Da Boot Sports
By: Terrill J. Weil
Today's Q & A session is with former LSU quarterback Alan Risher. Risher was recruited by Charlie McClendon and played for the Tigers from 1979-1982. He would become LSU's starting quarterback from 1980-1982. During the 1982 season, Risher would lead the Tigers to one of their finest seasons, going 8-3-1. The highlight of the season was a dominating 20-10 victory over a Bear Bryant led Alabama squad in Birmingham.
He would go on to play pro football for five seasons. First in the USFL for the Arizona Wranglers before jumping to the NFL to play with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Green Bay Packers.
Q - What is your favorite food?
Alan - If I was headed for the electric chair I'd probably have a hamburger steak with gravy and mash potatoes with some real fresh caramel corn, that's probably what I would like for my last meal.
Q - What is your favorite TV Show?
Alan - My favorite TV show of all-time is Sanford and Son. I think that's the most hilarious sitcom of all-time.
Q - What is your favorite movie?
Alan - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with Paul Newman and Robert Redford.
Q - Who is your favorite actor?
Alan - Clint Eastwood. I love the Dirty Harry movies.
Q - Who is your favorite music artist/group?
Alan - I've been a rock and roller all my life Terrill. I'm going see Kiss next Tuesday night, so that ought to tell you what kind of a nut case I am. I still love that kind of music at age 60. I love all of those rock bands from the 70s.
Q - Which sports teams do you enjoy following?
Alan - As I've gotten older, I'm enjoying golf and tennis more then the team sports. As far as a favorite team, I really don't have one. I kind of just follow sports in general.
Q - When you were a little boy, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Alan - I wanted to be "Broadway" Joe Namath. I use to see Joe Namath on the sidelines wearing a mink coat and his white shoes on. He was the man.
Q - What age did you start playing organized sports?
Alan - Seven years old. Tackle football. Let me tell you a quick story. Ironically the first little team I was on was called the Green Wave. We had a six game season. I started out as a right guard and I was terrible. My dad had home movies of me being awful in my stance and I wouldn't hit anyone. Well, we were 0-5 and the coaches said they needed a change at quarterback. They let me tryout at practice one day and I scored four touchdowns in a row. They told me, "You know what? You're our new quarterback."... I ended up scoring five touchdowns in the last game of the season and the rest is history.
Q - Did you play multiple sports in high school and can you tell us about your personal and/or team accomplishments?
Alan - Yes. I was kind of a childhood celebrity in Slidell. I won a national pass, punt, and kick when I was 8 years old. I was the first participant from Louisiana to ever win that event. They had parades for me. Alan Risher day. Everyone knew me and I had a big time little league career playing basketball, baseball, and football.
When I got to Salmen High School the expectations were high, because I was the guy that was going to make the difference. I ended up being All-State in three sports.
During my sophomore, junior, and senior year we beat our archrival Slidell High three times in a row. I think Salmen had only beat them once during their first ten years of existence, so when I got there we kind of turned the tables on them a little bit.
I was a Parade High School All-American quarterback. There was Dan Marino, John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Tony Eason and myself. All four of those guys, including myself went on to play pro football, so there must have been something pretty good about the recognition of All-American quarterbacks at the time.
I guess one of things that I'm most proud of is that Salmen won 13 straight district championships between basketball, baseball, football, and track while I was there. That probably will never happen again. We were in a pretty competitive district, so for us to win that many championships in a row was pretty significant.
Q - Tell us about your recruiting process?
Alan - I was raised a Tiger. My dad attended LSU between 1956-60 during the Billy Cannon national championship era. He started taking me to LSU games when I was three years old. He put the LSU bug in me as a young lad.
Don't get me wrong, I looked at other potential opportunities, but I probably knew all along I was going to LSU. I took recruiting trips to Ole Miss, Florida, Tennessee, Tulane, and LSU obviously. I took three official visits. You were allowed six at the time. I could have gone on a few more with me being recruited by everyone in the country basically. But I got a little tired of the process to be quite frank with you. It was the same ole stuff, being entertained and I had got to the point that I knew I was going to LSU, so I decided to shut it down. I was also being recruited to play baseball and basketball, so it was a great time.
Q - Charles McClendon was the head coach at LSU when they recruited you?
Alan - That is correct.
