By Jerraud Powers
2007, Auburn versus LSU at Tiger Stadium. This was a game I had been looking forward to for a long time. You grow up in the South watching the SEC and learning about the history of each team, whether you like the team or not. LSU has one of the best atmospheres and traditions in college football. Their fans are crazy, their players are good and the stadium is loud.
I remember being on the bus, headed to the stadium, and once we got to campus, the LSU fans literally wouldn’t let our bus get to the stadium. Yes, we had the police escort and everything, but it didn’t matter. The “F Bombs,” the middle fingers from kids, and them shaking the bus were all expected. As players, it made us even more excited to play. My older teammates, who had already played there before, were telling me how much fun it was going to be and expect the craziest stuff to happen.
We get to the stadium and head to the locker room. One of our traditions was to walk on the field, circle up around the 50 yard line and say a prayer as a team. I was probably one of the first people to head out of the locker room and go onto the field. When I opened the locker room door to head out, NOBODY TOLD ME THERE WAS GONNA BE A DAMN TIGER WAITING FOR ME! As soon as I opened the door to head out, LSUs real tiger was right there in its cage. It seemed he was trained to hate everyone who didn’t wear purple and gold. The tiger was growling and moving around, as if he was ready to play. My first reaction was to run. I wasn’t expecting to hear or see a real tiger. It really scared me for a minute, but right after that moment, I knew it was going to be an epic night.
The game is a back and forth dog fight. Both teams are making plays. It’s everything my teammates said it was going to be; it was fun! For me, I was playing a solid game. I had a few pass break ups, some big hits, and even returned a fumble for like 40 yards before being caught by Trindon Holiday at the 2-yard line. Trindon was one of the fastest players in America at the time, so I didn’t feel bad being caught by him.
Late in the 4th quarter, with 11 seconds left on the clock, we were up 24-23 and LSU was in field goal range. Everybody in the stadium thought that Les Miles would run down the clock and kick the field goal, but instead they threw a fade to my side to Demetrius Byrd. With my hand on the ball and him covered tightly, somehow he managed to hang on to my arm and the ball to come down with the touchdown. I remember initially thinking I knocked the ball out because I literally had my hand on it. The crowd goes nuts, we lose the game, and I return back to Auburn.
When Facebook came out in 2005, nobody could have guessed the impact social media could have with fans and athletes in college or professional sports. I remember getting back to my house the next morning and checking my Facebook, and I had several threats from fans in my messages and even my school email account. I never took any of it seriously, but the coaches and school officials did. I remember talking to Will Muschamp about it and his message was simple, “F-them, you played your ass off.” That was all I needed in getting me ready for the next week. Fans sometimes don’t understand how hard it is to play football on the collegiate or professional level. Everyone thinks it’s easy, but it’s not. That old saying, “if you play long enough, it will happen to you too” is true. LSU won the national championship that year. I have close friends today that were on that team. When I heard their side of the story, it makes it even more interesting because some of those guys thought “he dropped it” or “what the hell is Les doing?”
Playing defensive back is probably the hardest position in football, outside of playing quarterback. You have guys who are strong like Julio Jones, fast like Tyreke Hill, and quick as Julian Edelman, running at you full speed, while you are going backwards. The wide receivers know exactly where they are going, and if the QB is throwing their way. The defensive back is only relying on technique, film study and instincts to help put himself in a position to cover these great wideouts. That’s why the good ones get paid a lot of money!!!