just going to do media, TV, Radio. I have my own podcast out of Los Angeles, then I have my own LSU shows in the fall. I have one in Shreveport. I do one in Baton Rouge. I do segments all over the Country. I've done Finebaum four or five times during football season. I just freelance a ton, I do it for fun. I have also started a consulting company. So that's what I do now.
Q - Is there anything that you want to tell the LSU fans?
Josh - I love LSU and follow them like crazy. I have twin sons who are going to be freshman at Evangel where I went to high school. They play football. One is a quarterback the other is a receiver and they are really good, so maybe one day they will play together at LSU like my brother and I did. I love the culture, I love the season that we had last year. It's fun to watch I'm glad LSU went with that passing game because it's just so much fun to watch. I wish they would have done that 20 years ago.
By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Today's Q & A Session is with former softball great, Constance Quinn. Before Quinn made her way to LSU, She grew up in Oak Grove, Mississippi and excelled in basketball and softball at Oak Grove High School.
She became a starter on her high school softball team as a 7th grader and went on to earn All-State honors during the 2010, 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Quinn batted .447 with eight home runs and 30 RBIs as a senior, as she helped her team win the 2013 6A championship where Quinn scored the game-winning run.
She was a nominee for Mississippi’s Gatorade Player of the Year award.
Constance also played travel ball with the Louisiana VooDoo.
Q - What is your favorite color?
Quinn - Purple
Q - Favorite Food?
Quinn - Steak and Potato
Q - Favorite Pro Athlete?
Quinn - Bo Jackson
Q - Favorite Music Artist?
Quinn - Growing up was Kirk Franklin, he's a Gospel Artist. Now,... I don't have a favorite artist now, ... but I love to listen to Instrumental Core Music.
Q - Favorite Movie?
Quinn - Troy
Q - Favorite Actor?
Quinn - Denzel Washington
Q - Favorite Pro Team?
Quinn - Real Madrid in Soccer and the New Orleans Saints
Q - Did you grow up in the Oak Grove, Mississippi area?
Quinn - Yes. Lived and grew up there. I actually went to PCS (Presbyterian Christian School) from Kindergarten and 1st grade. Then from 2nd grade until I graduated, I went to the Oak Grove schools.
Q - When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Quinn - I actually wanted to be a doctor for awhile, and then some where along the line that changed.
I got really into architect engineering. I began to love the structure of buildings. Inside, outside, the interior, exterior design. From that point on I would tell myself that I want to really get into that when I get older.
I loved to draw. So I would draw what I would want my house to look like and different things. My parents had these architect magazines in the house so I look at them and draw different things from the pages that I liked, and say, "I'm going to have that in my house one day." It's still something that I would want to get into if I would have the chance.
Q - When you attended Oak Grove High School did you play multiple sports?
Quinn - I did. I played basketball and softball.
Q - Please tell us about your accomplishments in high school sports....
Quinn - Well basketball I was a starter on the varsity team as a 9th grader. It was very interesting. Because, of course in any sports you have your ups and downs.
I learned a lot from the players that were on the team, because I was the baby. They kinda took me under their wing, each and every one of them, which was really cool. They accepted someone young coming in.
I made great relationships and friendships with each and everyone of them and still to this day have great times. I learned a lot about leadership and what it meant to step up on a bigger platform. So to me that's where it started.
Understanding that it doesn't matter how old you are or what grade your in, you can still be a leader. It just depends on how hard you want to work. So, that's where it started.
Then of course there was softball which has always been a passion of mine. In softball we won the State Championship my senior year.
Didn't win one in basketball. I believe we got close. In my sophomore year we made it to the second round and got put out by Jim Hill HS. I believe the next two seasons were kinda the same thing.
But we still got that ring for softball. I guess I walked off kinda satisfied, but at least I got a ring from somewhere. So that was pretty much my career at Oak Grove.
Q - From what I understand, you scored the winning run in that state championship game?
Quinn - Yea. That was crazy.. So I was on 3rd base. Kalyn Watts was up to bat.
We had this thing that we would squeeze. The coach wouldn't call it. We just had this thing, that we would look at each other.
She knew she was going to put the bunt down, I trusted that she was going to put the bunt down and I was just taking off on the pitch.
At that point we knew we needed the run and we had done it before so many times in other games. So when we got to that opportunity.
So the pitch went, she laid the bunt down and it was just crazy. It was a great moment.
Q - Tell us a little about your high school coaches and how they influenced you during your athletic career....
Quinn - Yes. I'll start with softball. My coach's name was Gary Ivy. He is actually no longer at Oak Grove. He retired a couple of years ago.
When I was in 7th grade, I was playing varsity starting at short stop.
He was so laid back. A very chilled guy. Not much talk to him. But what I loved about him was that he allowed us to play.
It's not that it wasn't structured. He would put us together when we needed that. But as far as just allowing us to play the game that we all loved, he gave us that opportunity.
That's something that most coaches don't give. They are so about mechanic sound and the technique, which it is. Any sport that you play is about technique and mechanics, but a lot of coaches want their team to look a certain way when they swing the bat or field the ball, and of course that's understandable.
But he was never like that. That's what I loved about him was that he allowed us to go out there and, it's what I like to call it,... just go out there like sandlot and just play ball.
It can get exhausting, it can get tiresome, and it can get old very quickly. I think that a lot of us that are not longer playing the game or playing at a professional level, .. and we try to tell kids whether we are training them or at camps or clinics, we try to tell them to keep the level game theirs as much as you can.
We try to tell everyone, you can be so talented, but if you don't love the game anymore, then that's when you're done.
So for him, at my age, as a teenager, and going into college, for him to give me the opportunity at a young age to play at that level and to play like it's travel ball. Like you have six games that day. Play like it's forever. That meant a lot, and I carry that with me when I went on to LSU. That's pretty much it for Coach Ivy.
Now on to Mark Swindle my coach at Oak Grove in basketball. He is currently still there. He's on his 10th or 11th season. He came in actually during my sophomore year.
My freshman year I had a different coach. Her name was Crisla Herchenhahn. So I want to tell you a little about her before I get back to Coach Swindle.
She came in when I was a 9th grader and was a tough coach. If you talk back to her, or you had an attitude, or you didn't want to hustle or give effort that day then she was going to kick you out of the gym. That was one of many things that I loved about her was that she meant business and she meant what she said. No drama. You might not of liked her, but you were going to respect her because she stood by her word. That made me want to fight for her that much more.
One day during school practice, she told me that she was going to start putting me in some varsity games, so she needed me to start coming to after school practices. After school practices were for the varsity players.
Our point guard was pretty cool. She took me under her wing, she was a senior. Which is very rare. You never see that. She was a senior competing for a spot with a freshman. A lot of people would take that personally. Wouldn't try to help you. She wasn't like that at all. I had no clue what these plays were. She told me that I'd do good and to not worry about it. Just giving me advice and trying to help me calm down. So when I mention that the girls took me under their wings, treated me like they were my big sisters type of role. That blew my mind. So from that point forward what it did for me was I carried that same mentality as I progressed on in my career and throughout sports.
If I'm ever given the opportunity to help someone, even if they are competing with me for the same position. I'm going to help them, regardless.
So whoever the coach puts out there at the end of the day, you have to trust in her starting lineup and you want to win. So you're going to cheer on. At the end of the day you're competing for a spot and challenging each other, but when it's all said and done and that line up is called out, it's best man win.
So she put that mentality there and gave me that encouragement without even saying it. She just lead by example. So that's how that began.
We called her Coach H. She was often tough. Very much about discipline and that's when it started for me at that level. It was, don't show up for practices late or you will run and you will regret it. You better have a better excuse then 'I have school work or a doctor's excuse',..that kinda thing.
She was a hard working coach and actually before I even got to LSU I said, This is one of the hardest working coaches that I've ever been around.
Now about Coach Swindle. There is one thing about him is that he knows the game of basketball very well. He has played it. He has also coached on the college level.
But with him coming in during the coaches change between my freshman year and sophomore year, coming in he was very different from Coach H.
He wasn't discipline. If someone talked back, like I said, if you talk back to Coach H you were going to get kicked out. If you kinda talked back to him, he just kinda took it and that just blew my mind.
It was kinda like that show, 'Wife Swap'. It was kinda like that. I was like, "Oh my gosh." I'm not use to this. It's like at first you have a mom or dad that's discipline and then you swap out and you have a totally different type of personality. That's just how it was.
What I liked about him was, he never had that giving up mentality. He always had a great attitude. And of course he was a coach. That's your job, but a lot of coaches can make it about money and just get the check and just be like, ... ' okay girls, here we go. Let's go." ... But he was really about all getting better.
One thing I know about playing for him for three years, and actually this past season was an assistant coach under him for the girls team. One thing that has never changed about him, he still is the same way is, he loves working on plays. I never understood it when I played for him. I never understood it.
At practice I was like, "Why do we keep working on plays? Why can't we work on skills and things." Really what that taught me now that I'm on the other side of it, looking at it from a different perspective, it taught me that it was another way of discipline in the game of basketball. Anytime that something breaks down, you always have other plays to run.
It was also about reading defense and reading different players in a shift. It's very similar to football in that way. But that was something that I learned from him throughout those years and made more sense of it as I began to see him from a different side.
But he was very discipline and very structured when it came to plays and then learning the game of basketball. Your IQ and how to play the game and how to read things.
Another thing I loved about him was that he would actually step out there and run the plays and show us different things. It was kinda cool at what he say, that we didn't. To have that connection with your coach, especially at point guard. You see what he sees. It's just like a quarterback and a head coach in football, they have to see the same thing.
I really had some great experiences with each one of those coaches. They all taught me something that I took with me to the next level and really just giving me an opportunity at a young age. That just shows their trust in me, despite of what I had to bring and what I had to offer the team. They saw something in me that I obviously didn't see at that age and in the end in was the preparation that I needed to learn to get to the next level.
Q - Tell us a little about your recruiting process...
Quinn - I was recruited very young. Actually, Yvette Girouard was the head coach at LSU at the time.
At the time I was playing for a team called New Orleans Voodoo. I played with them from when I was 14 years old until I graduated from high school. So it was like four seasons. I'll never forget this. At the time I was playing for a team out of Mississippi called the Mississippi Elite, and we played the Voodoo in a tournament. They wiped us, like 13-1. I actually scored our only run. I got one first. Stole second. Stole third. Then stole home.
So after the game the Voodoo coach, his name was Jeff Burns. He found my parents and talked to my parents about me playing for them. So he invited us to a team get-together scheduled for the next weekend. He said, "Come on down and visit and lets see if she has any interest in joining our team." ...
My parents told me about it and I was a little bit hesitant about it at first, but I went along with it. They were telling me that this was a great opportunity that could help me get to the next level.
At the time what I was beginning to understand was that in order to play at the next level, and not just any division one school, but the schools that go to the World Series and to even have that chance, you have to go to them. You have to play in tournaments in Texas, Florida, Colorado, those type of things. The New Orleans Voodoo actually traveled to tournaments like that at the time.
So my parents were explaining that to me on the ride there. When we got there, the first thing they said was, "Hello Constance, It's very good to meet you. What school do you want to go to?" .. At the time I was the 7th grade. They asked, "What school do you want to go to?" I said, LSU. Then they said, "I tell you what, if you join this team, we can get you seen, and you will go to LSU." When he told me that I was like, "okay!".. So we walked in the house and I met the team.
After the visit, my parents asked me what did I think? I said, "Yes, I want to play here." ... So from that point, I started to play with the Voodoo. They kept their word. They did just that. We actually ended up going to Colorado in a big tournament out there. That's when LSU saw me and ever since would come out and watch me.
My next year in 8th grade, I was given a visit to LSU. Went on the visit, and they asked me, "Is this where you want to be?" and I said "Yes.".. So I verbally committed to LSU in the 8th grade. That was one of the longest waits of my life, was from 8th grade all the way to graduation. But that's how it got started.
Q - What made LSU so special to you that made you decided at such a young age that this is the school I want to attend and play ball at?
Quinn - When I was really young I had a Uncle who was a huge LSU fan. He and my Aunt lived in New Orleans. So every weekend we would travel down there.
New Orleans is like a second home. My mom has sibling who live there. So every Saturday we would go there to visit and he would have a LSU football game on.
I was young, but I would see him get so into it, like so passionate about it, and you were watching the fans on TV go crazy. I was like, "What is it about this school?" So I'm watching the players and I'll never forget a player beat on his chest. He made a sack of something and he started to beat on his chest and it gave me goose bumps. I was like that's the coolest thing I've ever seen. Of course, everyone does that. But there was something about the way that he did it and how electric the stadium got, and how pumped up my Uncle was watching it. I'll never forget that.
From that day forward I did my research looking into LSU and what it was and the traditions of it. There has to be something that people are so passionate about that made them go that crazy over LSU and why those guys on the LSU teams play the way they play. Because you weren't getting paid. You were playing on a scholarship.
But it had to be something because I had never seen such passion on a field like that. So at a young age that's how it started and ever since I became a LSU fan. That was something that my uncle and I shared. So every weekend, we would watch LSU football. It came to a point that I started to listen to them on the radio and follow them throughout the season. When they were playing, I had it on, watching.
I was five years old and I was at my grandmother's house. At that time I knew nothing about softball. I was playing baseball. I played baseball from the age of three, all the way until I was ten, and then went to softball. So at five years old, I didn't even know that softball existed.
So I turn the TV on and the first thing that was on was LSU softball. I remember it was Emily Turner pitching and Leslie Klein catching. I remember that because she struck someone out, and Turner and Klein both got pumped and they started beating on their chest and I was like, "There it is again.. What is that beating on the chest thing?.." ....I remember that moment, I was so tuned in to the TV.
Look, I'm a firm believer in God and Christ. I believe that we have a calling, that we have a purpose. I believe that he places visions in our lives so that we understand what we are called to do.
For some people it's visions. For some people it's talking. It's different things. It just depends on your relationship. But at that age God gave me certain visions. He allowed me to see what it was really like to be passionate about LSU.
As I was watching LSU softball playing on TV, it was the weirdest thing, I literally saw myself in the jersey. From that day forward I would always tell my mom and dad that I was going to play for LSU.
It's not that they didn't believe me. They didn't understand how it worked. Just like me, lacked the understanding of how the recruiting process was. So, how does this happen? You're from Mississippi. They don't come out here to watch, it's not like that with softball from what they knew.
For some reason though, what they were saying was going in one ear and out the other. I was so caught up in that I was going to play for LSU. I saw it, I felt it, I believed it. That's all I needed. So from that point forward I understood at a young age that that was nothing but God placing a vision in me. For me to understand what my calling was. What my purpose was. From there, it was all about working and staying focused. LSU was the goal.
Q - During your senior in high school, LSU had a coaching change. Coach Girouard would retire and Coach Beth Torina would finally get the Head Coaching position. Did that change affect you in any way?
Quinn - That whole process was crazy. After Coach Yvette stepped down and retired. Then it was actually Pat Murphy who was going to come in and take the job next. He stayed here for like a day, then went back to Alabama.
Then is was announced that Beth Torina was going to be the coach. I really didn't know much about her, so I looked her up. I saw that she had a background. That she had the skill set to take us to the next level. She played at an SEC school so she knows what it's like to compete in the conference. She had been a coach for many years and has also coached at the professional level. So I'm looking at all this and I see she has what it takes to take us to the next level. I firmly believed that.
A big thing I was worried about was if I was going to get my scholarship taken away. I didn't now if she had the power to take that away. I didn't know how that worked. So that was really my concern.
I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. So with a coaching change that was God moving in a way that we just didn't understand.
I was kinda prepared for the way that she was as a coach, because of Coach H and different things with Coach Swindle and Coach Ivy. But she was tough. I'm going to be honest, besides my mom, she is one of the most savage women I have ever met in my life. I want to tell you that's one of the reasons why I wanted to play for her and continue to play for her.
She is one of the hardest working coaches I've ever played for. She is so courageous, her strength and her mentality is just about going and getting it. Regardless of what circumstances she might be facing. Challenges and obstacles that are in the way, she is going at 100. Not in a way of 100 not thinking. It's like 100 knowing her next move.
She is very strategic and I love it, because she always had a plan. No matter what happened she always had a plan. She had a plan A, She would have a plan B, and she definitely would have a plan C. That was so cool about it. When you go to war for someone you know they're a leader. She's a leader.
As a coach, you want to trust in someone and fight for someone that has a plan. That's why I like that movie Troy. You always need a plan when you go into battle. They had a plan with that horse. They built that horse, and that was such a strategic plan of attack and that's kinda how she was. She was very prepared. Very much about preparation.
Going forward after my freshman year, we lost to Arizona in the Regional at Arizona. I thought that was one of the worse days of my life. That was like a dagger to the heart. Being a freshman, I didn't want to see it end for the seniors, because of the fight that we had that entire tournament.
I'll never forget the look on coach's face. As if she was going to get our revenge, and when she did, we were going to beat any team that got in our way. In a way she took the blame. A lot of coaches get caught up in, "We didn't do this, and we didn't do that.."... She really took the blame and it really blew my mind. It was like she was so ready to get back home to start preparing for next season. I guarantee you that is just what she did.
The cool thing about coach was that she never slept. Having three kids, a husband, a family, then having us to worry about. She was always worried about us and how we were going to do in the season. She had a lot of weight on her. For her to handle working to keep a job, then going home to feed a family, was the most admirable thing about her.
