As Tiger Rag wraps up year three of providing the TR Extra in addition to our regular tabloid issues, it is time to note our Tiger of the Year. Joe Alleva and D.D. Breaux were honored by this publication the past two seasons. This year, in a departure, the choice is an athlete, a player who was not on the LSU campus a year ago.
LSU Quarterback Joe Burrow is the selection for Tiger of the Year for 2018. The transfer from Ohio State guided the Bengals to nine wins, certainly more victories than LSU would have accumulated with a lesser or less seasoned talent calling the signals.
Burrow enters the Fiesta Bowl with 2,500 yards passing, a pedestrian 12 touchdowns in the air, but only four interceptions in 345 attempts. Burrow also rushed for 375 yards, counting sacks. He finished the regular campaign with a 100-yard rushing effort in an unforgettable 74-72 seven-overtime defeat to Texas A&M. The gritty 6-foot-3, 215-pounder produced seven touchdowns on the ground this season.
As a prep standout in Ohio, Burrow passed for 157 touchdowns and ran for 27 more scores. Burrow lost the starting nod in Columbus to Dwayne Haskins, who passed for 47 touchdowns this season for the Buckeyes, so the story line was effective for both Urban Meyer and Ed Orgeron. They each got the guy they needed to lead their respective offenses.
Burrow has another year to develop into one of the top quarterbacks in LSU history. His pattern resembles that of another Big Ten transfer. Matt Mauck came to the Tigers from Michigan State with Nick Saban. After going to the sidelines with an injured foot in a 5-1 start in 2002, Mauck guided LSU to the national title in 2003 as a senior, tossing for a school-record 28 touchdowns.
The prospect of Burrow enjoying a similarly successful senior campaign looks strong.
Remembering 41 and his LSU ties
President George Herbert Walker Bush died a few days ago at age 94. Bush was the last U.S. commander-in-chief with the testicular fortitude to fight in a war of his generation. When his plane went down on a bombing mission in Japan on Sept. 2, 1944, Bush was only 20 years old.
The future president lost his two crewman in the crash, but Bush survived after being in the Pacific Ocean for four hours. He noted often that the Navy crew that rescued him was led by an LSU graduate.
Bush’s plane was hit by enemy fire and engulfed in flames, but he completed his mission and bombed a Japanese target, then ditched the plane and parachuted. The future Yale baseball standout was met by a sailor named Bill Edwards, who lifted Bush onto a U.S. submarine. Edwards was an LSU letterman from Little Rock. He had played for the Tigers from 1939-41.
Bush was the patrician son of a U.S. Senator but fought for his country in wartime as another son of a U.S. Senator would do a generation later. Albert Gore served in Vietnam unlike three members of his generation who would become president. Presidents Clinton, Bush II and Trump were on the sidelines out of harm’s way.
The first President Bush made his last ever campaign stop as a politician in Baton Rouge on Nov. 2, 1992 on election eve of his defeat to Bill Clinton. The 41st president is buried with his wife Barbara at the Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M.
Ironically, the Aggies’ last game in the life of Bush was the 74-72 seven overtime decision over LSU. Both Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush addressed LSU students at commencement ceremonies at the PMAC, Barbara in 1992 and George in 2004. Both took delight in reciting the “Hot Boudin” chat to cheering throngs at the Ole War Skule.
The Bush visits were courtesy of LSU benefactor Lod Cook. When the facility named in honor of Dr. Cook was unveiled in 1994, Presidents Bush, Carter and Ford were present.
LSU owes much to Nick Saban
While walking past the LSU Academic Center for Athletes, it is enlightening to peruse the names of six-figure donors whose names are on the building across the street from the J-School.
The only coach this observer saw amid the good men and women on the renovated structure where LSU once played basketball games is that of Nick Saban. The former LSU coach put his money where his mouth was when he was pushing for this facility. Appropriately, the names of Nick and Terry Saban will be preserved for posterity at LSU long after the Alabama coach has taken his last breath.
It should also be noted that longtime LSU administrator Tommy Karam’s name is also engraved on the façade of the building. Other contributors are largely business people and prominent donors to the Ole War Skule. A salute is in order to Saban and Karam for moving LSU forward when others were silent on the connection between athletics and academics.
Louisiana star elected to Baseball HOF
Veteran reliever Lee Smith of Northwestern State has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The hard-throwing right-hander began his career with the Chicago Cubs in 1980 and joins Lou Brock of Southern University as the lone Louisiana college stars in the shrine at Cooperstown, N.Y.
As good as Smith was in an 18-year career, he is a questionable choice. The native of Castor posted a career record of 71-92 with an ERA of 3.03. Smith led the National League in saves three times and at age 36 paced the American League in 1994 with the Baltimore Orioles.
Smith has a career wins above replacement (WAR) score of 29.4. Brock’s WAR score is 45.3.
Albert Belle has the highest WAR rating of any LSU player with a career number of 40.1. He would be a worthy inductee to the Baseball Hall of Fame and certainly belongs in the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame. With a degree in accounting, Belle has been denied admission to the LSU because of his controversial departure from the Tiger team in 1987.