Q - Did you go though a redshirt season, or did you just attend LSU for four straight years?
Alan - Before I got there in 1979, you were able to redshirt as a freshman. The NCAA at that time got tired of seeing these schools redshirt their entire freshmen class. So the year I got there they changed the rule that freshmen couldn't redshirt anymore, so I basically had a wasted year.
When I arrived at LSU, I played on the JV team. I quarterbacked the Baby Bengals to a 3-0 record my freshman year. At the time LSU had quarterbacks David Woodley and Steve Ensminger who were seniors and pretty good players.
When I was being recruited, Paul Detzel was the athletic director, who they brought in to get rid of Charlie Mac. So he told me there would be a new coach for my sophomore year and he was going to bring someone in who had a great offensive mind. Obviously that didn't happen because Bo Rein got hired, then the plane accident happened, leading to the hire of Jerry Stovall.
I became the starter for the next three years and they never really opened up the passing game. I basically just handed the ball off, running the veer option. It took them a little while to figure out that they had someone who could throw the football.
Thank God Jerry Stovall hired Mac Brown to be our quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. Without him we would have stayed stuck in the mud with the offense. He ran more of a pro set, pro style offense. He allowed me to audible during the games and allowed me to use my abilities to the best of my potential. As a senior we ended up going to the Orange Bowl and I had an ALL-SEC season.
Q - Can you tell us a little about Charlie McClendon?
Alan - Charlie Mac was legendary. He was the head coach at LSU for 18 years and won a lot of games. But like everyone else's down fall he couldn't beat Alabama. He was I believe, 5-13 against them but no one else was beating them either, but Mac was winning 75% of his games. In 1979 during his last year, the guys played really hard for him. In his last game, we beat Wake Forest in the old Tangerine Bowl to send him out with a win. He had a big personality. He had been around for a long time, won a lot of games and had a great reputation as a defensive coach. That's pretty much what he portrayed himself as. Like I said, I didn't spend a lot of time with the varsity during my freshmen year while being on the JV scout team.
Q - Do you remember where you were when you found out about Bo Rein's plane crash and how did that affect the team?
Alan - We actually never met Bo Rein after he got hired because of the team going to play in the Tangerine Bowl. He didn't want to interject himself into the coach's roll yet, so he was just basically recruiting. He was suppose to take over officially in early January as we were returning back to school. We never got to meet the man. I'm not even sure where I was when I heard the news, but it was a pretty sad situation.
Q - Tell us how it was to play under Jerry Stovall for three seasons...
Alan - When Jerry took over in 1980 he inherited Bo Rein's staff, which was already hired and they all had two year contracts. They were in place and he had no real say so about it. It would be almost like equating the take over of a corporation as a CEO and he inherited a board of directors that's already in place. Then you try to run things from an oversight position but you have guys working for you that you don't know much about. He didn't have a hand in picking any of them, so he was put in a tough spot.
I think he thought that Coach Mac and the situation at LSU had gotten soft over the last several years. Jerry thought a lot of the players were fat and out of shape. We had big guys, but we weren't trim and cut up with a great conditioning program. That's where the military thing came in. He tried to shape up a bunch of guys that might have been soft.
Jerry and I got a long fine. We had a couple of run-ins about things that happened on the field, but nothing more. He has always been a good friend. I lost a daughter about eight and a half years ago, and he came to Slidell for the funeral. He didn't have to do those kind of things, but he did. He's a great human being and a great guy.
Q - Who gave you the nick-name "The Slidell Slinger" and when?
Alan - The Slidell Slinger came from a guy named Kevin Chiri who ran the sports department at the local newspaper in Slidell called the Sentry-News. He and I have become really good friends. He's put me up for a spot in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Kevin was a young guy covering me during my heyday in Slidell and he called me the Slidell Slinger in the paper one day during my senior year and it kind of stuck. So that's where that came from...
Q - Looks like it was an up and down ride during your three seasons as a starter at LSU? In 1980 the team finished 7-4. Then you guys hit a speed bump in 1981 going 3-7-1. Then in 1982 came what could be called one of the top seasons, in my opinion, in the history of LSU football. Even though it had it's ups and downs that year, the team finished 8-3-1 and ranked #11 in the final AP poll. Tell us about your senior year?