Throughout those years that's why I wanted to play for her and not just play because it's LSU, but to fight hard because we had a leader and someone who was going to go to battle for us.
I'll never forget this game. We were playing at Northwestern State Louisiana and Bianka Bell was up to bat. Now everyone knows Bianka can hit. Coach is down coaching third. Bianka nails a line drive and it hits coach in the head. Coach Beth falls down. We were all in the dugout, like, "Oh My God..".. For a second she didn't move, but then she just popped back up like nothing happened. We are like all crying asking if she is okay. Bianka was crying, it was so frightening. Come to find out if the ball would have been any further up, it would have knocked her temple and then who knows what that would have done to her.
So she popped up and the craziest thing was, she didn't shed one tear. She had to be removed so they could run some test to make sure she didn't have a concussion. She didn't want to leave the game. She was coming around clapping like, "Here we go! Here we go!"... I was like, what in the world.
From that day forward I said that woman is not human. Nobody gets lit up like that by Bianka Bell and stands back up like nothing happened. Then she didn't want to leave the game, she didn't shed a tear, She wanted to stay out there and she was encouraging us as they were taking her off the field. I will go to battle for that woman, because that's a true leader.
I definitely knew that she was going to leave a mark on LSU in a positive way. Before you know it, she'll have a championship title under her belt. She's gunna do it. But I'll never forget that moment after all these years.
One of the things that I respect about her is she gave that five year old me a chance. The five year old kid that told myself that I was going to play at LSU. The same kid that would watch the World Series, thinking how much I would love to play there. To be on that team and compete for a national championship. She gave me that opportunity for three years in a row.
Because of that, that will be something I'll always be grateful for. So when I look back at LSU, I look back at the fact that I learned what 'fight' meant. What 'passion' is. What it means to play for LSU. She always said, "It's putting 'LS' over 'U'.....
We only had one jersey that had our names on the back. She was very much about taking that off and have it only being about what was on the front. What I thought was so cool was, she still gave us the opportunity to be us. To play for our families and different people and different reasons why. But she always directed it to, ... You play for those things, but you put it all out on the field for LSU.
Because of that I'll always be grateful for her. I'll always be in her corner and supporting her. She has already done remarkable things at LSU in such a short period of time. It's only a matter of time until she brings us a title.
Q - Can you tell us about the most memorable moments in your LSU career?
Quinn - I have to say that beating Arizona in the Super Regional to go to the World Series after losing to them in the Regional the year before has to be one of my favorite moments EVER at LSU.
Probably in my top three. Like I said you lose to them at their home and after what was crazy was we were on the bud leaving to go shower before heading home. So their was this drunk man outside the bus screaming, "ARIZONA! ARIZONA!" ...
I was so mad. If I was a cartoon, I'd have steam coming out of my nose and my ears. I was so angry and I'll never forget, I walked off the bus with the intent to tell that man to shut your mouth. So I'm getting off the bus and our volunteer coach grabbed my arm and stopped me and was trying to calm me down. Then some teammates came to try and calm me down. Literally, it wasn't worth it. You could jeopardize your season and career over a drunk man being out of control. I had to come down to reality.
I'll never forget that moment, and that was the revenge that I saw in coach, that I saw in that moment.
We actually played them earlier that season in a tournament that we would go to often in Palm Springs, California. We were lined up to play them and it was actually one of the biggest games in that tournament.
At the time we were playing incredible. We were like 16-0 I think. So you had Arizona who put us out the year before, so everyone wanted to see that game. It was pretty electric game. I think we won it, 4-3.
That was the first taste of revenge that I got. After the game, Coach Beth said that this won't be the only chance that we will have to get them back. We'll see them again. My heart was beating so fast when I heard that. I was like, "I can't wait, I can't wait"...
So sure enough, we were watching the NCAA election show and we saw that we would have the opportunity to play Arizona again. The Super Regional came around and sure enough, Arizona made it. The practice that we had before we played them was the most electrifying practice that I have ever been a part of.
Literally when I tell you that we were so amped up and ready to play them. I don't think they understood how excited and how ready we were, and how prepared we were. So going into that game the fans base, I'll never forget the fans were incredible. The stadium was packed out. It was loud. It was exactly what LSU is all about. Being able to experience that was remarkable, but then to win the game was better. Knowing that we had this chance to get them back was just the most incredible thing. It's a memory that's definitely up there that I will never forget.
Another great moment was during my freshman year. We were playing against Boston University.
This was an elimination game in the Regional. We were down, can't remember by how much, but it wasn't by much. But it was towards the end of the game, around the 6th inning. We all thought we were done. We thought the game was over for a second.
It was Sahvanna Jaquish who was up to bat and she hit a home run and I'll never forget how lit we got in that dugout and how amped we were. We rushed out to home plate and the Ump had to keep telling us to back up. The coolest thing was that when SJ hit that, she pointed at the seniors and said, "That was for y'all.".. Everyone on the team was bawling and crying, because it wasn't that we thought the season was over. When she hit that, we knew we were in this game.
But it was that fight that we all felt in that moment and what it meant to be a Fighting Tiger. What it meant to play for LSU in that moment and if you didn't fell that, then you didn't deserve to be in a LSU jersey.
That was something that I always wanted to experience and I got that opportunity, right there in that moment. It stuck with us. It stuck with us freshman. That was something the seniors taught us without sitting down and telling us. They lead by example. Those seniors actually had the opportunity to go to the World Series a year or so before. So they knew what it was like to play there and they wanted to take us back. Not one senior on that team ever gave up. So for a freshman to jog around those bases and point at the seniors and say, 'That was for you', while she beat on her chest, that was the coolest thing.
Then Bailey Landry stepped up and hit a triple to score a run. It was just everything that happened in that game. It made it more real about how it was to play for LSU. It wasn't about you. It wasn't about who did it. Who made the game winning hit, or who scored the winning run. It was about playing for one another and representing LSU. That's what LSU is. It's the fight. We fight until the end. We don't give up. That was the game where I really learned what it was like to play for LSU. Yea, that was another game that I will never forget.
The last big memory was beating Florida, at Florida during my sophomore year. That had to be the greatest moment, with us becoming the #1 team in the nation for the first time in LSU history. That was incredible. It left a taste in your mouth about how it feels to be great. Something that you work so hard to achieve and you finally get a taste of it. So to beat the Gators in Florida and win that series was incredible. Those were my top three memories at LSU.
Q - What was it like to play in the College World Series in Oklahoma City?
Quinn - It's incomparable. Everything that you dream of when your watching it, It's that and more, except your out on the field, in a jersey, competing, and people are cheering for you.
I actually had played on that field before with the Voodoo in a tournament. But it's nothing that can compare like actually being there in the World Series. Honestly, I'm going to tell you, I was a little star-struck when I got there. You're nervous. You're like, "Oh my gosh.." ..
You know everyone is watching and you don't want to mess up. But it's the kind of moment that when you step on the field, you just need to take it all in. You look around and your grateful for it because this is what you have always dreamed of. But I'm the type of person that if I think about it too much like that, my emotions would take over me. I had to just take it in and be appreciative of it.
But playing there, not just one year, but for three years in a row was incredible. Just the opportunity to be there, because your playing against All-Americans, your playing against people I use to watch on TV. Playing against some people who hold records, who have won the World Series already. Then your playing on national television.
You just don't realize who is impacted by your performance and who is impacted by the player that you are. Coach would always tell us, "You are always being watched." .... Especially on the level and the platform that you play on. You are always being watched. It was the coolest thing to know that somebody, just like myself when I was younger I was watching Natasha Watley. I would always say that I wanted to be and play just like her, and now I'm in that same position with a little girl ask me for my autograph. That was the coolest thing, signing autographs. It's crazy because when you're younger, you work on your autograph trying to see what it will look like, and now you get to use it. It was just a cool thing to think back too, but to experience was a whole other level.
Q - I didn't know this, but you actually played on the LSU basketball team for a short period of time. Would you like to tell us a little about that experience?
Quinn - It was actually pretty interesting. I want to back track a little to start. When I was a commit to LSU in 8th grade, and Yvette Girouard was still there we were sitting in the office. After she gave me the offer she asked me if I had any questions. I said, "Yes, I do have a question." .. I asked, "Can you play two sports here at LSU." ..
Because at the time, Chad Jones was at LSU and playing two sports, starting in both. I was so intrigued by that. I didn't know you could play two sports at this level. I had never heard of it. After watching him play football on a visit, then turning on the TV and watching him play baseball, I was like, "This guy is a Beast." ..
From that point forward I was inspired to do the same. Coach G said, "Yes, you can play two sports. .. But it's very hard. We have people who do it, but it will be pretty tough. You would need to be very committed and have time management." ... I really didn't think nothing of it, I was just being curious.
So during my junior year, I'm working to class and my coach calls me. She says, "I'm asking for them, Would you like to play basketball?" I was like, "what!?" .. because I would joke with her all the time about playing basketball and being on the team. She was like, "Yes, serious, would you like to play?"
This was happening around December, so we were about to get a little break, then come back and get ready for the softball season. I was like, "There is no way. I could get hurt. Anything could go wrong." .. There is no way she is asking me to play basketball. It was the most back and forth decision I've ever made. One second I would say, yes. The next second I would say, no. I didn't want to do anything that would jeopardize the upcoming softball season. Then I would come back again and say, You know maybe this is an opportunity to do something that you haven't tried before. I kept going back and forth, then finally said that I need to get some peace on it. So I called my parents and we prayed on it and I said yes and agreed to it. So from December until late January, I was on the basketball team.
It was pretty incredible. I was a little rusty, but going out there and having that experience. Again it was another opportunity where, their coach took me in.
They didn't know me that well. Being new to the team, they took me in as one of them and that was a pretty cool thing. Another story where I didn't have to be taken in, but they did anyway and would take me under their wing. The way that those girls would help me learn the plays and then stay after and work out and work on basketball skills to help me out, it was cool. That's something that I'll never forget.
The chance to play UConn at UConn was incredible. I got to play in the game for like two minutes and I grabbed a rebound. So that's a record that I could hold with me. It was pretty incredible to have that opportunity.
To do something that not many people get a chance to do. A few things that I learned during that semester while I playing with them was, One - What hard work really was. We were getting into January, so softball was back in play and back to practice. So I would have softball practice, then I'd have a basketball game. I had to learn how to balance it. It was strange but not one time was I exhausted or tired.
I really was intrigued by the work ethic that it took. I knew it was going to make me better. I knew it was going to challenge me. I love being challenged. I love competition. And that to me was a challenge, having to balance it out, but having the endurance, the stamina, and the energy to go between both.
I'll be honest, I didn't play much except for a couple of minutes in a couple of games, but being on that bench, it wasn't like I was wishing I was out there. Knowing what it meant to lead a team from a different prospective, that's what really helped me. What they did for me was it allowed me to realize that leadership isn't just about being on the court or the field or being a starter. Leadership is being put in different positions where you need to put others above you.
Regardless of what you're going through, what challenges you have, It's putting your teammates over you. I learned that in that moment.
I had a chance to work with Temeka Johnson, who is a former LSU basketball player. I remember we had a game the next day. Well we had basketball practice. Then I would have a 30 minute break. Then I would have softball practice, and she would ask me if I wanted to shoot around after. At this point I was tired. We were running up and down the court, so I was pretty gassed out.
I was like, this is what it's like to really work. To want something bad enough bad enough, that you were going to push yourself beyond your limitations. That was something that my dad would share with me. He would say, "You will never know what you're capable of unless you push beyond your limitations." ..
In that moment, I really experienced that. You need to have that mentality to work hard and to push yourself. Because if you never learn to push yourself, how will you ever succeed. It just doesn't happen. Now whether that was for me to prepare myself for a game or what have you. It was a chance to experience what it was like to work hard. That was one of the coolest things that I have had accomplished.
It sticks with me now while I'm out in the real world. Everyone is competing. Everyone is out to succeed. It's not just going to be handed to you because of what you because of what you have done. .. Yea I went to LSU. But a lot of people don't care about that. A lot of people are trying to get theirs. But understand at LSU, there is a different atmosphere.
So not only did I learn at a young age what it was like to have the passion and what it was like to play with heart. Going there, you're surrounded by other athletes that walk the same campus that you walk. That have that same hunger. It's a different type of hunger that you have at LSU.
It's something that you learn to understand once you step on that campus. What it means to play for them. What it means to really be a Tiger. It's not about you. It's about the campus, the community, It's about Louisiana, what you represent. That's what gives you that drive, that bite, that hunger. To be more and do more.
That's why a lot of people that come from LSU, take it to the next level, because you get a taste of what it's like to be great at LSU. You get that platform, and now you're put out into the world to exceed beyond your expectations and they do better and greater things. Because you undertsand what it take to represent more then just you. That's really what I took from LSU.
Q - Please tell us about what your doing as a career now...
Quinn - Now my main focus is being a personal trainer. I've been doing that for almost two years now. Crazy thing about that was, after my career I stayed in Baton Rouge a couple of years, then I decided to move home.
Moved back to Hattiesburg, MS. to figure out what it was that I wanted to do. I had no clue on what direction I wanted to take. Before I knew it, I was really encouraged from different mentors, especially my parents to take on personal training. I love working out. Love being in the gym anyway.
It's kinda weird how sometimes what your hobby is, is what your calling is without you even realizing it. I took it on as an opportunity to kinda further myself in this career, so ever since I've been working my way up. Taking advise, learning how to become a better trainer. But I've also learned that it's a big industry. There is many avenues to it. It's not just training someone one on one. You can become a strength and conditioning coach. You can take it to the next level and travel with people. There are so many things that you can do with it to become successful.
But what I loved the most about it was, I have always wanted to do something that was along the lines of competing in college, which nothing really comes close, but, when it comes to training people and the motivating side to it, that I loved about it. When it came to motivate my team. To push my team and encouraging them, I love that. I love being that Energizer Bunny and hyping up the team and getting us ready for competition.
Personal training gives me that same opportunity to motivate my clients or motivate a group of people or whoever comes through the door to train. To take on the opportunity to head them in the right direction.
One thing I've learned about, especially now, during this crisis. Health is so important and I think people are starting to see that now more then ever because of what's going on. I really believe that fitness is going to take over.
I really feel that if I'm given that opportunity to encourage people and motivate people to become a better version of them self. To me it's not just the physique of the body and having a six pack and abs. That's great and that's a benefit of working hard. But it's a lifestyle that you need to be willing to commit to. It's a change in your diet. It's a change in your sleep pattern. It's a change in what you put in your body. It's a whole routine.
Once I took that on two years ago and really decided to be serious about it. Now I'm leading people in the right direction. Now people are coming to me for advice. If I want to preach it, then I need to practice it. I've got to be about it. I can't just talk the talk. Anyone can talk it, but not many can walk it. So I want to be the person that people say, "She doesn't just mean what she says and speaks on it, but she does it on a daily." ... So it's something that I'm embracing and that I want to further myself in the career of.
Q - Anything you want to tell LSU fans?
Quinn - As always.. Geaux Tigers and Forever LSU!
By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Today's Q & A Session is with former LSU football great Jeff Wickersham. Wickersham was the starting quarterback for LSU from 1983-85.
During his three years as the quarterback for LSU, Wickersham completed 58.4% of his passes for 6,921 yards, which at the time were both the 3rd best performances in SEC history. He was also the first quarterback in LSU history to pass for over 5,000 career yards, the first LSU quarterback to throw for over 2,000 yards in three different seasons, the first LSU quarterback to throw for over 2,500 yards in a season (1983), and the first LSU quarterback to throw for over 350 yards in a game (368 yards vs, Mississippi State in 1983).
By the end of his college career, Wickersham held the school's record for most passing yards, along with 15 other marks.
He was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the 1986 NFL draft. After being released by Miami he move on to play in the CFL for a couple of seasons before a knee injury lead to his retirement decision.
Q -What is your Favorite TV Show?
Jeff - The crime shows on ID Channel. We enjoy watching those shows as a family.
Q - Your Favorite Food?
Jeff - Shrimp. I love shrimp every way you can cook it. I also love all the Louisiana cajun foods like gumbo and jambalaya, dishes like that. It was pretty surprising when I moved here from Florida that people here actually ate crawfish and catfish. It was shocking to me. In Florida back in the 80s, no one would ever consider eating either of them. When I got to LSU I went to a crawfish boil and I had no idea how good it would be. The same thing with catfish. They are two of my favorites now.
Q - Favorite Pro Athlete?
Jeff - My all-time favorite is Dan Marino. I really enjoyed watching him play. I actually got to go to training camp with him when I was with the Miami Dolphins and watch him in action in person. He was tremendously impressive and a super nice guy to meet.
If I had to pick one for currently, I would say it's Drew Bress. I admire him as a quarterback and as a person. He's such a good guy and a great quarterback.
Q - Favorite Music Artist?
Jeff - I'm not a big music person. I listen to just about anything. I like The Cars, Aerosmith, 80s stuff. Stuck in the 80s...
Q - Favortie Actor?
Jeff - Clint Eastwood
Q - Favorite Movie?
Jeff - I love Clint Eastwood movies. Anything that he is in would be an automatic favorite of mine. As well as the old western movies with John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.
Q - Your Favorite Sports Team?
Jeff - LSU would be number one. Love watching LSU sports, of course because I've played there. I really love watching the LSU softball team right now, because my daughter is there. I enjoy that tremendously.
