LSU Football: 10 Greatest Tigers to Walk Through Death Valley

16-05-2019 18:05

Louisiana State University has a long and storied history of fielding an elite college football program every year. Since 2000 under Nick Saban, the LSU Tigers haven’t won fewer than eight games in any season under Les Miles, and now, head coach Ed Orgeron.

The three-time national champions will become the 12th program ever to reach 800 wins during the 2019 season, and their 35 Consensus All-Americans are only a small piece of the elite talent that comes from Baton Rouge. There have been dozens of all-conference selections and even more who didn’t get the credit they probably deserve.

Even before getting to the top-10 best LSU football players ever, you could build an All-SEC team with JUST the honorable mentions who didn’t make this list:

  • Matt Mauck, quarterback
  • JaMarcus Russell, quarterback
  • Joseph Addai, running back
  • Jim Taylor, fullback
  • Odell Beckham, Jr., wide receiver
  • Jarvis Landry, wide receiver
  • Dwayne Bowe, wide receiver
  • Kevin Mawae, center
  • Alan Faneca, guard
  • La’el Collins, tackle
  • Marcus Spears, defensive tackle
  • Anthony “Booger” McFarland, defensive tackle
  • Kwon Alexander, linebacker
  • Deion Jones, linebacker
  • Devin White, linebacker
  • Eric Reid, safety
  • LaRon Landry, safety
  • Morris Claiborne, cornerback

This is a list that could be debated for hours with no definitive results, but based on their impact with the LSU football program, paired with their legacy afterwards, here are the 10 greatest LSU Tigers ever:

10. Glenn Dorsey (2005-07)

The 2007 SEC Defensive Player of the Year was a two-time First-Team All-American played in Baton Rouge for three seasons. In his last season, Dorsey won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Outland Trophy, the Lott Trophy and the Lombardi Award, which basically means that he had one of the most dominant seasons by a defensive lineman ever.

9. Andrew Whitworth (2001-05)

After redshirting as a freshman, the 6-foot-7 offensive tackle went on to start 52 games during his career, which is second-most in NCAA history (the record is 53). Whitworth, who became a four-time Pro Bowl player in the NFL, only missed one practice during his five seasons with LSU; that was to attend his graduation in 2005. He was a two-time First-Team All-SEC lineman who helped LSU win the 2003 BCS National Championship game.

8. Leonard Fournette (2014-16)

Had an injury not cut his junior season short, Fournette would have become LSU’s all-time leading rusher. Still, the big running back finished his career No. 4 on the program’s career rushing list, which includes the LSU single-season record for rushing yards in 2015 (1,953). He also broke the single-season record for rushing touchdowns (22) that same year. Few running backs in college football history were as polarizing as the No. 4 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

7. Y.A. Tittle (1944-1947)

If Bradbury Robinson invented the forward pass, then Y.A. Tittle perfected it. During the 1940s, Tittle was a two-time First-Team All-SEC quarterback at a time when the Wing-T formation was all the rage. He was inducted into LSU’s athletic Hall of Fame in 1958 (yeah, one year after graduation), then went on to revolutionize the NFL passing game.

The 7-time Pro Bowler is one of eight NFL QBs to throw seven touchdowns in a game and retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards, touchdowns, completions, attempts and games played.

6. Tommy Casanova (1969-71)

The only three-time All-American in LSU history was called the “Best Player in the Nation” when he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1971. As a running back, kick returner and defensive back, Casanova’s two punt return touchdowns against Ole Miss in 1970 is still the SEC record. Casanova was a three-time Pro Bowler in the NFL, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, and his No. 37 is retired by the university.

5. Josh Reed (1999-2001)

After moving to receiver full-time as a sophomore, Josh Reed spent two seasons re-writing the SEC record books. Reed still ranks on the SEC all-time record book for:

Catches in a Game: 19 (1st)
Catches in a Season: 94 (T-4th)
Receiving yards in a Game: 293 (2nd)
Receiving yards in a Season: 1,740 (1st)
Receiving yards in a Career: 3,001 (5th)

On top of those five also being the LSU record, the two-time First-Team All-SEC receiver scored 18 touchdowns during his career. There are bigger names to play the position, but none were as impactful as Reed.

4. Tyrann Mathieu (2010-11)

Elite defensive players make impacts in multiple phases of the game. For two seasons, there was nowhere on the football field that Tyrann Mathieu wasn’t. The 2011 SEC Defensive Player of the Year finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting that same year before he was dismissed for violating team rules in 2012.

Mathieu finished his short career with 133 total tackles, 16.0 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks, four INTs, 11 forced fumbles and eight fumble recoveries.

3. Billy Cannon (1956-59)

You better believe the only Heisman Trophy winner in LSU history is going to make this list. On Halloween night in 1959, Cannon returned a punt 89 yards against Ole Miss in one of college football’s greatest plays ever to cement is Heisman resume for the voters. The two-time SEC Player of the Year is one of only three LSU Tigers to have his number retired (No. 20) after leading the Tigers to their first-ever national title in 1958.

Cannon should never be forgotten as one of the greatest all-around LSU players ever.

2. Kevin Faulk (1995-98)

The only running back who could, and should, challenge Fournette is Kevin Faulk. His 4,557 career rushing yards are fourth all-time in the SEC and his 46 rushing touchdowns are third in conference history, but both are LSU records. Faulk’s 6,833 career all-purpose yards are still the SEC record.

The 1995 SEC Freshman of the Year followed that up with three-straight First-Team All-SEC selections and won three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots.

1. Patrick Peterson (2008-10)

Peterson’s 2010 season is one of the greatest in LSU history. He was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a Consensus All-American, plus he received a ton of Heisman Trophy hype throughout his junior year. For his career, Peterson had 135 total tackles, 22 pass breakups and seven interceptions, as well as racking up 1,350 return yards and two kickoff returns for touchdowns on special teams.

He went on to become an eight-time NFL Pro Bowler and is considered one of the best shutdown cornerbacks in NFL history.

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