Alan - We were seven points away from going undefeated. LSU hadn't had that kind of success in a long time. We beat three teams ranked in the top ten. We would have these big highs and then we couldn't get up for the next week. We beat Alabama, then we go to Mississippi State, they're 3-6 and they run all over us. They had 465 yards of total offense. John Bond killed us with the wishbone. We just couldn't stop him. The week before we held Alabama without a 1st down in the first half.
The same thing happened earlier in the season when we beat Florida. They were ranked #4 in the country. We went into Gainesville and beat them 24-13, then the following week we played a pretty mediocre Tennessee team and tied them. We were about to score at the end of the first half to go up 21-6, but we fumble the ball away at the ten yard line. Willie Gault then runs the second half opening kickoff back for a touchdown and now we are in a dog fight and the game ends in a 24-24 tie. We were better then they were.
After that Mississippi State loss, we come back home and beat the hell out of Florida State 55-21 to earn a bid to play in the Orange Bowl. Everyone's excited, then we go flat again the next week against Tulane. The Green Wave had beaten the hell out of us 48-7 the year before, so you would have thought everyone would be ready to play. We weren't ready to play. It rained that night and it was sloppy. We took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards for a touchdown like there was nothing to it. Then held them three-and-out. The next play turned that game around and I'm sure people don't remember this. We roughed the punter on 4th down, which gave them a 1st down. They ended up going down the field to score to tie things up at 7-7, making it a whole new game. It turned the entire ball game around. We fooled around and got beat and that was a tough pill to swallow. It was really tough on me because I lost to Tulane two out of three years.
Q - The Alabama victory in 1982 had to be one of the top moments of your career? It will always be remembered as one of the greatest games in LSU history. What a dominating performance. Tell us about that afternoon in Birmingham, Alabama..
Alan - We were 6-0-1 going into the game and Alabama was 6-1. We hadn't beat Alabama in 11 years, so it was similar to what Joe Burrow did to them in 2019.
To be quite frank with you, LSU was basically down 7-0 every time we played Alabama before the first ball was kicked off because it was Bear Bryant standing on the sideline, and the history of LSU with Alabama. You never were really sure if you could win. I think that was the first time that we actually thought that we could win, instead of hoping that we could win. The locker room was very confident that day. It was a beautiful day and it just made you want to go play football. Our defense really played spectacular in the first half. We were able to score 17 points to take an early lead. We hadn't had a lead on Alabama in probably 11 years.
I don't know if you remember the game, but we were ahead 17-0 at halftime and then they came out and score ten points real quickly within the first four to five minutes of the second half. We all started to look at each other, thinking, "oh s**t". ... But we were able to scramble around a couple of times to help make some big plays on offense that kept some drives going which extended the momentum. Then the game became a defensive struggle the rest of the way with us pulling out the win, 20-10.
I think for me it was probably the crescendo of my entire college career because I played probably as good as I could play that day. I was 20-26, not a ton of yards. I think 82 yards, but they were all key passes. I had a few big scrambles and I didn't turn the football over. That's how you win games. You play well and you don't turn it over. Yea, it was the highlight of my college career. No doubt about it.
Q - When your career was over at LSU you ended up going play in the USFL instead of the NFL. How did that come about?
Alan - That's a good question. I played quarterback for the South in the Senior Bowl in Mobile. The murmuring among the pro scouts was that I wasn't that good. I couldn't throw the ball, I couldn't do this, I couldn't do that. They didn't think I was good enough to be drafted. Back then the NFL had 12 rounds. However I was projected to be drafted somewhere between the 8th to 12th round.
This was way before the internet, so I didn't even know I got drafted by the USFL until I picked up the paper the next morning and saw that I was the 15th round pick of the Arizona Wranglers. I was like, "What the hell is that?" ... That's how I found out. No one called me until a day or two later.
I went to visit my friend Jimmy Field who ended up being my agent during my five year pro career. I asked him if he would represent me and he said sure. So we tried to get a negotiation going with the Wranglers. Jimmy got me a $25,000 signing bonus and I thought that I hit the lottery.
To tell you how I got drafted, Harry Humes who had been an assistant GM with the Saints for many years was the president for the new team in Phoenix. Well, Harry always liked me, so he decided to draft me to be their quarterback. When I got to training camp they had six or seven other quarterbacks there, so it took me awhile to get my feet settled and to win the job. It was a crazy time.
