Everybody remembers the game. No. 1 LSU 28, No. 9 Florida 24. The Tigers out-dueled the eventual Heisman Trophy winner, Tim Tebow, behind five fourth-down conversions in four attempts. The game remains immortalized in both LSU and college football lore, and it should be. It's still probably the single greatest football game I've ever seen in person. It's always been a remarkably misunderstood game as well. Everybody remembers the fourth downs and Les Miles as the "Mad Hatter" that kept rolling the dice. What most people don't remember is that with one exception every single fourth-down call was a do-or-die, go-for-this-or-lose situation. It wasn't so much ballsy as it was common sense.
And in the same fashion, the player most closely associated with that game, the No. 11 player on our list, Jacob Hester, remains misunderstood as well.
We've all heard the narrative, every year when National Signing Day rolls around. "Hey Jacob Hester was just a two-star recruit!" used to pump up that class's lesser-recruited players or to try and "remind" people that not every four- or five-star will pan out. People think about Hester in backhanded compliments. Cliches, like about heart and moxie and grit and scrappy scrappulesence.
It's almost like it never occurs to them that Hester was simply a damn good, talented running back.
In some ways I get it. Let's face it. The guy is the only white running back I can remember of any notoriety. The guys that backed him up, Charles Scott and Keiland Williams, were both more sought-after recruits (although many forget that Hester had offers from multiple big-time programs and was a long-time Texas commit before switching to LSU late in the process) and probably had a little more speed. Although neither has an 80-yard touchdown run on their ledgers like Hester. And neither could do as many things as well as Hester could, whether it was blocking, catching or running between the tackles. It's why Hester started over them, and its why he had a six-year NFL career, even as a backup.
Hester might not have had the great 40 time, but what he did have was some quick feet. His short, choppy steps made him a great short-yardage runner because they never stopped moving. Great vision in traffic for picking his way through a front seven. And then there was his body control. Think of all the times he found a way to squeeze between offensive linemen. The way he always found a way to drop a shoulder or turn a hip so that a tackler never quite got a square hit. Think of the future NFL players he ran over, like Eric Berry, Brandon Spikes and James Laurinaitis.
A lot of people will never think of those things. But they'll always remember that night in Tiger Stadium.