Then I'm a hometown guy so the Saints would be on the list. We go to the Saints games every Sunday. My family and I really enjoy that.
Q - I see you're from Merritt Island, Florida. Did you grow up there?
Jeff - I did. I was born in Minot North Dakota, then my family moved to Merritt Island when I was 2 years old, so it's the only place I knew.
Q - When you were a little kid, what did you want to grow up to be?
Jeff - I always wanted to be a professional athlete of some type. I loved basketball and football. I really enjoyed playing those while I was growing up. Probably wanted to be a pro football player my whole life, that was my main goal.
Q - Did you play multiple sports at Merritt Island High School?
Jeff - I did. It was a bit different back then, everyone played multiple Sports. I ran track. I did the high jump, the long jump, and the 440 relay.
I played basketball. We had a real good basketball team in high school that was fun to play on. Will Perdue who played for the Chicago Bulls play on our team. He was a 7’2” center. So I got to play with some pretty good guys.
Then of course I played football all the way through.
Q - Tell us a little about your recruiting process? Where you recruited in multiple sports?
Jeff - I was recruited a little bit in basketball. I was fortunate to make All-State in basketball and in football.
Back then, if you were a Parade All-American in football that was like the ultimate honor you could have in high school. I had a lot of good players surrounding me. We had a lot of D-1 recruits every year on our team. We won the state championship two years in a row in the State's highest classification. We had a lot of college coaches watching us all the time. That helped bring a lot of attention to me.
I started during my sophomore season, so that helped my recruiting to start early age. I was recruited by basically everyone in the country. I had offers from Alabama, LSU, Stanford, Georgia, Florida, everybody really. When they saw your name as a parade All-American, that was like being a five-star in today's age.
It's weird how I got recruited by LSU. When I was growing up, we would go to the Tangerine Bowl In Orlando a lot. Well LSU ended up playing there often. So we would go watch the game when LSU happened to be playing. We would walk around the parking lots and see the crazy cajuns cooking. They were always super nice and super inviting. They would say, "Hey come on over here and try this!"... So I got a taste of the LSU fan base by attending a few Tangerine Bowls. Then I was always Impressed with their players. We got to see Charles Alexander play. Some of their great quarterbacks like David Woodley and Steve Ensminger. So I was like, "If I ever get a chance, I would love to go see LSU play in Baton Rouge."
As I got older and got to High School, that became a reality. LSU began to recruitment me. Mack Brown was there recruiting coordinator and was also the quarterback coach at that time. I really enjoy being around Mack. That's how it kind of lead me to going to LSU. So it's crazy I just going to a football game in meeting their fans got me interested in them.
Q - What was it about LSU that made you choose them over everyone else?
Jeff - I went on a bunch of different visits. I went to Clemson, went to Florida, Stanford, and then I went to LSU.
When I got to LSU they weren't having the greatest season that year on my official visit. But we did go to a game. When we walked out onto the field the stands were packed and the fans were going crazy. It amazed me. I thought, “Wow these guys don't have a really good record and this place is packed.”.. It was crazier than any Stadium I had ever been in.
Of course before the game they did take us around to see fans tailgating and I was super impressed with that. I really like coach Mack Brown a lot and liked Coach Stovall who was the head coach at the time. They were both really good guys and with the class that they were recruiting, I felt we would have a chance to win.
I would say, "Can you imagine if we were winning at LSU? They pack the stands when they're losing. If they had a winning team it would really be something."
Then they always had a great history of awesome quarterbacks that played and graduated from LSU. So that was a deciding factor also.
Q - Could you tell us a little about Coach Jerry Stovall?
Jeff - Jerry was a super good person and someone who they got rid of too early. They didn't have a lot of patience with him. If they would have kept him a little longer he would have done tremendously well. He was a great recruiter and a super motivator. I also thought he did a great job of bringing in good assistant coaches. We won a lot of games with the players that Stovall recruited.
He was just such a good person. A good Christian man. Truly had the best interest of the players in mind. I missed him. I really liked him a lot.
Q - How did you and the team handle the coaching change?
Jeff - I was prepared for it. Kids these days have got to know that coaches are going to move around a lot and that it's not their fault. If they're winning, people want their assistance. If they're not winning they get fired because fans get impatient.
I realized when I went to school that I'm going to school because I love LSU. I love the coaches, but if the coaches leave I'm still going to be happy because I wanted to go to LSU for the school itself. So I think that had me somewhat prepared.
It's always disappointing when your coach gets fired. But Arnsparger came in, a totally different type of coach and we had a lot of success with him. So everything works out. Once you're there you've got to be happy with where you are. It's kind of like the coaches, you have to play with what you have.
So that's what we did and we did have a lot of success after coach Stovall. I just felt bad for him because I knew what a great guy he was and I wish they would have given him another year or two because I think we could have won with him also.
Q - Please tell us a little about Coach Bill Arnsparger?
Jeff - Arnsparger was a straight ahead, no BS type of guy. He was not a cheerleader. He was more of a professional coach. He came in and set the bar straight right off the bat.
We had some guys on the team who probably weren't giving their all at practice. He came in and cut three or four guys on the second day. He told them, “Pack your stuff up and hit the road. If you're not here to help this team get better then you're not wanted around.”.. So that got everyone's attention immediately. That kind of got the ball rolling in the right direction and got everyone on the right page.
He was also a defensive coach. He brought in more of a defensive mentality to our football team. But we won a lot of games so there is nothing you could argue with.
On offense, when we would get up a score or two, he would basically start to run the ball to try and slow the game down because our defense was so good. So he added more of a defensive mentality then what we had when Stovall was there.
Q - What was it like to have the "Dalton/James Gang" in the same backfield with you?
Jeff - It was great. It was neat because we had so many good players in that class. I would say it was one of the best classes LSU has ever had. not everyone was a five-star, but they could play.
We had guys on that team that had played three or four years as starters. So it was a super class and it was great to play with guys like that because you could throw a short little five yard swing pass and they can turn it into an 80-yard touchdown with Dalton and Gary.
We had some great receivers. Eric Martin was there when I played, and he could make a lot of things happen. Herman Fontenot was great. Even Wendell Davis came in when I was a senior. So we had tremendous players every year that I was at LSU.
It was a great experience to be able to play with those type of caliber players. It was unbelievable, offensive and defensive guys, just a lot of fun to be around. Guys that can make plays. I had the best time of my life at LSU.
Q - Do you keep in touch with a lot of your old teammates?
Jeff - No I don't keep in touch with a lot of them. A lot of those guys ended up moving out of town and doing their own thing. It's great to see some of them when we have a chance to get together. I'll see a bunch of them before the games or when they have a reunion.
At the national championship they had a nice get together the night before and a bunch of us were able to visit. It's always great to get together and see each other again when we can. Pretty much everyone has their own life and goes their own way. The reunions we have are very special and fun to go too.
Q - What was one or more of your favorite moments or games that really stand out to you during your career?
Jeff - Probably the most special game that I can remember at LSU was when we played Florida State when I was a freshman. The winner of that game would advance to the Orange Bowl. It was a foggy night, overcast, with bad weather. Every time we scored a touchdown the field would get bombarded with oranges. It was crazy. It looked like hundreds of thousands of oranges just showered the field.
They put me in at the end of the game. We were winning and were supposed to keep the ball on the ground. We ended up driving down close to the Florida state end zone. Well Coach Brown always told me that if I see the defensive end crashing to just keep the ball and run it myself. Don't let the offensive line or anybody else know. So when I got the ball I was supposed to hand it off to Dalton but I keep it on my hip and ran around the corner and scored a touchdown. There was less than two minutes to go in the game and of course I wasn't supposed to do that. I was supposed to down the ball or give it to Dalton and let him down it. But I thought I did good and came to the sidelines all happy. Coach Brown starts chewing me out, “ What the heck are you doing? We're not trying to run the score up on them and rub it in their nose.” .. I told him, “ You said if I ever see the defensive end crashing to keep it myself.”..He just kept fussing.. It was a lot of fun. Oranges where flying everywhere. It was a great game. We won and got to go to the Orange Bowl. That was probably the most memorable game. Then we have some really good games against Florida and Alabama that I'll always remember. those were the big big games. We won some of those and lost some of those. but they were always very special.
Another is when we beat Washington in Baton Rouge when I was a sophomore. They were ranked number one in the Country and we were having a rough season that year. We beat them 42-14. It seems like they just couldn't handle the humidity. So that one was pretty cool.
Winning at USC! We went out there and beat them.
Then we also won at Notre Dame which was pretty cool to play in and win in that historic stadium with it freezing cold and snowing. It was pretty neat.
It all was a lot of fun. I enjoyed every bit of it.
Q - Can you tell us about your NFL draft experience?
Jeff - I got drafted in the 10th round back then and to be honest with you I didn't think I would get drafted high. I was hoping to be a free agent actually so I could go to a team who was actually looking for a quarterback. So when the Dolphins draft me I really wasn't excited. They call you before they draft you. So when they called I told them that I wasn't going to sign with them. I was going to go ahead and go to the CFL. The Dolphins drafted me anyway, so I said what the heck and went there. I knew I didn't have a chance to make the team, they had Dan Marino and Don Strock, two of the greatest quarterbacks In the history of professional football. So I went and made the most of it and worked out all summer with them. I really had a good relationship with both Marino and Strock. They liked me a lot. But they ended up only keeping those two guys at quarterback so I was released after training camp.
Then I went up to Canada and played in the CFL for two seasons with the Ottawa Rough Riders. I had a great time up there. I enjoyed the fast pace and the wide-open game. Then I ended up hurting my knee and had knee surgery. That's when I decided I needed to find out what I was going to do for the rest of my life. This job is just too unsure and unstable. After seeing people get cut, coming and going, one day you're making pretty good money, the next day you're unemployed. You just never know when you'll have a job or not. So I gave it up after that and got in the business I'm into now.
But I had a great time and it was a super learning experience. I really enjoyed my time being around Marino and watching him. He was always a hero of mine and I looked up to him. He was such a nice guy to me also, I had a great time being around him.
Q - What was it like being around someone like Don Shula while you were with the Dolphins?
Jeff - He was a great coach. One of the best of all-time. I didn't really have a lot of interaction with him. I worked more with the quarterback coach. I would sit in on meetings and I really respected him. But there wasn't a lot of one-on-one meetings with him or anything else. He was more of the organizer. The head coach guy. He was a tough coach and did a great job running the team. But like I said, I was more involved with the quarterbacks, sitting in the film room with them. So I had a lot more interaction with them than I did with Don.
Q - I see you had your acting debut when you had a part in the movie, "Everybody's All-American"....
Jeff - Yes that was fun. My buddy Scott Bailey, who I'm actually in business with now called me and said, “Hey Jeff they're doing a movie down here in Baton Rouge with Dennis Quaid, John Goodman, Jessica Lange, and Timothy Hutton. They need a bunch of football players. They pay you really good money every week and they pay for your hotel, for food and everything.”
I said, really?, yea, I’ll come over there. So I went back to Baton Rouge and we did the film for about 2 to 3 months. Had a real good time and got to know John Goodman pretty well and had a fun time with him.
They brought in a lot of football players. AJ Duhe was there. A lot of big-time football players were there. Tim Fox was there. ...
It's funny I have a good story for you on that one. Dennis Quaid played the running back in this story, So we're filming this one spot when he is running to the sideline. Now usually they would use a stunt double to run the ball for him. But in this particular scene they wanted him to get smashed out of bounds and have his helmet fly off and have him get knocked out. So Dennis Quaid is running toward the sideline and you have Tim Fox, who was an All-Pro safety for the New England Patriots was going to make the tackle. Well they told Fox not to hit him that hard, that they have a real loose helmet on him so it will fly off. But don't light him up because we don't want you to hurt him.
So Quaid runs toward the sideline and Fox lightly hits him and he falls to the ground and his helmet flies off. Well the director says, “Okay, we're going to have to film this scene again.” ..
Dennis Quaid hops up and yells, “Come on man! You got to make this look real! I don’t want to be here all night doing this crap!” … and everyone was like… Oh boy, you said the wrong thing now..
So the next time I pitch the ball out to Quaid and he heads toward the sideline and here comes Fox flying 100 miles an hour and just levels him. Quaid’s feet went flying up in the air, his head hits the turf and he was knocked out completely and the hit also broke his collarbone.
So in the movie if the hit looked real, it’s because it was. You can see at the end of the film when the players hoist Quaid up onto their shoulders, he has his arm sitting next to his body because his shoulder was separated.
It was fun. We had a blast being a part of that movie. It was a good time. Actually I was the quarterback in all of the football scenes. They put me down as being the Denver quarterback but I ended up playing the quarterback in every scene and I got to say a few words. I said something like, “Come on guys!” or whatever it was… So I got in the screen actors guild. Now I’m an actor. I tell my family all the time that I’m a famous actor. And they laugh at me like you're doing now..
Q - Is there anything you want to tell the LSU fans?
Jeff - What an honor and a privilege it was to play in front of those fans. They still recognize me today which is amazing to me. I'll go into some place and they recognize me and ask for an autograph and that makes a guy like me feel really good. That people are that loyal of a fans that they remember guys from 30 to 35 years ago.
It is just an amazing privilege to be able to play at a school like LSU. My daughter is going through the same thing now. I tell her to soak it all in. It's something you'll never forget. You just couldn't find a better place to play in the Country.
The fans are just the best. They always have been and they always will be. I'm just so appreciative...
Q - Would you like to tell us what you're doing now?
Jeff - I just sold my company recently. I basically have an Import company where we bring products in from overseas and sell them. It's mainly Industrial and Marine Supplies that we sell to the environmental companies, the plants, pump rental companies, things like that… I sold it back in November, so now I'm just working for the new company doing the same thing.
By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Today's Q & A Session is with LSU softball pitcher Shelby Wickersham. Shelby is a sophomore from Metairie, Louisiana. She attended Mount Carmel Academy where she excelled in athletics (softball, basketball, & volleyball), pitching several no-hitters, winning several MVP and outstanding performance awards as well as winning a state championship in both softball and volleyball.
Wickersham was also, and is still very committed to her time in the classroom. She was a National Honor Society member and a honor roll student, as well as Valedictorian of her high school senior class.
Shelby is the daughter of former LSU quarterback Jeff Wickersham and of course grew up being a huge LSU Fighting Tigers fan.
She had a very successful freshman year for the Tigers in 2019 and was pitching with dominance in 2020 before COVID-19 put a screeching halt to the season.
Q - What is your Favorite Color?
Shelby - Purple.. and I'm not saying that because I go to LSU and we love purple over there. Purple has actually always been my favorite color.
Q - Your Favorite Food?
Shelby - Definitely Ice Cream. I'm a real sucker for it. I eat it pretty much everyday. I know that's terrible.. I really like vanilla with the chocolate shell topping. .... It's definitely Ice Cream.
Q - Who is your Favorite Pro Athlete?
Shelby - When I was growing up, Chris Paul was my favorite athlete. He played for the Hornets back then and we use to go to all of the home games. I actually went to one of his basketball camps and I got to play on his team during a contest. He ended up giving me the wrist band that he was wearing. I still have that wrist band to this day. It was such a cool experience. That made him my favorite, my all-time favorite.
I definitely love Drew Brees. I think that he plays for all the right reasons. Plays for our city and I really admire what he does for the city of New Orleans.
Q - Who is your Favorite Music Artist?
Shelby - That's so hard... I listen to a variety of music. I don't have really a favorite artist. Because I listen to country. Then the next day I'm listening to rap. Then I'm listening to hip hop or pop. It varies so much that I really just don't have one favorite artist.
Q - What is your Favorite Movie?
Shelby - I really like The Hunger Games movies.
Q - Your Favorite Actor?
Shelby - I really like Will Ferrell. I think he is so funny.
Q - Your Favorite Pro Sports Team?
Shelby - The Saints. My family, we go to every Saints home game. I love spending family time at the Saints games. I also like the Pelicans.
Q - I see you're from Metairie. Have you always lived there?
Shelby - I lived in Metairie since I was born, until we recently moved to the Old Metairie area.
Q - When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Shelby - When I was a little kid I probably wanted to be a veterinarian. Then when I got to high school I was interested in becoming a forensic pathologist, a coroner, or something of that nature. My original major when I started college was biochemistry. But I ended up switching to psychology. So I want to get a psychology degree, then maybe another degree in like sociology. Then I would like to go to Law school after I'm finished playing softball to be a Lawyer in Criminal Court.
Q - Did you play multiple sports at Mount Carmel Academy?
Shelby - I did. My 8th grade year I played basketball, volleyball, and softball. I ended up trying out for and making the varsity volleyball team my freshman year.
But a lot of people were telling me that I really need to focus on recruiting, because that's when softball recruiting begins, in the 9th grade. So I ended up not playing volleyball and a ended up committing a month later.
In my junior year I decided to play both volleyball and softball. What was so cool about that is that is we won the state championship in both sports that year. It was a really special year in high school.
Then in my senior year I decided to just focus on softball again, so that I could really prepare myself for LSU, giving myself a chance to have a big role on the team.
Q - Other then the two state championships, tell us about some of your other high school accomplishments...
Shelby - First, in athletics, during my junior year I was MVP or Most Outstanding Player in softball for the state championship. I'm sure I made All-District, All-Metro, and All-Regional both my junior and senior years.
