Quentin Thomas, Breaux Bridge, LA
Dillon Gordon, Edgard, LA
Vadal Alexander, Buford, GA
Grant Leger, Metairie, LA
Christian Pittman, New Orleans, LA
Reid Ferguson, Buford, GA
Deion Jones, New Orleans, LA
Tommy Lebeau, Monroe, LA
Jamie Keehn, Gracemere, Queensland, Australia
Jalen Mills, DeSoto, TX
Brad Kragthorpe, Tulsa, OK
Lamar Louis, Breaux Bridge, LA
Rob Snyder, Cleveland, OH
Mickey Johnson, Covington, LA
14 players. Tomorrow exhausts their eligibility (pending a medical redshirt claim for Dillon Gordon). All entered the program with varying degrees of acclaim and all will leave the same. However, what stays the same is the enduring bond that united them all as LSU Tiger athletes.
We could dwell on the negatives, but what joy does that bring? These guys won a bunch of football games. They mostly did it with exemplary behavior off the field and success in the classroom, too. There's just a lot to be proud of here.
Finishing a four-year degree while playing football for LSU is no easy task, no matter how much academic support is lined up. Football is, in all likelihood, a 40+ hour per week commitment. Cram going to class and studying in there. They probably spend more time fulfilling obligations on a weekly basis than your average middle aged employed parent.* So it's right for us to show our appreciation and respect for what they do.
*Yes, I know parenting is a full-time job, but your little bastard sleeps enough that your only real responsibility is making sure he or she is drawing breath.
I don't have memories of every one of the 14. Hell, I don't have memories of the most of them. But this is really part of the joy of amateur athletics. I don't know anything about Rob Snyder, Grant Leger, Christian Pittman or Tommy LeBeau. I barely know anything about Mickey Johnson and he entered the program a highly coveted 4-star player. But this doesn't mean they were valueless. Scout teams, weight lifting sessions, or just generally being teammates. You don't wind up on LSU's roster by accident. Only 105 players are allowed on the roster. 85 of those guys have fully paid scholarships. There are literally dozens of other players, perhaps even some college football players, that would have gladly walked on to LSU's football team just to say they were a part. Only 20 non-scholarship guys get to enjoy those spoils. They have value. For that, we thank them.
The others, we've seen more. We've seen them fail. We've seen them triumph. We've seen them boom punts and pancake linebackers and obliterate ball carriers. We've seen them intercept passes and sack QBs. We've seen them make perfect passes on fake field goals, tear both biceps and keep playing, and never sail a snap.**
**If I'm wrong, correct me, but I don't think Reid Ferguson made a single bad snap in four seasons as our snapper.
College football is so fleeting and terminable. Sure, all sports are, but over much larger spans. Drew Brees has already been in New Orleans long enough to see six full classes of recruits come through the program and graduate. Mind you, this is Brees' second franchise as a pro. Brees' career is about a 5th of the average male's lifespan. Quentin Thomas' career was a 14th, and that only because he managed to stay five full years. Patrick Peterson's career was only a 23rd.
Which is all the more reason that we should enjoy and be thankful for the efforts given. I don't know what's next for these 14. Many of them we will never hear from again. Others could go on to become coaches. The lot of them will almost certainly go on to become fathers and husbands. Decidedly few will become "NFL veterans." The dream of football ends tomorrow for many.
So we thank them, for both their successes and failures. We thank them for putting their bodies on the line for our entertainment and not having much to show for it. We thank them for winning a bunch of football games and doing it, largely, with class and dignity. We thank them now, because we probably don't thank them enough. At least not all of them. And all of them matter.