More than a game: LSU players find motivation in the community and their head coach

Tyler Waldrep

It began with a joke, but once the laughter faded LSU coach Les Miles felt compelled to follow his commissioner’s lead and briefly acknowledge the tragic events that have taken place recently.

He said the world needs change and compassion.

“What I’d like to do is have them, our guys, have a platform where they could affect change. I think they’re wonderful men,” Miles said. “…The reality of it is [I] just hope to put them in the position to allow them to have the greatest possible impact, because they’re our future.”

When pressed for specifics Miles didn’t have the answers, but he wants to help his community however he can. One thing he thinks the team can do for the community is give it something to rally around.

Standing up for those in need is not a new position for LSU running back Leonard Fournette. Last season he donated one of his jerseys to help flood victims in South Carolina.

“My thought process on that was basically what I went through with Hurricane Katrina,” Fournette said. “We really didn’t receive any help so I have the platform and the voice to help people so I figured why not be that difference maker in the generation.”

Fournette will likely be the Tigers’ difference maker on the football field as well. He rushed for 1,953 yards, averaged 6.5 yards per carry and scored 23 total touchdowns.

“He’s still developing [physically] so each year’s he’s just going to get better and better and better, and the more football he knows….yeah no doubt he’ll be better,” LSU center Ethan Pocic said.

As strange as it seems, he might have to be if Miles is going to return for another season. LSU started out last season 7-0 to claim a No. 2 ranking, but the Tigers lost the next three games and rumors came out that Miles was on his way out.

Obviously that plan changed along the way, perhaps the win over Texas A&M and mounting public support was enough, but it doesn’t seem like Miles is the safest coach in the SEC this season.

“That game [the bowl game] we were just playing for Coach Miles,” Pocic said. “He’s the coach that brought us in and he was the one that took a chance on us offering us. So we just want to fulfill him and play for him and I think we did that.”

If the SEC’s new dean of coaches has any concerns about his job he doesn’t show them. He spent his summer cheering the Cleveland Cavaliers to a victory in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, discovering the damage a softball can inflict on the unprotected human foot and even playing a minor role in a movie.

“Everybody knows Coach Miles is a character and he is like that each and every day and we love to play for him,” senior defensive back Tre’Davious White said. “You know when a guy genuinely cares about you, you are willing to do everything for him. With that photo [of Miles dressed as a cop for the movie] I just laughed and sent it in the group text that we have.”