As a sophomore I earned 'Female Athlete of the Week' honors three times and was selected to the NFCA South Team, along with earning the Coaches Award as a freshman.
My favorite and one of my biggest accomplishments in high school happened in academics. I was Valedictorian and I read the Valedictorian speech at my graduation which was so cool.
Q - Please tell us a little about your recruiting process.. Did anyone else recruit you besides LSU?
Shelby - I had a bunch of schools start to recruit me in 8th grade. I actually took my first official visit to Alabama.
Then in 9th grade I took visits to South Alabama, Ole Miss, then LSU was my last visit. When LSU would offer to me, I would commit right there on the spot. That's where I wanted to go.
I had gone to camp at Florida. I was looking at OU, and a bunch of different schools. I really didn't take that many visits. I canceled a lot of visits after I committed to LSU. I just knew there was nothing else out there that I wanted to see beside LSU. That was my dream school from when I was a kid. I knew that if they offered me, that's where I was going to go. So it was really exciting when they did.
Q - That was my next question. Why did you chose LSU over the other schools that recruited you?
Shelby - I definitely grew up a LSU fan because of my dad. We would go to all the football games when I was growing up.
It's just close to home which I really like. Not only does it feel like a home itself, but it's close to my home. So that was real important to me, so my family could come to my games and to represent my State.
When I walked on campus it just felt like home and family. Coach Beth feels like my second mom. It was just the perfect fit for me. I don't think there are any nicer facilities or a nicer campus out there. LSU is just the greatest place in my eyes.
Q - Can you tell us a little about your relationship with Coach Torina?
Shelby - I actually started pitching at her Monday night clinics when I was 12 years old. So I've known Coach Beth for a very long time. Since I had worked with her for so long I already knew how she ran things. So it was really nice to have my foot already in the door and to know what we were doing.
Coach Beth is definitely like a second mom. She is a tough-love kind of coach. She cares for her players more as people then she does as athletes. Of course she cares for us as both, but she is really big on us being Tigers for life. I think that's the best thing a coach could ever do for you. She is worried about how we are as people and our lives after softball, just as much as softball itself. So I think that's really cool.
Q - Can you please tell us a little about your freshman season as a LSU Softball player?
Shelby - My freshman season just flew by. It was so much fun.
My first ever game at LSU I had the opportunity to and did throw a no-hitter. That was really special. I looked at that as I trusted my teammates 100%. They made all the plays on the field.
Then we had amazing at-bats, hitting several home runs. It was crazy.
We actually broke the home run record last year. That was really fun to be a part of. There was a lot of team accomplishments that we did, I think that was really cool too.
Another game that was really exciting to me was the Florida game. We fell behind 2-0 in the first inning. I gave up a hit and then a home run, back to back on my first two pitches. I think I was just nervous because it was only my second SEC game.
I remember Amanda Sanchez coming up to me and saying, "You got this. Just give it all you have and no matter what happens, just do your best. Pitch your game and don't think about anything else." .... After that I think I only gave up one more hit the rest of the game.
Having my teammates behind me, encouraging me, and calming me down, that's what helps me to be successful. We had like an older team and then also a younger team. We had so many seniors and so many freshman, it made the balance perfect.
Q - Tell us about when you found out about the season coming to an end. I know you and the team were preparing to travel to Columbia, SC to take on a really good South Carolina team to start SEC play...
Shelby - I had my bag packed on Thursday and we were all suppose to go to the field, practice a little, then get on a plane to go. When we got to the field coach told us, "We're not going to travel today. Let's just go out and have a fun practice. I know everyone will be upset so we will talk about it. The SEC just doesn't want anyone to travel right now."
We already knew that we were going to play without any fans in attendance that weekend, so we weren't completely caught off guard by it. We were bummed out and thought that was really crazy that it was happening.
So we were having a fun practice, listening to music, and playing a game. Then Coach Beth leaves the bullpen I was pitching in to take a phone call. When she came back we could tell that she had tears in her eyes. We really didn't know what was going on and didn't ask. So we continued to practice like normal.
After practice Coach Beth sat us in the dugout like she always does, and said. "I don't know the right words to tell you. I've been putting off telling you all practice so all of you can enjoy what looks like will be your last moment of the season..... The NCAA has canceled the season, including all tournaments and the World Series." ... We were all devastated and started crying.
When the news first hits you, it's a shock. You just don't understand. But I think looking back on the situation now, we realize that this is the best thing that we could do this season. Stopping play definitely hurts and it stinks, but stopping play would be saving many lives and that's what we have to think about.
It's for the health of our families. It's for the health of our Country. It's even for our health. You have to keep that in mind when you think about our season ending. That makes it a lot easier knowing that we are doing this for the greater good.
We will have another chance to play on that field next year. Giving us an extra year of eligibility is the greatest blessing the NCAA has done for us. Knowing that we can come back next year with the same team basically and still fight and show what we have. That's the greatest thing we could ask for.
Q - Do you still play summer ball for the Marucci Patriots?
Shelby - No.. I played for them from my freshman to my senior year going into college. Now for the summer I normally take some time off during June, then start pitching again to prepare for fall ball. But I don't play on any organize team as of right now.
Coach Beth writes us workouts that we can follow in the summer. She sends us a sheet of all the workouts that we have. Then we pick which workout that we will work on that week. That way we know what we should be doing and what is best for us.
Last year during our exit meeting, she picked out things that we needed to work over the summer. My goal was to throw 2,000 change up pitches last summer. So I did throw 2,000 change up pitches over the summer. The change up ended up being one of my best pitches this spring. So it was so cool to see all that hard work pay off for this season. It truly made a big difference for me to be able to throw an off-speed pitch. Batters couldn't just sit on my drop ball.
Q - What's it like being the daughter of one of the best quarterbacks in LSU history?
Shelby - Well truly, I think most of the time I don't really realize it until we are eating dinner somewhere and someone will ask, "Are you Jeff Wickersham?" ... People still come up to him and ask him things.
He gets things in the mail sometimes with autograph request on his player cards. I look at him just as my dad. I don't like, ... 'He played at LSU and he was a quarterback'....
I just look at him as dad. But it's really cool to see that he left a legacy at LSU. It's very cool for me to follow in his foot steps and I hope to do the same one day. But at home, he's just my dad. To me, I see him everyday and he is just a loving dad that would do anything for his kids. He is just a great dad.
We have seen a couple of his games on TV and he always laughs and says, "They always play the games that I did terrible in." ... and I'm like, "Dad, you did fine,".... He gets to do some cool stuff with the 'L Club' that we always attend as a family. We also use to wear his real jerseys that he played in at LSU to school on jersey days. That was really cool. I can remember doing that in grammar school. We just love doing things with him.
Q - Is there anything you would like to tell LSU fans?
Shelby - I think LSU has the best fans in the nation, by far. We are the craziest people and every time an opponent walks into our park, they definitely have a disadvantage because of our fans.
I just think that LSU is the greatest place and I'm so thankful for all of the fans that support us.
By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Today's Q & A Session is with former LSU Softball great, Sahvanna Jaquish. Her home town is Highland, California where she was a four-year letter winner for Debbie Garcia at Redlands East Valley High School. She won Maxpreps First Team All-American honors in 2012 and 2013, as well as the Citrus Belt League's MVP award as a junior. (Making that the first time a junior has ever won that honor.) ... Jaquish also helped her team win a couple of California state championships.. She also lettered in Volleyball.
She made an immediate impact on her arrival at LSU, becoming the team leader in batting average (.341), home runs (17), RBI (55), slugging percentage (.699) and total bases (121), while finishing second in doubles (9) and on-base percentage (.445).. Jaquish would then help a talented LSU squad reach the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City three straight seasons in a row. She would finish her career in Baton Rouge as the only athlete in LSU history to win All-American honors all four years
Since her LSU career, Sahvanna has gone on to play professional softball in the NPF (National Pro Fastpitch League), as well as winning a pair of gold metals with team USA.
Q - Favorite color?
Jaquish - That depends on the day. I'm very much an emotional person when it comes to colors. Yellow makes me happy. Red helps me focus, so I think it just depends on the day, yea. I'm very weird when it comes to that. I'm usually pretty obsessed about getting my nails done before a game, and I heard that "blue" helped you calm down. So I would usually get blue, and people would ask, "You're purple and gold, why are your nails blue?" ..
Q - Favorite food?
Jaquish - Thai food and Sushi
Q - Favorite Pro Athlete?
Jaquish - Derek Jeter
Q - Favorite Music Artist?
Jaquish - Oh man, that's hard.. Can I pass? I just don't know. I'm all over the place, I like country, I like old school.... Anything that sounds good...
Q - Favorite Movie?
Jaquish - Remember the Titans
Q - Favorite Actor?
Jaquish - Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
Q - Favorite Pro Team?
Jaquish - Los Angeles Angels
Q - I see you're from Highland, California. Did you grow up there?
Jaquish - Yes
Q - When you were a little kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
Jaquish - The best pitcher in the world. Yea, I really wanted to be a pitcher. But my dad told me that I had to learn to throw overhand first. So I got really good at that and became a catcher instead.
Q - I see that you attended Redlands East Valley High School. While you were there, did you play multiple sports?
Jaquish - Yes, I played volleyball and softball.
Q - Could you tell us a little about you high school softball coach?
Jaquish - Her name is Debbie Garcia, and she was appreciative of my skill set, but she also pushed me to be a leader. Which was great because I don't think anyone really taught that, like how to be a leader at that time. It was just like,.. Oh, you're the best player, so you must be the leader of the team.... But she had a different definition of being a selfless leader, being a servant leader. So I appreciate her for that. When I went to LSU out of high school I was named captain of the team, so I think that really helps to have that mind set.
Q - Tell us a little about your accomplishments during you athletic career in high school?
Jaquish - I was the only junior to win MVP of the League ever. Senior year I was MVP of the League as well. Then we won CBL. We went to the playoffs and won one game. I think it was called the thirteen year curse, because we had never won a playoff game before. Then in my senior year we won one. Softball in California is so hard. It's like playing travel teams. It's like a religion out there.
Q - How did your recruiting process go? Who recruited you other than LSU?
Jaquish - I didn't have a lot of options. Actually I know that sounds kinda crazy, but I was late in the recruiting process. Because at that time a lot of my teammates, friends, and travel ball friends were getting recruited in their freshman year, eighth grade and I was a junior before I made a decision. So I had North Carolina and South Carolina really pursuing me and LSU. That's when I went on those three visits and then committed to LSU, because they're the best..
Q - Why did you choose LSU? What stood out about the program?
Jaquish - So my oldest sister went to Notre Dame, so leaving the nest wasn't a big deal to us, going far away. But LSU kinda felt like a home. Everyone was really nice and the team felt like family, so I really liked that. It was a home away from home. Then the culture was really cool. I wanted to experience something different and y'all food is really good.
Q - How different is Louisiana from California?
Jaquish - Oh my gosh, It's so different, but I love it, I love it. It's your own little country. Louisiana country. I really thought everyone wore cowboy boots in Louisiana, I had no idea. I had never been. So I bought a pair of cowboy boots before I went to Louisiana, and I think I wore them twice. Then I was like, "Hey, people wear regular shoes out here. There not cowboy boots."
Q - Tell us about your freshman season in 2014?
Jaquish - So, it was actually my hardest season out of all of them. Because I felt like I was good enough to start on the field, but so did my coach so that's why you see during my freshman year I played short stop, played third, played first, played catcher, was DP most of the time. That was really my position was designated hitter.
It was just a hard transition for me to not have a home on the field, especially catching because I just wanted to have the ball every pitch.
But, our first game, I remember this like it was yesterday. We were playing Texas and coach sat me down the day before the game and she said, "I am not going to start you and you're not going to play." and I was just shocked. I was like, why did I work this hard? Why am I not good enough? Those were the questions I had. She said, "Hey, You just have to have some experience. I want to see who is going to lead our team and I don't think it's going to be a freshman." .. I looked at her and started crying obviously, but I looked at her and said, "I think you're wrong. I think I'm going to step in here and make an impact. I want to be your best hitter who has ever came through here. If you let me have that opportunity then I can show you that."
I was kinda just standing up to her, but in a respectful way, I think it kinda changed her whole coaching mentality now. Look at how many freshman are starting on a team now. I feel kinda proud of sucking up and trying to do that. Then she said, "Okay then, if you want to start, then you're going to have to be the number four hitter in the SEC as a freshman. Do you think you can do that?" I was like,... "I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I could do that, of course I could do that"..
So it was that day that I had a mentality switch. Everyday that conversation just drove me and drove me. I was obsessed with getting everything right. I was obsessed with getting my swing perfect.
Then we played an exhibition game against the USSSA Pride (a professional team) and Rachel Fico, the number one draft pick. Rachel Fico was like the greatest pitcher at the time, and she went to LSU. Well, she was throwing a no-hitter against us. Coach Beth said, "Fine, you can go hit against Rachel." I was like, "Great.." So my first time ever hitting in a Tigers uniform and I'm playing against this All-American from LSU, that's great... I got jammed and I hit it to the right side and ruined her no-hitter.
I think the confidence that I showed during that at bat got me another opportunity, and that's all I wanted, was another opportunity. I wanted to prove myself, that's how I work best.
When someone tells me, that I can't do something or you're not good enough to do this, or I think you need more of this. That drives me and fuels me to just become way better then I was. So I appreciate that from Coach Beth.
That year I was mostly designated hitter, so a lot of my stats were hitting stats, but it's like how hard it is to be the designated hitter, in the four hole as a freshman and then make it to an All-American Team.
Q - Your freshman season ended with being eliminated by Arizona in a Regional. Tell us about the 2015 team, (your Sophomore season) and how you and the team improved and would make it to Oklahoma City for the CWS....
Jaquish - Like I said, failure fuels me to the point to where it's just,.. A decision gets made in my head, and it's the craziest thing because once I decide something, it happens. I think that's how strong our mental game is.
So freshman year I watched the World Series on my couch. I felt, "We could totally beat these girls. We are so good. I don't know why we're not there." So I started a group message with the incoming freshman. So they were the high school seniors coming here to LSU and I asked, "Are y'all watching the World Series?" and they were, "Yea, we are watching, sorry about your season.".. I said, "No, don't be sorry. because we are going to go next year. I hope your working. I hope your looking at these girls. You're going to play against them next year."
So I just started feeding that to the group and I think it helped. Bailey Landry also stepped up as a leader. That duo that we had, kinda fueled the team that we had. We had a lot of leaders on the team, don't get me wrong. It wasn't just me and Bianka, it was everybody kinda leading in a different way. Connie brought the energy, our little second baseman, she was like, fire.
Then Carley Hoover came in that year and was just stone cold on the mound. It was crazy. She was just a straight up competitor. She would race you to the front of the food line. She would try to beat you in everything and she would make sure you knew it.
So everyone lead in a different way and that's what got us that run and every year after that we went to the World Series because it was just a new standard, it was... "LSU goes to the World Series"...
Q - I see that in 2015, you ladies defeated Arizona in the Super Regional to advance to Oklahoma City. That must have felt great gaining a little revenge after being eliminated by them the season before?
Jaquish - It was great, It was great.. I was like wow, I mean, every match up I ever wanted, revenge, or just every competition I ever wanted, I played. I'm thankful for that. When I stepped in my freshman year, I said, "I want to play ULL! I wanna play ULL!" because they knocked LSU out the year before in 2013. So I wanted to play them and show them we were better. My senior year, I finally got that, and it was not easy at all. They brought it.
Q - Tell us what it's like to play in the Women's College World Series?
Jaquish - I think, It's like a dream game. You kinda talk about it while you train. When you're ten years old, like with my dad. My dad would be pitching to me and he would say, "Okay, runner on second, you're down by one, it's the World Series, there is two outs."
So it's kinda crazy how you get to play in the game that you dreamed of since you were a little girl. That's the coolest thing about it, and seeing other little girls ask you for your autograph, and you're like, "Wow, one of these kids could actually show up here one day."
It's just full circle. You just enjoy the moment. I think that's what we missed in 2015, because we were ranked #1. We had a lot of pressure on us to do something big, or to do something good, or to win it all. We had such high expectations for ourselves, instead of just enjoying the moment, and just playing the games and see how it all unfolds.
Because anyone in the World Series, those eight teams, could win it. You have to play the perfect game. You have to be hot. You have to have timely hits. You have to have a little bit of luck on your side. I think we kinda tried to control everything, and we defeated ourselves that year.
Q - So for your junior year in 2016, a lot of players return to make another strong run. Tell us a little about year three.
Jaquish - That was again, we had set a standard for ourselves, and said, Nothing less then the College World Series.
Junior year, we had a lot of the same girls coming back. We had a lot of returners on the team. It was just getting the freshman on board, and they had a standard when they stepped on the field to practice. A focus about them, that there was an expectation. It's crazy because its just tangible.
Like when a lot of returners have the same mentality of,... I expect the freshman to do this. I expect the returners to do this. I expect my senors to do this,.... and it all falls in line.
Like that chain of command happens, and obviously that's set by our head coach. She had a lot of great mental coaches come in and teach us about mentally preparing for something.
She set up a culture for us, that is still ingrained in us. It's still ingrained in the girls who are there. It became more like a standard, a culture that she created, that got us there. It was pretty awesome to see that, and we had,.. I think me, Bailey Landry, and that 2013-2014 class was Beth Torina's first recruiting class. She got to recruit us. Before that, it was Yvette Girouard and all her recruits.