Q - So you were a member of the Arizona Wranglers in 1983 and in 1984 after the Wranglers and Blitz worked out a deal between owners to swap rosters?
Alan - Yes. I had made a huge impression on George Allen while playing against the Blitz in '83, so he insisted that I would stay in Arizona with his team after the roster swap.
Q - So you were with the Arizona Wranglers when they advanced to the USFL Championship Game in 1984?
Alan - Yes. That's correct. The Philadelphia Stars beat us 23-3 in the USFL Championship Game in Tampa. I started three games that season. Greg Landry was having some difficulties and we were losing some games so George Allen decided to start me. We ended up going 1-2 over the next three games with me under center. First we lost to San Antonio in Arizona. Our next game was against the New Orleans Breakers in the Super Dome and it was televised on ESPN. I played pretty well and we won the game. I ended up being the ESPN player of the game. Then the next week in Oakland, I didn't play well in the first half, so they decided to bench me and put Landry back in. So that didn't quite work out like I hoped. But we had a good season and made it to the championship game.
Q - When did you make the jump to the NFL?
Alan - Well, in 1985 the Arizona Wranglers merged with Oklahoma and became the Arizona Outlaws. I was Doug Williams backup for the first three weeks of the season before the team's ownership decided that my salary was too large to keep around so they released me.
I ended up leaving the USFL and signed a free agent deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I made the team and backed up Steve DeBerg in 1985. They released me early in 1986 and I sat out of football that fall.
I went to Canada in 1987 signing a free agent contract with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and had a good training camp, but they won the Grey Cup the year before so they ended up not needing my services and released me.
The NFL went on strike in 1987 and the GM in Green Bay asked me to come quarterback their strike team. We ended up going 2-1. Forrest Gregg really liked me, so when the strike ended he kept me on the roster for the remainder of the season.
At the end of the 1987 season, Forrest Gregg left to become the athletic director at SMU and the Packers brought in Lindy Infante as their next head coach. In the NFL, you need to find a guy who likes you because we can all play, we can all throw the football. Forrest Gregg liked me, but Lindy Infante didn't and he cut me immediately from the roster. That's how my pro career kind of ended. I had played for five years, for five different teams, five different coaches, five different general managers. I basically had enough. I ended up getting married and had a kid and decided it was time to go to work.
I wouldn't change any of it though. I was very fortunate to have five years of being paid to play a sport.
Q - What profession did you move onto after your playing career ended?
Alan - In 1988 I became a sales rep in the Baton Rouge area with a company named Fisher Scientific. I worked for them for 12 years before starting my own business in 2000. I got a little bored with that and became interested in coaching football.
I ended up coaching an arena football team in 2001, the Baton Rouge Blaze of the AF2. We were fairly successful. We went 10-6, but the ownership ended up with financial problems after the season and the team folded.
Next I got involved with The Team Sales Company that tried to broker deals for professional sports teams around the country and my first job there was trying to help another AF2 team, the Mobile Wizards get off the ground during their first year in 2002. So I went to Mobile for awhile and ended coaching the Wizards for the last ten games of the season after they fired their coach. I ended up coaching there for a couple of years before one thing led to another and I ended up leaving the company.
From there I joined up with a company called Sunbelt Business Brokers. I've been doing business with them for 17 years. I also own a finance company with a business partner where we fund construction loans for custom home builders.
Q - I enjoyed listening to you and Charles Hanagriff talk LSU Game Day Football. How long were you involved with that?
Alan - I did that for six or seven years. I also had my own TV show here in the early 2000s called 'Sports Down the Middle' with Tommy Krysan on cable. We did that for three years.
I've always enjoyed the media part of it. I've done radio and TV for a long time. But about three or four years ago, I decided that I'd had enough. I wanted to start traveling in the fall along with doing other things without being stuck in Tiger Stadium and being up doing sports talk until 2:30 in the morning.
Q - Is there anything you would like to tell the LSU fans?
Alan - Being a quarterback at LSU and playing in front of 80,000 people during that time, was one of the biggest thrills of my life and a great time in my life. I want to thank everyone who has ever cheered for me. Living in Baton Rouge over the last 33 years I really appreciate it when people still recognize me around town and really appreciate all of the support over the last 40 years or so.