In our junior year, Boom!, she came out with "TIGERS". ... And the meaning of TIGERS is,,,... T - trust, I - integrity, G - grit, E - energy, R - relentlessness, S - selflessness.... and if you have "TIGERS", if you display those traits, we're going to go far. In life, we're going to go far, in softball, in whatever you want to do.
She really helped us kinda grip onto what we were trying to hold onto. She would say, "This is what you call culture." Like what you just decided, LSU is going to the World Series. That's a culture that we are going to hold onto and we're going to make something out of it.
All the girls had a saying on what it should be. That's one of the things I'm proudest of is leaving that legacy and creating that culture with coach. I think that's something that's very special.
Q - Please continue on about your senior year.....
Jaquish - I think that was the season that I did the most growing as a person. Because, I realize, that... It's like that senior moment that you have. This is going to end, and I'm not going to be here next year.
It's kinda your final hurrah.. But, knowing that LSU softball is way bigger then you as a person and how that the legacy is going to continue even after you are gone, and they are still going to be playing, and there will still be girls in purple and gold, and what do you want to leave.
So I think that I was enjoying the moment more then trying to win a championship. I realize that being in that jersey is what makes me happy, even if we don't win it.
That sounds crazy. You think that you would want it more. That you should want the championship more. Actually, no. I just want to practice more with those girls. I just want to be with those girls more, and I just wanted to be a Tiger for as long as I could.
It's not like it struck a fear into the teammates that I had either. They understood, ..."hey someday I'll get there mentally. I don't know where you're at really. But I'm going to be a senior here someday and be there with you mentally through that."
I don't know, When you look at a senior, you can tell that they have been through it. Through the ringer, the shuttles, and all that. Through the stress and the big moments, and that they aren't afraid of it anymore. I don't think I was afraid of it anymore. I was just afraid of not being a Tiger.
Q - How did you feel after your last college game in Oklahoma City, after falling short of another National Championship goal?
Jaquish - That year we finished the worse that we ever finished. Our first year we made it to the semi-finals. Our second year we made it to the semi-finals. So we finished in third place back to back seasons. The last season, I'm not sure what we finished. I don't remember. But I know it wasn't close to third.
It was the worse year that it could have happened. But, after the last game, I believe we lost to Oregon. We went into the locker room, and the coaches were outside of the locker room kinda just talking.
I said, "Hey, I want to say something to y'all." .. and usually I would have said, "Hey, look, we should have done this better. This is why we lost." You know, give them the losing speech, like what we could do to get better, and this, that, and the other. But I just told them, "Thank You. I want to thank everyone of you for allowing me to step my cleats in this dirt again and to end my career here."... Then the water works happened. It's so crazy that it's over. But I told them, "A lot of you are coming back next year and I'll be watching and waiting, so go make me proud." ... That's all I said.
Q - How did your professional career begin? How were you notified about who drafted you in the NPF?
Jaquish - They actually drafted us before the World Series. So it was, .. yea, yea, that's great, but I'm trying to win a championship, playing with my team for the last time. We didn't get to have that moment when where it's like, "Wow, I'm a professional athlete." That's one of the top, elite things that you can be as a person or as a human. But yea, they drafted me and Bailey.
We had a watch party out at Tiger Park, so that was really special. Everyone was really excited. But Bailey and I were trying to stay focused on what we really wanted to do as seniors and what legacy we wanted to leave.
Q - The Chicago Bandits drafted you?
Jaquish - Yes, they did. It was the craziest thing I ever did.
Ten days after the World Series. Ten days after I realized I wasn't a Tiger anymore, I had to take a plane flight and go play in a game that same day. Fly on a plane, land, and go play a game. On a different team, wearing a different jersey.
It was just such a shock to me. I don't think I said one word. It was just so weird. I don't know how I was feeling about it. I was tired, I just got off of a plane.
But the other girls were like, "This is how it is." The professional girls would say, "You better suck it up and start playing. We don't care about your college game and you have to help us win this, and you have to be a part of this team now."
It took me awhile, but I ended up loving it there, and loving Chicago. The good thing was that I was still playing softball, because that was my true love. It's my true love to play softball. So I was excited that I could still do that.
I also made the All-League team. I played catcher a lot in the League and the girls were really awesome and they just love to play. I mean they don't play for the money obviously. So they play for the pride and the passion. I really respected that and could get behind them on that.
Q - How excited were you when you found out that the championship series of the NPF was going to be played at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge?
Jaquish - I was so shocked about it. I think they announced it a mid way through the season that LSU won the bid on the Pro Championship Series. I thought, wow. This is like a Cinderella story. I can't believe I get to play a game and sink my cleats in that dirt again. Being in a different jersey, but still playing on my favorite field, in my favorite park. Yea, that was something special for sure.
Q - After your rookie season in Chicago, you ended up playing for a different team in your second year?
Jaquish - Yes. They traded me for a draft pick and some money.
So I got traded to the Pride and they were the number one team in the League, so I was super excited about that.
It was a great opportunity. It was a little more money for me. I was really excited. I really didn't care. I was just excited to play some softball.
They are located in Viera, Florida. So I went from city life to beach life, but I wasn't mad about it because I love the beach. Our apartments were out on the beach, so I would go outside and go take a run on the beach. I felt,... Oh, this is great. I'm a pro athlete, ... It was fun. It was a lot of fun.
We also went on to win the League Championship that year. That year I actually split time between the Pride and the USA Olympic Team.
Q - So with the USA team you won two gold metals? One in the World Championship and one in the Pan-Am Games? Tell us what that was like to win gold metals...
Jaquish - That felt similar to college ball. The pride that you take in the colors that you are wearing. The pride that you take in representing something bigger then yourself. That felt a lot like college ball. It gave me a hope, that maybe professional softball could be like this someday. Maybe people can get behind us like they did for the USA team.
So, yea. It definitely felt natural to me. I felt, yea this is how it's suppose to be. I learned a lot on that team. I learned a lot about having pride in your country and being viewed as the best team in the world. How that mean't about your work ethic and playing together as a team. So that was crazy too. It was a crazy ride.
Actually, I was on a national team in 2013. It was team Puerto Rico. I don't think a lot of people know that. The captain of their team asked me to play summer ball with them. At the time, the Olympics weren't even in question.
I said yes. I'll play for team Puerto Rico. Go travel the world and play softball. That sounded like fun. I got the okay from Coach Beth to do it. So I played for them for three years, 2013, 14, & 15. In 2016 and 2017, I didn't play for them.
Then I got contacted by team USA. So I began to think, man should I go to this tryout? I had a hard time waking up every morning saying, "Do I want to represent team Puerto Rico, or do I want to represent my country?
Both teams were good enough to make it to the Olympics and qualify. I felt comfortable being with team Puerto Rico. I had become their team captain, and was playing in every game. I don't want to be comfortable, ever.
I always want to be challenged. I always want to be pushed to my limits.
I may not even make team USA. I might go to that try out and burn my bridge with Puerto Rico, and not even make the team. But I'm willing to do that, because I want to be the best in the world. If I'm not willing to risk it and to get better and put myself in a challenging environment everyday, then your not willing to be the best in the world.
I had lawyers get involved. They had to release me from the team. It was a crazy process, but eventually they ended up releasing me from team Puerto Rico and allowed me to play for team USA and then qualify for the Olympics.
You can bet every time we played Puerto Rico they plucked me a few times. We beat them every time we played them. I actually hit a home run against them in the World Championships to win the game, and then they didn't pitch to me after that. It was fun.
Q - Who are you currently playing with? The California Commotion?
Jaquish - Yes. We were suppose to report April 17th, but they ended up cancelling the pre-spring dates because of the virus. So we are on a month to month bases on knowing if we are going to play or not. It's kinda sad but it's a softball game vs. world health and this world epidemic, so we understand completely.
I also want to inform you about this other League that is brand new, that no one knows about. I did sign with them as well. So right after the NPF League, there is this thing called Athletes Unlimited. I think it's 52 girls and they are their own coaches and they are their own draft people. You get points by winning games. You get points by winning innings. You get points by your staff and whoever has the most points after the week gets to be a captain and draft their own team. So every week there will be a new team and a new set of captains drafting.
We have two "billion dollar" investors coming in to invest in this League, making it a six week League in Chicago. So it's brand new. No one really knows about it. But I would like people to start becoming informed about that. There website is: www.auprosports.com ...
Q - When your finish playing pro softball, what are your career plans?
Jaquish - I definitely want to coach. I love coaching actually. It's one of my other favorite things to do. To coach the game and to learn from the younger generation.
There are so many new things coming out now with Exit Speed, Launching and all those things that weren't around when I was starting to play. Just learning the game and teaching the game is one of my passions.
I do have a coaching opportunity, but I'm not going to disclose that yet until I sign the contract. But definitely Division I softball coaching is one of my favorite things.
I was a volunteer coach at LSU after my senior year. It was a hands on position. Since I could play any position, Coach Beth would tell me, whoever needs whatever, you better be there. I was like, "Yes Coach."
Q - Can you tell us a little bit about Coach Beth Torina?
Jaquish - Yea, I would love too. She gets it. She understands that she's not just coaching softball games anymore.
I feel like she has matured as a coach with just teaching the game, and she teaches us how to be women. I think that is very special. She has your best interest and I think that she will find what your weakest point is at and she will move your threshold, which is what a great coach does.
So if my normal is batting 300 with a couple of RBIs, she'll always try to push your normal and get you to your breaking point so you can get better. I just appreciate her and she has such great dialog with her players.
She has an open door policy. She will let you call her a 12 midnight if we needed too. We always kept her three little girls into consideration when we called her though. She was always there.
I view her now as a family member then a coach. She is very special to me and my family. I'm forever grateful for her and will always learn from her.
Q - Anything you would like to tell the LSU fans?
Jaquish - LSU fans, man... They are the best. They are the best.. I know everyone says that about their fans at their school but I really think LSU fans are most invested.
They will tell you when you're doing something wrong, but they will defend you against anyone else who is saying something bad about you.
So I feel like that's a type of family thing that you don't get anywhere else. It's out of love to be the best and to always honor LSU and to always keep Louisiana State above everything else.
I appreciate them. I love them so much. That's another reason why I chose LSU is because there is actual fans there. People actually come to your games. People actually care. People are invested.
They bring their daughters to the games and they say, "We are your biggest fan." There is just something there in that connection that you have with the fan base that you don't get anywhere else. I don't care what anyone else says. But, yes, they are the best. They are my favorite and just keep on being them.
By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Cole Freeman grew up in Mandeville, LA and attended Lakeshore High School where he excelled in baseball earning All-State and All-District honors. He also was a three-year All-District performer for the basketball team as a point guard.
He would move on to play second base for Delgado CC, earning NJCAA All-American and Gold Glove honors in 2015. ...
At LSU he was a superb player, who started at second baseman for two seasons (2016 and 2017).
He is known for his all-out hustling style of play, great infield defense, outstanding speed on the bases, and excellent hitting ability. His bunting and base-stealing ability would put pressure on opposing team's defense. Freeman always seemed to make the big defensive play at the right time.
He was named a Cape Cod League All-Star in the summer of 2016 while playing for the Wareham (Mass.) Gatemen, while also winning the 2016 Cape Cod League batting title.
He was a member of the 2016 and 2017 SEC Academic Honor Roll.
In the 2017 MLB draft, he was selected in the fourth round by the Washington Nationals. He is currently playing for the Harrisburg Senators in the "AA" Eastern League.
Q - Favorite Color?
Cole - Blue
Q - Favorite Food?
Cole - Crabs
Q - Favorite Pro Athlete?
Cole - Sammy Sosa
Q - Favorite Music Artist?
Cole - Mike Stud
Q - Favorite Movie?
Cole - Step Brothers
Q - Favorite Actor?
Cole - Mark Wahlberg
Q - Favorite Sports Team?
Cole - LSU & New Orleans Saints
Q - Where did you grow up?
Cole - Mandeville. I was born in Metairie, then moved to the north shore when I was four years old.
Q - What were your two favorite sports to play while growing up?
Cole - Basketball and baseball
Q - While attending Lakeshore High School, did you play multiple sports?
Cole - Yes, I played baseball and basketball there. I tried getting volleyball there, but they weren't having it. I played volleyball in junior high and loved it. It was so much fun cutting up with everybody. A bunch of the other schools didn't have it, so they would of had to make it like a club team and with the school being so new, they just couldn't do it.
Q - I see you were All-State and All-District in baseball and pretty good in basketball as well?
Cole - Yes, I think I still own a couple of basketball records over there, like charges and I don't know if I still have the assists one. Someone may have past me up in that one. I think I also have the most steals. I think I was All-District one year.
Q - Were you recruited by anyone for baseball or basketball?
Cole - No.. I wasn't even recruited for baseball. Well, the only team that did hit me up for baseball was a place called Spring Hill. I think they were located in Mobile, AL. But that was my only baseball offer coming out of high school.
Q - So how did you end up playing baseball at Delgado Community College?
Cole - Yea, one of their coaches I kinda grew up with, Chris Westcott, who lived in our neighborhood. He was really a blessing to me. I met him when I was really young. I was about ten. I actually met him at a LSU vs. ULL game that my dad took me to. We found out then that he lived in our neighborhood, and he kinda took me under his wing. So, I called him and asked if he could get me into Delgado, and three weeks before college started I was able to get in.
Q - From what I understand, Delgado has a pretty solid baseball program?
Cole - Yea, I think starting in 2013 is when they started kinda turning that corner and establishing themselves. They went to the World Series the year before I got there, Then we went back to the World Series during both of my years there. Then I think they went the following year after I left too. So they have been in the top ten in the country for the last seven to eight years. Joe Sherman was my head coach there.
Q - How was your experience at Delgado and what kind of a coach was Coach Sherman?
Cole - To him, I'm in forever debt. To Coach Sherman, the other coaches, and the whole Delgado program. I tell people all the time, that the best thing that ever happened to me was getting an opportunity to go there. It obviously furthered my career. If I could, I would do it again in a heart beat. School wise, I think it was the right choice for me to. It was a little smaller right out of the gate. Kinda helped me get my feet wet for college. That program means everything to me, as well as the people. As long as I can play and help that program out, the way they helped me out. I'd do that the rest of my life. Yea, I'm always proud to say that I'm a former Delgado Dolphin.
Q - Can you tell us how you got your opportunity to play at LSU after your Sophomore season at Delgado?
Cole - It actually started my freshman year, after my fall season. We had a our exit meeting with Coach Joe. As I walked in he started to tell me how he thought I did. Then he told me that I would be starting when we would come back to start the season. I went into the fall thinking, you know because I was coming behind someone that had just went to the World Series and was returning. So I was thinking that I was going to still have to stay behind him, then maybe redshirt or something. But I beat him out.
Then I asked coach if he thought I could play at LSU? He said, "I think you can. You still need to work on some things, but I think you can get there." So, I kinda put it in his mind real early, that, Hey, look, That is where I really want to be.
So I think he kinda saw that and he kinda pushed me in that sense. He knew that was in the back of my mind. I wanted to go to one of the top places in the country.
So, he decided that he was going to coach me and treat me in the way that it would take to get me there. So I kept working and working.
Then after my freshmen year, I had a pretty good summer. That's when I heard some chirps about LSU looking at me.
My big thing coming into my sophomore season in the fall, I was going to put all of my hard classes in the fall. So I didn't have to worry about anything during the season, but focus on baseball to get my best shot at LSU.
It ended up that we happened to play at LSU during the fall, and actually I probably had the worse game of my college career when I needed to have a good game in front of Coach Mainieri and Nolan Cain. They were all there. I went 0-4 with a strike out and committed two errors, and I thought my chance at LSU was over.
I ended up getting a knock on my hotel door and it was Coach Sherman. He asked me how I was doing and I said, "I feel terrible. I just had my worse game and they were watching." Then he said, "I just want to let you know that Nolan Cain and Paul Mainieri asked for your number after the game." That kinda shocked me, because of how bad the game was, but it helped relieved a lot of stress. If they liked me after that game, then I can't do much worse than that.
That's a story that I always tell the younger kids now. Because the reason why he came and got my number was because he liked the way I was hustling and the way that I was responding to making all those mistakes. Anyone can have a good game and keep their head up, but I just kept bouncing back. I ended up making two good plays after I made an error. Then after another error, I ended up making a diving play. There was a ball that I popped up, but I still hustled and ran fast, and they ended up dropping it, so I was able to get to second. So it was the little things.
At the time I really didn't understand it like I do now. But like I said, It's a story that I try to tell to a bunch of younger kids that in order for you to get to a place like LSU, you don't have to go 4-4 with two home runs. You got to do the little things, the intangibles.
Yea, after that I got a call from Andy Cannizaro two weeks later and went on my visit in October. The rest is history.
Q - Tell us about Coach Paul Mainieri?
Cole - Yea, He's got this persona. Obviously he has this status being the LSU head coach. When you get around him, for some reason you want to do your absolute best, almost in a way to thank him for your opportunity for being there.
He knows how to get the best out of you. I think that is one thing that us players always talked about. When he is on the field you always wanted to do something good to impress him because he's your coach, but you just wanted to go out there and play hard for him.
He knows how to put pressure on you in practice and get you ready for the game. Because I think he understands how big of a stage it is. Obviously with every game being on TV and all the fans being there like no other college in the nation.
He knows how to put that pressure on you and he wants to see if you can handle it. He did that right out the gate with putting all of us at short stop after Bregman left. Trey Dawson, O'Neal Lochridge, myself, and Kramer.
I remember the first week, it was exhausting, because we would have practice, and then after we would have short stop tryouts. Us four would stay on the field and take ground balls for 45 minutes and timing it, and that was all after a long practice.
He obviously knew what it took to play there and how to get it out of us. Some people faltered and some people rose up. I think that's how he gets the best out of people. He's going to go there and see how much pressure you can take, see how you handle it.
But, I mean the experience was incredible. I'll thank Coach Mainieri for giving me my dream job, I like to say. My dream opportunity for the rest of my life, and I want to say I hope the memories don't slip for a long, long time, because I'd like to always remember ever second.
Q - Can you tell us about meeting Coach Skip Bertman for the first time as a LSU player and some of the things you two have talked about?
Cole - Yea, I was in kinda a "awe" the first time I met him.
That was one of the things that I would talk to my dad about, that by the time I was leaving LSU, how cool it was that Skip would come into a room and we could just have conversation, because obviously I was already familiar with him, and we kinda had a relationship.
I thought that was one of the coolest things about going to LSU. Obviously, I watched him while I was growing up. I watched him coach. He's an icon. Anything that he had to say, I was listening.
I remember one of the biggest compliments that I ever got was he was standing up during the game, when I was being introduced with my parents, and my parents were talking to him. This was during my senior year and I remember my dad told me after the game that he got to meet Skip and they got to talk about me a lot and he gave me one of the coolest compliments ever.
I kept asking.. "What is it? What is it?" ... He just kept dragging it out. Then he said, "He thinks you're the best second base defender that LSU has ever seen." When he told me that, It like opened my eyes. I was like, "WOW!" That's Skip Bertman saying that? That's like the ultimate goal when you get a compliment from Skip Bertman. Yea, he is an icon.
Every opportunity I could get to just talk to him. I did. Talk to him in the dug out or outside of baseball, it was just awesome. I definitely cherish those moments.
Q - Who are some of the former LSU baseball greats that you have had conversations with during your career?
Cole - Yea, I got pretty close to Mikie Mahtook and especially some of the team that was a couple of years before me. I think Mahtook was probably one of the older ones who I got to talk too. I got to meet Buzzy.
A bunch of those guys I got to go to dinner with right before you leave for spring training. They try to have a dinner each year, and you have a couple of guys from each year, each team would all go to dinner and just tell stories.
But yea, I remember Mason Katts. When I was at Delgado, I met him at Mardi Gras and we started talking. I told him that I was going to LSU and I remember one of the things he told me about Coach Mainieri was, he said, "Listen, when he kinda jumps your butt, kinda get back at him. Jump his butt back and say, you understand you messed up and that it's not going to happen again!" He added, "He likes that. He likes to see a little response, and someone who's not going to cave under."
So, not only three games into the season, I got my first start at short stop, and in the first inning I dropped the transfer on a double play ball that I was about to feed to second. Then of course the next ball, the dude hit a double, scored two, and I would have gotten us out of the inning if I would have turned it.
So he meets me right down by the water cooler, and he just starts going at me. I won't say what he said, but he was going at me. I got like half way down the dug out and it click for some reason in my head that Mason Katts told me that day. So I turned around and I was like.. "Alright Coach, I understand, I messed up, it's not going to happen again!" ... and he just looked at me, nodded his head and walked away. I was like, damn, Mason was right!
Q - Would you tell us a little about the 2016 season, which was your first at LSU?
Cole - Starting in the fall, I just wanted to earn a spot. I didn't care where.
Then in the fall I kinda struggled with my hitting a little bit while making that next jump, with the pitchers. I think I only hit like 220 in the fall.
But I played good defense, and I played third base the entire fall, and I had never played third my entire life. So we get through the fall and they tell me I'm going to start at third to start the season.
So we come back for the season and I start my first two games at third base. Everything seemed good. Then over the next two weeks I start a rotation playing short, and I really hadn't played short since my senior year in high school, and then after that is when I made the jump over to second to where I played my entire life. That's when stuff started clicking.
Then over the fall, I kinda had to make an adjustment with my swing. That's what Andy Cannizaro ended up helping me with. We kind of came up with an approach for me.
Obviously my biggest tool was running, so I had to learn how to bunt. I would bunt as much as I would hit, I think at practice. I would go out there for early work at 1:30pm and it would go until 3pm. Then I would take ground balls for probably 30 minutes. Then I would go bunt off of the machine for 30 minutes. Then I would hit for another 30 minutes. I had to learn to be great at bunting.
Then after that we kinda turned my approach to just turning on everything. I like to pull the ball, so he said, Let's go!, We came up with the saying, "Beat the 3rd baseman." ... It didn't matter how I was pitched, I was trying to pull it right by the 3rd baseman. If he wasn't playing in, then I was bunting.
I think I ended up setting the record for most sacrifice bunts. They really weren't sacrifice bunts, but if someone was on first base and I got thrown out, that's what it would go down as.
I was squaring around two for every four times at bat, every game. I kinda made that adjustment and it worked out for me. Especially starting the season out.
I think during the first two weeks I was hitting around 400. I was rolling, and it was a big jump from where I was in the fall. Just throughout the year, I continued on that path.
I remember coach moved me up in the lineup twice. The last time he moved me up in the lineup was after a Friday night game at Missouri. We faced Trendon Houte on Saturday. This dude was just a phenom. I had never seen somebody of his caliber.
I remember sitting in the dugout and I looked at the lineup and I'm batting, I can't remember, either first or second. So I look at the lineup and I walk away and Mainieri is looking at me and he says, "Huh, my hand must have slipped, huh Cole?" and I started laughing, and I was like, "I guess so." ... I was already in that game mind set with it being so close to game time and he said, "Let's see what you can do?" ..
Well, I went 0-5 with two strikeouts. After the game he said, "I don't think my hand is going to slip again." .. I was like, I understand. But then I was like, you put me against one of the toughest pitches in the nation, who I hadn't seen yet. But it was all part of it.
By the end of the season, articles were coming out and they were saying, "Best Nine Hole Hitter in the Country" ... I actually wanted to be at the top of the lineup, but when they started saying that, and while we were rolling, I kinda just embraced it. Hey, I'm going to be the best nine hole in the nation.
So, that's kinda what I wanted to go by at the end of the season. We were rolling and we caught fire. We were just clicking on all cylinders. Obviously look at what we did in the SEC Tournament. I don't know what happens to us in the SEC Tournaments, but something takes us over it feels like. It's absurd some of the things we do.
Then in the Regional, having to battle back against Rice for a winner take all, and Deichmann hitting that home run in the seventh inning. It was kinda crazy, with the whole "Rally Possum" thing.
The whole season is just kinda what you would hope for. With me going to LSU, with events like that, like the "Rally Possum" happening. Then with us kinda struggling at mid-season. Then us catching fire. Then us hosting a Regional. Then hosting a Super.
I remember at one point we were just hoping to make the tournament, then next thing you know we're locking up the seventh or eighth national seed. It was unreal. It was awesome.
Q - Please talk about and review 2017, your senior year?
Cole - Well, it started out after we lost to Coastal Carolina, we kinda wanted to all figure out what we all were going to do.
Me, and Poche', and Kramer, we just all kinda talked and we were just all kinda saying I think we need to make another run at this. I think if we all come back and with the people that we have coming in, that we were just right there. I think we really have a good shot at this.
We all said, we are all going to come back, and we started to realize that if we put the work in, that we will have a really good shot at winning it all.
When we came back in the fall, there was definitely a different feeling. We were more established as a team. We knew what positions we were all going to be playing. It was like, Hey! what do we need to do to take that next step? What does each individual have to get better at, to make the team better? The fall was a lot more relaxed then my junior season.
We came out the gate playing really, really good. Then we kinda struggled mi-way through again. I remember a lot of the fans were kinda freaking out, especially with us losing some mid-week games. We really weren't worried. We knew we were going to turn it around. The baseball season is a long one.
I remember we ended up losing to South Alabama at our place, after we had a big lead, and it was kinda at the end of the season. You know, I'm not a very vocal guy as far as talking to the team a lot. But after that game Coach Mainieri huddled us up and he didn't say anything to us. He just said, "Okay, Lets just get to work tomorrow at 1:30." ..
For some reason something took me over and I started lighting the team up in a sense. I was just like, "We are suppose to be this top team and we keep coming out here and laying an egg in the mid-week games! This is going to cost us a national seed. We need to get our sh*t together!" Just trying to say, "Hey! we're running out of time! We can't keep messing around with all these games, it's going to end up hurting us in the long run. If we get home field advantage, teams can't deal with that, as well as we can." I just kind of let into them a little bit.
Then Kramer, Deichmann, Poche', and Lange all kinda chirped in. We kinda had like a players meeting only out there. We just all kind of said, it's now or never. That's when we finally went on a run.
We started that week, then we finished in the SEC with Auburn and a couple of those teams. Then Obviously, what we did in the SEC Tournament was mind boggling. I think in the first three games, I can't remember how many runs we scored. Yea, we beat a great Kentucky team and then we had to go face a hot Arkansas team in the championship game, and we were able to win that.
Then we went into the Regional and did our thing there. Then on to the Supers and did our thing there. Then Obviously we got to the World Series, and that was by far the coolest thing that I ever got to experience.
Just with the status and the platform you are put on with all those eyes watching you, then the pressure. It was the coolest thing I ever got to do.
After beating Oregon State twice, we, as a team, thought we had it in the bag. We had lost to Florida earlier in the season, but we felt like we were a totally different team. We thought we were the better team going into that. We knew it was going to be tough losing Eric Walker, and us going to face Brady Singer in the first game.
Even though we knew we were short a starting pitcher, we just knew we had to get to game three.
After we lost game one, 4-3, I talked to the team out there and I said, "Listen, we knew this was going to be a tough game. They knew they had to win this game if they were going to beat us. I'm not worried at all. We're going to be just fine. We have Jared Poche' coming out tomorrow. There is no one else that I'd love to have take them out. Then after we beat them there, we are going to go and we'll have Lange. We're fine. This is how it's going to go. I'm not worried and I don't think you all should be worried."
The team was in good morale, after losing game one of the World Series. I promise you, the team had all the confidence in the world going into game two and getting to a game three. We just had a couple of breaks not go our way, and in the seventh and eighth innings, with first and third with no outs, and not scoring. Once you make mistakes like that, it's kinda tough to come back. But, it just didn't work out for us.
Q - Tell us about your draft process by the Washington Nationals?
Cole - At the time I didn't have an agent yet, so I was trying to handle it all by myself. I didn't have much leverage being a senior, but on the first day of the draft while I was at Lange's draft party, the Braves called me to talk and discuss money.
I really didn't care what round I went in, I just wanted to make as much money as I could after losing money from the year before.
The Rockies called me in the 4th round and I turned their offer down. Then the Nationals called me with an offer, and we negotiated to a number I agreed with. Next thing you know I ended up signing with them.
Right after the World Series I had to go to rehab because I was playing with a wrist injury for probably the last month and a half of the season. I had to be put in a cast, so I missed my whole short season. Rehabbed, and did the off-season.
When I got to my first full season, I started out in Hagerstown in Single A, and did pretty bad my first half. I only hit .222. I remember looking out and I was like, this is crazy. My last game I played was in front of 30,000 people, and now I'm out in the middle of Hagerstown, Maryland, playing in front of about 50 people and it's 45 degrees. At one point it was snowing.
All of my infield speaks nothing but Spanish. I couldn't speak to any of them. I was like, wow, this is a rude awakening.
I had to make some adjustments hitting wise, just like I did my junior year. I figured it out, and in my second half I hit .312. Ever since then it's kinda clicked, something at the plate with me.
Then I went into my second full season, playing for Potomac in Single A. Kinda got off on a good note there and never looked back.
That's where I started playing a little outfield in the second half, and kinda opened up the whole utility type of player they were trying to get. So I started learning how to play that.
Then I got invited to the Fall League. Went out there, Had a great time. Got to meet some of the guys from Florida's team that I played against. We all got to talk about the World Series and stuff like that. To me, that's the coolest thing, getting to speak to people you played against your whole life, that you've had big games against each other, and just getting to meet these guys as a person.
But then, now we are the point where we are now. Sitting and waiting for the call to go back.
Q - Is there anything you would like to tell the LSU fans?
Cole - Yes, That I'm forever in dept to their hospitality and that if there was anything in this world I could do, it would be to go back and play another game in front of all of them at the Box.
Playing for LSU and going out there and representing them is by far the coolest thing I've ever got to do. I'll cherish it for the rest of my life.
When I tell you that they mean more to us then they could ever imagine, it's really the truth. Because when we are running around out there, we're not just running out there for the name on our back and the name on our front. We're running out there to perform and to hopefully bring joy and happiness to them, because that's really what gets us going. Seeing how much joy we can bring to all of them by just playing a game that we've played our entire life and that we love so much.
Q - What about your "Heart Has No Limit" program?
Cole - Yea, My Heart Has No Limit, kinda took its own little thing because of LSU. It's just my story growing up.
Like I said, I didn't have anywhere to go coming out of high school and for me to get where I was took a lot of the right people for me to be around and kinda the right timing.
I just want people to know that if there is anything you want to achieve and you put your heart into it, you can do it. It doesn't matter what other people are saying or believe. It's not their dream, it's not their belief, it's what you believe in.
Just go out and do it. Don't let anyone tell you no. Put in the work and I promise you, if you put everything that you have into it, you can achieve it. Once you get there, keep pushing. Don't ever stop.
By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Today's Q & A Session is with former LSU pitcher, Ben McDonald. McDonald was a solid basketball player at LSU for Dale Brown, but it was on the baseball diamond that Big Ben is most known and remembered for.
He had a great three year career wearing a LSU baseball uniform, helping the Skip Bertman lead Tigers reach the College World Series in Omaha twice.
McDonald would become a two-time All-American, win the Golden Spikes Award, and win a gold metal in the 1988 Olympics.
The Baltimore Orioles would draft him number one overall in the 1989 MLB Draft. He became the only number one draft pick to win his first five starts in Major League baseball history.
After nine seasons in the Majors, he would retire in 1997 due to arm and shoulder problems. He finished with a 78-70 record, a 3.91 career ERA, an impressive total of 24 shutouts and 894 strikeouts in 198 starts.
“Ben might be the best overall athlete who ever came through LSU athletic program,” Skip Bertman would once say, adding,. “After two years in basketball he came to baseball full time. In high school, he was naturally in three sports, and for someone to play two sports at such a high level tells a lot about his athletic ability. Ben was a good player for Dale Brown, but baseball was his best sport."
McDonald is a member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame, as well as the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
He currently helps cover Baltimore Orioles baseball and works for the SEC Network as a baseball analyst.
He lives in Denham Springs with his wife Nicole, daughter Jorie and son Jase.
Q - What is your favorite color?
Ben - Green
Q - What is your favorite food?
Ben - Seafood
Q - Who was your favorite Pro Athlete growing up and currently?
Ben - Growing up I was a big fan of Pete Rose & Nolan Ryan. More recent years, Cal Ripken Jr. who I got to play with for seven years and Michael Jordan was so cool to watch.
Q - Who is your favorite music artist?
Ben - George Straight
Q - Favorite movie?
Ben - Tombstone
Q - Favorite Actor?
Ben - Kevin Costner
Q - Favorite Sports Team?
Ben - Baltimore Orioles
Q - Where did you grow up?
Ben - I grew up in Denham Springs and still live there now. Its always been my home. I now live across the street from my mom and dad. They have lived in the same place since I've been like five years old I guess, you know. Nearly fifty years in the same spot. That's pretty cool.
Q - At Denham Springs High School, you played multiple sports?
Ben - Yes, I made all-state in three different sports during my last two years. My junior year as an all-state kicker, senior year an all-state punter in football, and then all-state in basketball and baseball for those years as well. I even played a little bit on the golf team, but it kinda interfered to much with baseball being a spring sport.
Q - What was your favorite sport to play when you were growing up?
Ben - You always try to encourage kids these days to play multiple sports, I think that's where it's at.
I was one of those kids that would say when they would ask, "What's your favorite sport?", I would always say, "Whatever is in season." Whatever I could do at the time was my favorite sport.
I played Major League baseball, so you would think that baseball was my favorite sport, but not so much.
I actually enjoyed basketball more when I was growing up and everyone forgets that I went to LSU on a basketball scholarship.
I love basketball. I loved playing for Dale Brown, it was one of the highlights of my career.
I just liked a little bit of everything. I always considered myself to be pretty athletic, so I just loved staying busy. There was never a day that I went home from school with nothing to do. I was always playing something. I enjoyed all of it.
Q - Being so successful in multiple sports must have made your recruiting process pretty wild and crazy? You must of had multiple schools recruiting you for multiple sports?
Ben - Oh yea. I was more highly recruited out of high school to play basketball then baseball.
I remember there was over 100 division one school who offered me a basketball scholarship, including almost everyone in the SEC.
With baseball there was almost as many too. But I always wanted to play basketball, it was always my favorite sport.
It actually came down to LSU, Mississippi State, and the University of Texas. They all were going to let me play both sports.
Of course it was hard, when you're a local kid, It's hard to get away from the state of Louisiana. I never wanted to play anywhere else. I grew up like a lot of kids, going to LSU baseball games, going to LSU basketball games, going to LSU football games. Purple and gold was always in my blood and that's where I wanted to go to school. So I'm very thankful I got the opportunity to do so.
Q - Well with purple and gold being in your blood, that must have helped make it easy for Dale Brown to help you make your final decision?
Ben - Yea, it was. It was a tough decision, because I really liked Mississippi State too.
Ron Polk was the head coach at Mississippi State and at the time, he had the number one program in the SEC. Polk had Palmeiro and Bobby Thigpen, Jeff Brantley and Will Clark all at Mississippi State and they were going to all these College World Series, so that's why they were kinda on my radar.
Skip Bertman had just gotten to LSU. But then my senior year in high school, Skip took LSU to the College World Series for the first time and that kinda sealed the deal. I said this is going to be a solid program and I wanted to go be a part of that. So as they say, the rest is history.
Q - Want to tell us what it was like playing for Dale Brown and Skip Bertman?
Ben - I tell people all the time, Dale Brown, you know, when you're a 18, 19 year old kid you always don't understand some of the things that coaches tell you.
This goes for Bertmen too. You think they are being hard on you. But as you get older you realize that they were there and they really cared about you, and they wanted what was best for you, both on and off the court.
The biggest complement I got from Dale Brown is, and I told him this the other day, that it really took me some time and that I really understand now, and I appreciate the way that he treated us all. He really, truly cared about us as much off the court as he did on the court. And as a father now, sending my kids off to college, you got to trust the coach. The coach is really going to really impacted their lives in a lot ways in the course of two, three, or four years. However long they're there. You got to be able to trust.
Dale Brown was a father figure to me, and Skip Bertman was too. They helped me grow up and taught lessons both on and off the court that I have taught to my kids and to the teams that I have coached over the years. My boy's teams and daughter's teams over the years.
They just impacted my life in so many ways. But they have impacted so many others student athletes lives as well. So I was very fortunate to play for both of them and learn so much. As the years go by you really realize how much you learned and how much they impacted your life in so many different ways.
Who gets to play for both Dale Brown and Skip Bertman during their college career? So that was a lot of fun for me.
Q - So, how was it being a two sport athlete during your LSU Career?
Ben - I played both basketball and baseball my freshman year. We went to the Elite Eight in basketball and the College World Series in baseball all in the same year. So that was a good freshman year.
Because we went so far into the NCAA playoffs in basketball, I missed half the baseball season. I wanted to make the Olympic team the following year in 1988. So I knew the only way to do that was to be in baseball the whole next year to show everyone potentially what I could do on the baseball level so I could be on the Olympic team, which doesn't come along very often.
After my freshman year I went off to the Alaskan Summer League and played a summer out there and really got in shape. Needing it really good because of missing half the baseball season. It helped my fastball pick up. I hit 97 on the radar gun, and I kinda knew at that point that baseball may be my future to make it to the professional level.
So I went back to school and told Dale Brown that I was giving up basketball. It really was kind of a funny story. Of course he was totally against it. But then he swears to this day that he told me, and he did tell me this again the other day, "That I could have played in the NBA." but he said "That you made the right decision. I don't think you would have been the impact player at the NBA level that you were in MLB, being the first pick overall and stuff."
So I told him that I wanted to make the Olympic team. I appreciate everything you have done for me and I hate to do this because I love the game of basketball. But I got to give baseball a full shot.
He said, "Okay"... and I'll tell you what kind of guy he is. He said "Ben, just in case you want to come back, I'm going to leave you on basketball scholarship."
Well, right before school started in October the entire basketball team got sick. They couldn't even practice. They only had maybe seven players that they could put on the court at one time. So he called me and asked me if I could please come back and be a part of this for awhile.
So, I went back out to play basketball and help coach out. I'm on basketball scholarship and he needs me right now so I'm going to go help him out.
I used that to help get my legs in great shape from running up and down the court for two or three months.
So I told him, "Coach, I'm going to come play basketball and do whatever you need me to do, but as soon as January 1st comes rolling around, I'm going out to baseball full time." He said, "Done! Perfect!" ....
So my basketball career was really only a full year and a couple of months, is basically what it was.
Q - What was it like to play in the College World Series?
Ben - Getting to play in the College World Series and the Elite Eight as a 18-19 year old kid, it was just an unbelievable experience.
You don't realize what you were a part of until years down the road. But to compete on that high level of college sports and go that deep into the playoffs, of course being able to do that with both of those squads in the same year.
It was cool for me that Coach Bertman, again, another genius out there and to kind of get into it out there at the ground level of LSU baseball.
We were kind of the building blocks to what would come of five national titles in nine years.
They went to the College World Series once before I got there, then we went twice ('87 & '89) out of the three years I was there. We finished third I think in both years that I went. While we were so close, we just couldn't get it done for whatever reason. But we also were the building blocks for the recruiting.
Coach Bertman use to always say, "You got to be there a few times before you really think you could win." My group of players actually went. Then the ones that came after us said, "You know what? LSU has been to the College World Series three or four times now. Why can't we go and win now?"
So, that's why I say we were the building blocks of what would come later on with those five national titles. The first time they won it was in 1991. My last season was in 1989. So boy, when they started to win them, they piled them up quickly.
It was cool for me to be on the ground floor of that, and Coach Bertman came in started to put LSU baseball on the map several years before I got there. Then we really took it to another level during my years there.
I'm proud to have been a part of that. Helping to build one of the elite programs, not only in the SEC, but one of the most elite baseball programs in the Country.
Q - How did you find out that you were the #1 overall pick by the Baltimore Orioles?
Ben - Believe it or not, but the draft back then use to be at the College World Series. So we were actually at the College World Series, ready to play that night and the draft was that day.
So, that's when I found out I was picked #1 overall. So I had to go to a press conference and talk about that for an hour, then three hours later, try to go play a baseball game.
It was a very difficult time. Everyone would ask "What was that like?" .. For me it was just relief more than anything. It's exciting. It's a dream come true, but there is also so much relief because there is so much anticipation that goes with the draft.
With me being one of these guys that came back from the Olympic team with success, I was kinda touted to be, if I stayed healthy, the #1 pick in the Country.
So I had to live up to that the entire season and talk about it all the time. It would kind of wear on me a little bit. Having to talk about it so much with the media.
So I really didn't get to enjoy my junior year like I wanted too, but it was still a heck of an experience.
Q - How long did it take for you to make it to the Orioles from the Minor League level?
Ben - I spent ten days in the Minor Leagues. I signed on August the 19th of '89, then I was in the Big Leagues September the 1st. I had two Minor League starts. One in "A" ball and one in "AA", then was called up.
Q - How many years did you play in the Major Leagues?
Ben - I played seven year with the Orioles. Then I went over to the Milwaukee Brewers and played two years there before my arm just gave out on me.
To make a long story short, it was three surgeries trying to come back from rotator cuff and injury problems in my shoulder.
None of the surgeries really worked. I spend the better part of three years trying to rehabbing and having surgeries.
I was out of the game at 30-31 years old. Just when you start to kinda really figure it out and start to get into the prime of your career, my career was over.
Those are the breaks of it. Not many players get to go out on their own terms, you know? I certainly didn't, but I'm very thankful for the nine years of Major League baseball that I got to play.
Q - How was your experience with the Olympics in 1988?
Ben - I was always a big fan of the Olympics while I was growing up. I loved to watch the Summer Olympics. Watch all the track and field events, the swimming events.
It was all very exciting me to see the other Countries compete against one another when I was a kid.
To finally get to experience that. Man, I'm going to tell you, when you put the red, white, and blue on, you're representing your college, your home town, the state you're from, your family. You're representing your Country. When it says "USA" across your chest, it doesn't get any better than that.
We had a long summer where we played a bunch of games. We took two different trips to Japan. We were over in Italy for the World Championships. Then we also had a US tour around the United States. We finally ended up in Seoul, South Korea for the Olympics.
What an experience that was. I had two starts and threw two complete games. I only gave up one run in each game. I also still hold the record in Italy for pitching two complete game shutouts. So I pitched some of my best baseball that summer.
It was cool for me, I pitched against North Korea and I think Puerto Rico. It was such a really cool deal.
I always wondered what it would feel like to stand up on that gold metal platform and have them drape a gold metal across your neck like that. To be able to experience that was at the very top of my career.
Q - Who was the head coach of that USA Baseball Team?
Ben - Mark Marquess out of Stanford was the head coach. Our coach Skip Bertman was the pitching coach. Ron Polk from Mississippi State was one of the coaches as well. So we had a great Hall of Fame type coaching staff. A bunch of really good ball players.
To be able to do that was really fun. It's an experience that you will never forget. You make life long friends and the places you get to go. I had barely been out of the state of Louisiana hardly until then. Then you end up in Japan, Italy, South Korea. It was a heck of an experience.
Q - What did you do after retiring from Major League baseball?
Ben - I coached my daughter's teams for a long time.
Then the way the broadcasting thing started was with CST, when they use to show all the LSU baseball games. I did that for four or five years with Lyn Rollins.
Then I would do the ESPNU Thursday Night Baseball Show on college baseball. Then the Orioles heard about that and had me go back to Baltimore to do some radio games. Actually the first package was some radio and TV post game show. So I started doing about 15 Orioles games a year.
Then the SEC Network kicked off and that's when it went from a hobby to a job. I started doing about 60 college events a year. Then started doing some digital SEC Plus stuff.
The Orioles stuff started to get more and more, so I got more involved with them. To make a long story short on that, the last couple of years have been pretty busy.
This year I had 129 games scheduled between college baseball and Orioles baseball. I love it, but the traveling is tough.
I was scheduled to do 84 Orioles games and about 45 college games this year before all of this stuff started to happen. With college ball being cancelled after only a few games, and I'm hopeful that Major League baseball to get going eventually. I'm hoping for July, if possible.
Q - How did you feel about LSU replacing the old Alex Box Stadium?
Ben - I was totally against it at first. You know how we are? It's kinda like this Coronavirus, anytime there is something new in our lives that we're used too, then something new pops up.
There is always some uncertainty. There was so much tradition at the old Box. That's where I had blood, sweat, and tears, along with a lot of other ball players, you hate to see it go.
But the new Box, God, is it beautiful.The more I kept doing baseball games there, the more I kept going back and the fans got behind it.
The 2009 team won a national championship pretty quickly. So it kinda became okay. Now it's not even a thought other then when you ride by where the Box use to be.
Now it seems like there is a store or strip mall there and a parking lot. That kind of hurts your feeling a little bit. But that's part of it. You can't stop it.
There has been so many new ball parks around the SEC. LSU was one of the first ones. You go around and Ole Miss has added on, Mississippi State has added on. Alabama has a new one. Vanderbilt does too. It goes on and on. It's just expansion and moving forward.
I love the new Box now. It's a really cool place with a great atmosphere, but I sure do miss the old Box in some ways too. It needed to happen for the fans. LSU has lead the nation in attendance for 24 consecutive years now. So it was a great way to get people in the stands.
Q - What was it like to have LSU retire your number?
Ben - That was cool. You know as an athlete you hope to be remembered in some way, you know.. You hope to have an impact on the young kids that are coming up in some ways.
Like I did when I was a kid, I would watch certain players play. Whether it was basketball, baseball, or football. But you hope to have an impact in some way.
Coach Bertman had felt like that I had done enough and that I helped impact the program like we talked about earlier. That I was one of the stepping stones of LSU baseball. Helping put LSU baseball on the map. He told me this the other day, Skip said. "You know there has been several number one picks in basketball, baseball, and football. and now that Joe Burrow has won the Heisman, we have two Heisman Trophy winners. We've had several award winners in basketball, like Pete Maravich, Chris Jackson, and Shaq. But we only have one Golden Spikes Award winner in the history of LSU baseball." He said that the other day.
I never really thought of it like that. But when you think about it, it means something, you know... I'm thankful for the career that I had at LSU. The impact that I've had.
I'm also a LSU kid growing up. I grew up 20 minutes away from the University. Even though I may have considered going to another place coming out of high school, my heart and soul was going to end up at LSU one way or the other. It was cool to get to play in your hometown team.
Q - One thing I remember as a fan is when they talked about the size of your hands, and that you were able to hold seven baseballs in a hand at one time.
Ben - Yea. We got to doing that with the Olympic team. Andy Benes who was the number one pick in the MLB draft the year before me was on the team. He was a big ole guy, my height too. So we got to messing around. Well, everyone remembers Johnny Bench and how many balls Johnny Bench held years ago. Bench held seven also. So we wanted to see if we could do it. Both of us were able to do it. But there aren't many guys that have hands that big where you can hold them and turn your hand over and not have any of the balls fall out. That's just something that I was always able to do.
Q - Is there anything you want to tell the LSU fans?
Ben - I know it's a tough time right now. We are going to get through this. I was on a radio show the other day and someone asked me a similar question.
The folks down here, we have proven ourselves between the hurricanes and the floods and everything else to be very resilient people down here. I know it's a horrible time right now. It's tough. But we're going to get through this and hopefully be stronger and better and more united when it's all said and done.
As far as my career goes, I'm thankful every day for the LSU fans and the way that they have treated me. Not only when I was playing, but even since my playing days were over. The commentating that I do, they are always seem to be in my corner and appreciate the work that I do. That makes me feel good.
One of the things Dale Brown taught me years ago is, "How you do anything, is how you do everything".
I've always remembered that and have always tried to be the best. If I'm announcing, I want to be the best announcer out there. If I was playing ball, I'd want to be the best ball player out there. So he always encouraged us to always try to be the best at everything that we did. That always meant a lot to me.
By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Today's sit down "Q & A Session" is with former LSU football great, running back Charles Alexander. Alexander became the Tigers' starting running back in his junior season in 1977.
Against Oregon, he scored four touchdowns and set a school record by rushing for 237 yards. For his performance he was named the UPI running back of the Week.
His 1,686 rushing yards that season helped LSU to an 8–3 regular season record and a trip to the Sun Bowl. In that game, Alexander set two Sun Bowl rushing records, carrying 31 times for 197 yards as he won Offensive Player of the Game honors. But even with Alexander's performance, LSU lost to Stanford 24–14.
In 1978 Alexander's stats dropped some during his senior year, as he would be hampered with a nagging leg muscle injury for most of the season, forcing the Tigers' offense to become more balanced with David Woodley at quarterback. He and Woodley would led the team to another 8–3 record.
He played his last game as a Tiger in the 1978 Liberty Bowl, in which he rushed for 133 yards on 24 carries in a 20–15 loss to Missouri.
His accomplishments at LSU led fans to refer to him as "Alexander the Great."
In his final two seasons, he would earn All-American and All-SEC Honors. Alexander was also named the SEC Most Valuable Player in his junior year.
Alexander ended up setting nine SEC records, tied another, and set 27 LSU records. He finished his LSU career as LSU's all-time leading rusher with 4,035 rushing yards.
As a junior he finished 9th in the Heisman Trophy voting.
As a senior he finished 5th in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Q - What is your favorite color?
Alexander - Grey
Q - What is your favorite food?
Alexander - I like it all! If I had to zero in on a favorite food, I'd say seafood. Narrowing it down to fried shrimp. Shrimp any kind of way. Some catfish and I would be happy.
Q - Who is your favorite pro athlete, both currently and growing up?
Alexander - That's a good one there. Growing up, I watched the Dallas Cowboys a lot being originally from Texas. They were televised a lot. Tony Dorsett and Dallas had a running back way back in the day named Dwayne Thomas, I liked both of those guys. Both of them wore number 33. Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, ... guess I'm calling all running backs, but those were my favorite guys.
Currently, wow, that's a good one man,... Currently, I like this kid. I like the way he runs. He didn't play year before last, and last year he was with a new team, Le'Veon Bell. He is one of my favorites that I enjoy watching. I also enjoy watching Odell Beckham Jr.
Q - Who is your favorite Music Artist?
Alexander - Stevie Wonder
Q - Your favorite movie if all-time?
Alexander - Man, you ask some tough questions... It has to be a Denzel movie... "Training Day" with Denzel.
Q - Your favorite Actor?
Alexander - Denzel Washington
Q - Favorite NFL Team?
Alexander - Playing for the Bengals for seven years, so I still have some love for the Bengals. It's got to come down to the Houston Texans, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the New Orleans Saints.
Q - I see that you grew up in Texas and that you currently live there?
Alexander - I live in a suburb of Houston named Sugar Land, Texas. That's in South West Houston. I grew up in Galveston, Texas all my life until I went to LSU.
Q - Family?
Alexander - I'm currently single. I have two daughters and four granddaughters.
Q - While in high school at Ball High, did you play multiple sports or only football?
Alexander - I played football and I ran track.. I only ran track during my last two years of high school. I always tell this to kids, "To just keep your head down, and work hard. Don't ever give up. You never know what can happen down the road if you have that kind of attitude." In my junior year, I never won a race in track and field. I never crossed the finish line first. However, my senior year, I won every race a ran in. I was undefeated and was the State Champion in the 200 and 100 yard dash. My track team won the State Championship in 4A, which was the highest class in Texas back in 1975.
Q - Did you ever played multiple positions in football?
Alexander - No I basically just played running back in high school, at LSU, and in the NFL too.
Q - How was your recruiting process? Who else recruited you besides LSU?
Alexander - Well, at that time there was a conference called the Southwest Conference. Had a lot of those schools after me like Baylor, Arkansas, University of Houston. I did take a visit to UCLA, but they weren't going to give me a scholarship. They wanted me to pay my own way, and that wasn't going to happen.
My final decision came down between Houston and LSU. On national signing day when I was leaving my grandmother's house to go to school, I had two cars parked out in the front yard. One car had the head coach and the running back coach from the University of Houston. The head coach was Bill Yeoman. The other car had LSU's running back coach Jerry Stovall. Well, I had about ten seconds to make up my mind on which school I was going to go to. I went straight to the car that Bill Yeoman was sitting in and I said, "Coach, I really appreciate you recruiting me and spending time with me and you're out here today when you could have been somewhere else, but I decided that I want to go to LSU." and he said, "Are you sure?" and I said, "Yes sir." So I thanked him and next thing you know I was in the car with Jerry Stovall and he drove me to school. Don't know if you have ever met Coach Stovall, but he is a salesman, which is what I'm doing in my life now, being a salesman. I learned a lot from him like, don't take no for an answer. He is a great individual.
Q - So you played at LSU under Charlie McClendon. Can you tell us a little about him?
Alexander - Great coach, great coach. He was more of a hands off head coach. He let his assistant coaches do the coaching. But he was always there when needed.
If he was around you a lot, then that wasn't a good thing because that meant something was wrong. Yea, if you were in trouble or you didn't go to class and you got caught not doing what you're suppose to do.
Yea, he was more of a General, but a great guy and always there when you needed him.
Even when my days at LSU were done. He still kept in touch with me. One of the things Coach Mac did for me that I never will forget, is when I was cut by the Cincinnati Bengals. I think I was close to 30 years old and had played seven years in the League. I was hoping to make it eight. He never even told me this, but I found out that he had made several calls to different NFL teams to try and help me get an opportunity to keep playing at least another year. So I was always grateful to him for that.
Q - So during your first two seasons at LSU you played behind Terry Robiskie?
Alexander - I have to be honest with you. I couldn't have painted the picture any better. I needed time to learn the game, especially in my first year. Terry taught me a lot, as did Coach Mac and Coach Stovall. So I had the opportunity to get comfortable, and it payed off. You could see the difference going into my sophomore year. I went from averaging less then three yards a carry as a freshman, to over five yards a carry my second year. It gave me time to develop. I was the starter by my junior year. I had a lot of confidence that I was ready to be a starter. Like I said before, you couldn't have painted the picture any better, as far as buying time and being ready to contribute.
Q - Did you like the nickname "Alexander the Great" that the fans gave you?
Alexander - I was okay with it. I was always one that didn't like to take all the glory and all the credit. I was happy when my offensive line got their nickname and they got their due. It kinda took some of the focus off of me and put a little bit on them and they deserved it. There is no way that I could have did what I had done without them.So I was happy. They came up with the name, "The Root Hogs", and to this day, they wear that name proudly.
Q - How exactly did you find out that you were drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round, (12th overall) in the 1979 NFL Draft?
Alexander - Well, there wasn't all the limelight like there is now. I was in my little apartment right outside of LSU's gates. It was a little one bedroom apartment. I had a couple of radio stations there with me and we listened to the draft on the radio. The draft wasn't on TV back then. Back then, of course there was no cell phones. But even though I found out on the radio, you are still waiting on a phone call. I thought I'd get the phone call before I heard it on the radio. My friends and family kept calling me to find out, I had to keep telling them that I won't get the news if I don't get off the phone with you. I was nervous and aggravated because every time the phone rang, I thought it would be somebody, but it would only be friends and family trying to find out what happened. But I heard it on the radio and shortly after that I got the phone call.
Q - Who was your favorite coach that you played for in the NFL?
Alexander - Well, the Bengals coach that drafted me was Homer Rice. He was fired after my rookie year. Then Cincinnati hired Forrest Gregg, who was personally my favorite coach. Coach Gregg stayed in Cincinnati for four years, including a trip to the Super Bowl. Then the last coach I played for was Sam Wyche.
Q - During your Super Bowl season, you guys hosted the AFC Championship game, which has been nicknamed, "The Freezer Bowl". What was it like playing the San Diego Chargers that day?
Alexander - The temperature was 17 below, but it was the windchill that got everyone making it 59 below zero. That is when our mental toughness under Coach Gregg came in. That's when it payed off. We played a team from the west coast and they were definitely at a disadvantage because they were coming out of 70 degree weather and trying to adjust to 59 degrees below zero windchill factor. It had to be worth at least ten points in our favor. We could see it in their eyes that they didn't want any part of it.
Q - Tell us what it was like to play in a Super Bowl? (Super Bowl XVI)
Alexander - It was something that I'll never forget. It was light years ago and it was so different back then, but there was still a lot of media there. And then it was played in Pontiac, Michigan and the weather was horrible. Trying to get from point A to point B wasn't any fun. It wasn't any fun trying to get around Detroit, so we didn't venture out to far from the hotel. But it is a joy to say that I played in a Super Bowl. Something that I will never forget. We lost and I think the problem for us was that we were a little uptight. We were zeroing in on winning the game and I think if we would have been a little more relaxed at the beginning of the game, all those turnovers and things that we had, probably wouldn't have happened. Then we wouldn't have been behind 20-0 at halftime. I think the final score was 26-21, San Francisco. But, it still was a lot of fun. A lot of great memories. Like I said, it's something that I'll never forget.
Q - Greatest memory of playing in the NFL?
Alexander - Playing in the Super Bowl and being a part of the Bengals team that was first to wear those new uniforms. (Tiger stripe helmets)
Q - What did you do after retiring from the NFL?
Alexander - I went to work at LSU for ten years after my NFL career. I worked in the academic center for four years, which I had a lot of fun doing. I loved working with the athletes being their academic adviser. I had a chance to bond with a lot of those guys. I still talk to a lot of them to this day. I worked at LSU from 1988 to 1998. Those were tough years at LSU. We didn't really win many football games. But I did get a chance to get to know those guys and give a lot of them some advise. It's nice to know that you were an influence on someone's life and you see them grow up to be good people and good citizens. A lot of them are married and have a family. It makes you feel good that you may have helped them out along the way.
I worked for the TAF for six years. I really learned a lot. Got to know a lot of the LSU Alumni. We had several projects and did several things to help funding the athletics on campus. Nothing like the 30 million dollar locker room they have now, but we did do some things to help out the athletic department. That was a great six years of my life.
Q - What do you consider your best game as a LSU Tiger?
Alexander - I don't know about it being the best statistic wise, but the game I had the most fun in was a televised game against Ole Miss in my senior year. Back then we may have been on TV maybe twice a year, so that was a big deal to play on TV. It was the first game that I really felt good that season after dealing with a pulled muscle injury all year. We played well as a team. We had a couple of trick plays that we ran that was successful. That's one of the favorite games during my career.
Q - What was it like playing in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night?
Alexander - Tiger Stadium is a special place to play. When I use to work at LSU I had a chance to be around the recruits, I would always tell them that you won't find another stadium in the country that is going to jack you up and have you emotionally ready to play like in Tiger Stadium. I've played in almost every professional stadium in the country and there is nothing like it. The only thing I can compare it to is it's like playing in the Super Bowl. So if you want to play in the Super Bowl every home game, come to LSU.
Q - What are you up too now?
Alexander - I'm currently employed by "Gajeske Inc.". We distribute HDPE pipe for gas, waste water, fire water, chemicals for municipal, upstream, midstream and downstream companies.
I also have a small seasoning company, "Charlie 4 Seasoning, Inc." DBA "C'Mon Man"
My website is www.cmonmancajunseasoning.com
By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Today's sit down "Q & A Session" is with former LSU basketball player, Skylar Mays. Mays just finished a fantastic four year career with the Tigers.
He became the Tigers' starting point guard during his freshman year, averaging eight points per game.
As a sophomore, Mays averaged eleven points, as LSU would participate in the NIT, falling to Utah in the second round.
He averaged thirteen points per game as a junior as he would help the Tigers win a SEC Championship and advance to the Sweet Sixteen. He was named second team All-SEC and the conference's scholar-athlete of the year. Mays would score his 1,000th career point on February 26, 2019 against Texas A&M.
Mays was named preseason first team All-SEC and to the watch lists for the Jerry West and the Naismith Player of the Year awards. He was also named the 45th-best collegiate basketball player going into the 2019-20 season by CBS Sports. In his senior year he would average sixteen points a game. At the end of the regular season he was again named a first team Academic All-American and was selected as the Academic All-American of the Year as well as First Team All-SEC and was named the scholar-athlete of the year for a second straight season.
Q - What is your favorite color?
Skylar - Gold
Q - What is your favorite food?
Skylar - Fried Rice
Q - Favorite Pro Athlete?
Skylar - Currently: LeBron James Growing Up: Kevin Garnett & Chris Paul
Q - Favorite Movie?
Skylar - Coming to America
Q - Favorite Actor?
Skylar - Will Smith & Leo DiCaprio
Q - Favorite Music Artist?
Skylar - Drake
Q - When you were a little boy, what did you want to grow up to be?
Skylar - basketball player and a Doctor
Q - Why did you transfer to Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nevada for your senior year of high school?
Skylar - I kinda felt like I had done all that I could do here, and even with basketball here in Louisiana being very good, I was just looking for another big challenge. It was 100% a basketball choice. To have the opportunity to play for one of the top high school basketball programs in the nation. (Mays helped lead Findlay to a State Championship in his senior season).
Q - What do you remember the most about your freshman basketball experience?
Slylar - Going against Jalyn Patterson in practice definitely help me get prepared. The speed of the game is so much different then what I was use too. I wasn't able to dictate the pace of the game like I was able to do in high school. So I had to catch up with the other guys. It took me some time to pick it up. Freshman go through that freshman wall during that stretch. Figuring that out, and once you get the hang of it, it's just like anything else. You start to feel comfortable and then you try to start to expand your game and start to try things. Then you just try to take off from there.
Q - Did you feel a lot of pressure being named LSU's starting point guard as a true freshman?
Skyler - Not really, because it is something that I wanted. Coach Jones and I talked about the opportunity. It wasn't given to me, I definitely had to earn the role, I feel like I worked hard for it. So I wouldn't say I felt much pressure.
Q - What was the coaching change like for you and your teammates?
Skylar - At first it's a shock. In high school its very rare that you have more then one basketball coach, unless you move like I did. You just don't see coaches getting fired in high school. So this was the first time I had ever had a coaching change in my career. It's different. You see the business side of things i guess. Its something you can't control. My first thoughts were, what is Coach Jones going to do? How is this going to affect him? You just hope for the best for him. Then you kinda turn the attention to yourself, thinking, man, what am I going to do? You just have no idea who will be your next coach, or will the new coach like me. How will my game fit in with what he plans to do? You feel nervous and anxious. I like to joke with Coach Wade, I say "Look, I actually played well when I played against you". We actually played against him and VCU my freshman year. I played really well that game, even though they beat us. I tell him, "Look, if I wouldn't have played you well, you may have not liked my game", because coach likes faster guys and I'm not one of the fastest guys on the court.
Q - First Impression of Coach Wade?
It didn't take long for Coach Wade and I to develop a strong relationship. It's grown over these last three years and it will continue to grow. I'm just glad that he ended up coming here and that I got to play under him.
Q - Can you tell me a little about Tremont Waters?
Yea. I could just go on and on about him. He is special, and everyone who watches him sees it. Actually, my first encounter with Tremont here was that I was his host. So when we are recruiting, and guys come to campus on their visits, a player usually host them. So I was picked to host Tremont and I got to meet his family and his father, may his father rest in peace, and his mother. Just a lovely family. I got to hang with them and we went to Parrains, and I made him try alligator. So that's something that I will always remember. As far as playing with him, he is so easy to play with. He is a wizard with the ball. Me transitioning to off the ball, if it would had been any other point guard, my sophomore year would have been tougher. But he got me so many open looks, even though I was uncomfortable playing off the ball, that I was just able to make simple plays and be successful on the court. He's a great player and obviously he is doing great things trying to establish himself in the League. Yea Tremont is my boy.
Q - How was it during your Junior year to have the two big men (Naz Reid & Kavell Bigby-Williams) playing in the starting lineup?
Skylar - It's night and day. I guess I could start off with Kavell. Kavell, man, on defense we would just try to funnel guys into him, because he was going to block everything, he was gunna get everything on the glass. Unbelievable motor. He would play so hard, running the floor every time so hard, super competitive. He was a leader in that aspect, just bringing energy, and us always being able to count on him. Especially an older guy who's come in and has already won before, while he was at Oregon. Bringing us that winning pedigree and winning habits. He was just our enforcer back there. I think people could see it this year, the difference of not having someone like him and how it helped and how valuable he was to all the success we had my junior year.
Then Naz, Naz just oozes talent. He is so so talented. Talk about a 6'11" guard, with a high high basketball IQ. He had his bumps in the road, but all freshman do. He played hard for us. Some people may have thought he was a deva, but he did stuff for us that most other big guys don't do, like taking charges and diving for loose balls. He would always listen very well, that's why he is going to be so successful in the League, and why he is starting for the Timber Wolves. He tries to do the little things. He is going to continue to grow because he has the right mindset. For us, he took up so much space and closed up so many gaps that it made it hard for guards from the other teams to go into the paint. So having those two big guys set the tone defensively by letting guys know they didn't have any place to go very much. Then offensively, they were both guys you could just throw it into and you could play through them and they would make a lot of big plays for us. Both of them where a huge huge part of us being SEC Champs that year and getting to the Sweet Sixteen.
Q - Do you have anymore school left? And if so will that be put on hold while you pursue a career in pro basketball?
Skylar - I'm more then likely going to put that on hold. I'm finishing under-grad this semester. It's going to be weird with all these online classes. Yes, I'm definitely going to pursue. I'm been hearing good feed back on where I stand as a draft prospect. So I'm going to pursue that and keep playing as long as I can, then work on any degrees later on down the road.
Q - How do you manage being a student athlete? Juggling going to class, practice, games, traveling, studying, and managing to make outstanding grades the way you do?
Skylar - Yes, first of all I want to give credit to my parents who have taught me the value of a good education. They gave me a standard to meet by watching how they work everyday and how they approach what they do. They just kinda rubbed off on me. They are also my support system. My dad was a college athlete and went to medical school also. So me being able to have those talks with him and my older brother about how to balance things and on certain classes that we all took helped me out a lot. But as far as balancing things, it's kind of a "want to" thing. It's kind of a "want to". You got to understand what you're working towards and how you're setting your life up. You really have to rely on that as motivation to keep you going, because it's not easy. But having people behind you, who understand what you're going through definitely helps keep you going and being motivated to be successful on both aspects.
Q - What type of physician are you going to school to be? Is it sports medicine?
Skyler - Nothing is confirmed yet. Usually you kinda trickle it down to after medical school to kinda figure out what you want to be during clinicals. So many people say they want to do this, want to do that, but then once you go through your clinical rotations and see all the different things, that's when you will really come across what you want to be. As someone who has played at a high level, I could only see myself being around sports right now if I get into the medical field, but things change.
Q - When was the first time you met Dale Brown?
Skylar - The first time I actually met Dale Brown was at Wayde's funeral. That was the first time I actually shook hands with him and met him, yea. He actually came and approached me because I had spoken at Wayde's vigil, and he just came to me and said he heard it, and wanted to show his appreciation, which mean't a lot to me. I actually talk to Coach Brown a good bit now. We are starting to develop a relationship. He told me that he wishes that I had played for him, which definitely meant the world to me. That meant a whole lot to me. That wasn't really the circumstances that I wish I would have met him for the first time, but Coach Brown is an awesome, awesome human being.
Q - Has any former LSU Basketball great ever spoken to you or has given you advice on your playing career?
Skylar - Yea, I actually got to meet with Mahmoud (Abdul-Rauf) after his ceremony. Another awesome human being who just loves to give off knowledge and great energy. I hang around Big Wayne a lot. I call him Big Wayne, ... Wayde's dad. Stanley Roberts is always there. I have a great relationship with Stanley Roberts. Garrett (Temple), I spoke with him last week. Throughout the basketball season, he has always shown support. Marcus Thronton is still in town, I talk to him. I've got to talk with Tyrus Thomas a couple of times. With him being back in school, I talk to him pretty often. I talk to Stromlie Swift every once in awhile. A lot of great players. Big Baby, it's a fraternity. A fraternity for sure. Coach Brady is awesome.
Q - I'm guessing the biggest disappointment of your college career has got to be this year, not being able to play in the post season?
Skylar - Yea, I don't want to harp too much on that. You know I ended my LSU career in Baton Rouge where I was born and raised. There are so many positives I could take from how the season ended. Just like everyone else, I would have loved to compete in the NCAA Tournament with the potential to win a national championship, especially with the way our momentum was going. That Georgia game and the confidence we had going into the SEC Tournament. But my last time playing a basketball game in Baton Rouge, was a win. I was wearing a LSU jersey, in my home town, with all my family there. You know what I mean? So that's not the worse way to end your college basketball career. Especially with me being a hometown kid. That's where my soul is and it brings me peace on how it all ended.
Q - What will you miss the most about playing at LSU?
Skylar - Playing in front of the best fans in all of America. I'm also going to miss practicing with the guys from year one to year four. Just how fun practice was. Getting to compete and getting to have a getaway from all the other stuff that you're dealing with. I have a lot more basketball ahead of me, but it won't be the same. Nothing could ever replace the experience here that I've had here at LSU.