“Game of the Century” has different meanings to different fanbases. Nebraska fans will always cherish Johnny Rodgers‘ electric punt return against Oklahoma in 1971. Miami fans gleefully smile at the memory of Florida State kicker Gerry Thomas going wide right in 1991. Texas fans know exactly where they were when Vince Young scrambled into the end zone on fourth down to secure the 2005 national championship.
LSU fans remember the pure joy they felt after kicker Drew Alleman kicked the game-winning field goal to beat No. 2 Alabama in 2011. Scoring came at a premium while the defenses slugged it out in the top-2 matchup, making a consistent placekicker more valuable than ever.
LSU head coach Les Miles knew he had his guy in Alleman. The junior kicker remained calm under pressure, especially when he hit the deciding kick to give LSU the 9-6 win.
We caught up with Alleman 10 years after the historic game to talk about the lead up, the game-winning kick, the celebration, the toughest SEC stadiums to kick in and what he’s doing now.
Revisiting 2011 Alabama-LSU With Drew Alleman
Q: Going back 10 years ago: LSU vs. Alabama, top-2 matchup, you’re on the road, a national championship berth is at stake. What was Coach Miles’ message going into that game?
Alleman: “Yeah, I mean what we did back then was obviously took it game by game. I know we hear that from Coach O right now, but that’s really what was at stake. We tried to block out all of, obviously, the media, ‘Game of the Century’, No. 1 vs. No. 2, biggest game in the last decade, all the hype, everybody that was going to be there. He tried to limit that as much as he could and just get us focused on the game plan and what we needed to do in order to win at Bryant-Denny.
“I think the team did such a great job preparing that week. We knew what was at stake. We knew an SEC Championship berth was at stake by beating them. We knew a national championship was on the line going into the game. We knew that in the back of our heads but we were focused on executing each play, each down, to the best of our ability as a group, as a whole, and it paid off for us in the end.”
Q: This game also had different kicking storylines. Alabama’s two kickers went 2-for-6 while you were a perfect 3-for-3 on your attempts. How did you stay calm under pressure?
Alleman: “Yeah man, that’s a great question. Obviously, their two kickers, Jeremy Shelly — I’m close with Jeremy and we kinda grew up in the same grade kicking at different camps together — and so, obviously they’re great kickers. It was just an unfortunate night for them. And to be frank, my kicks were a little bit closer than what they had to attempt, and that’s credit to our great offense for putting us in that position.
“We still knew it was a big game. We still knew each kick was a pressure kick. I believe we were always trying to catch up to them to make it equal. They went up, if I remember correctly it’s been so long, but they went 3-0 then we matched it 3-3. They went 6-3, we matched it 6-6. Then in overtime, we kicked the game-winner. They were still pressure kicks, they were close kicks, but still pressure. I mean, the stadium’s loud. You got 100-plus-thousand fans screaming at you, wanting to cut your throat off. They don’t want you to make the kick. I just tried to focus in on what I needed to do to keep my mind clear of who was screaming. You know that baseball movie (“For the Love of the Game”), “Clear the mechanism” right? Then everything kinda goes quiet.
“Just kinda focusing on the spot where I was going to finish my kick. In the stadium, pick something in the distance, beyond the goalposts, and focus in on Brad Wing, the holder. Just pay attention to the snap coming on, good hold and finish the quick just like in practice.”
Q: Speaking of overtime. Your offense marches down to the 8-yard line and Coach Miles calls your number on third down. Can you walk me through that game-winning kick?
Alleman: “You know, it’s actually crazy cause Michael Ford actually ran a sweep along the lefthand side, our sideline, and ran into the end zone. He didn’t get tackled but he unfortunately stepped out. So I kind of figured the game was just won. I was more in the headspace of, ‘Do I have to kick the extra point or not?’ Or are we just going to run on the field because he just scored the touchdown? Then, we’re obviously excited because we knew that was the game. But, then they said Michael stepped out.
“Then the ball came back in. At that point, wherever they said he stepped out, I knew Coach Miles was just going to put us in position to kick the field goal. And he came up to me…so, my position coach came up to me and asked where do I want the ball. I think I said right down the middle. I don’t remember. I think it was close to right down the middle. I went into the net, had a couple of kicks. Just tried to get away, ‘clear the mechanism’ and focus on what I had to do. Didn’t really want to focus on that it was a game winner. I wanted to focus on that it was just another kick. Brad [Wing] kinda kept people away from me because obviously at that time teammates are coming over saying, ‘You got this.’ Just kinda stayed to myself.
“It was already communicated to me that we were going to kick on third down in case there was a fumbled snap — just so we had another down to kick it — because there was enough time on the board just in case a fumbled snap happened. Or there was no time on the board because we were in overtime.
“Once again, I ran onto the field and I knew Coach [Nick] Saban had a timeout. I knew he was probably going to use it but I still went in there thinking I was going to kick it. He blew it before we even got close to snapping the ball. Whenever he blew it, I ran back to the sideline to Coach Miles and told him we were going to make this kick and win the game. I told him ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to make this kick and win the game.’ He kinda started laughing and said, ‘We’re gonna have some fun on the plane ride home.’ Then I got with Brad and he said, ‘What do you wanna do after you make it?’ We were kinda making plans on what to do, where to run. We went back out there and I knew we were going to kick it. I already had faith we were going to make it and drilled it down the middle. We just kinda ran off into the night together.”
Q: Not a bad way to spend a Saturday in Tuscaloosa.
Alleman: “For sure.”
Q: I’ve always thought kickers were treated kind of like pitchers who are in the middle of throwing a perfect game. Nobody really talks to them until the game is over. Am I crazy to think it’s like that?
Alleman: “It’s either you’re the hero or the goat. You’re only really talked to if you kick game-winners. Every now and then they would interview you, but that’s pretty much how it is. You get talked to when you’re the hero. When you’re the goat, nobody even wants to talk to you.”
Q: You talked a little bit about the celebration, but what was the celebration like when you guys got back into the locker room?
Alleman: “Oh man, everybody was jacked and excited. It was just a wild, entire night. Plane ride home was fun. Usually we’re sleeping because it’s so late, but nobody slept. We were just having fun. We got back and people wanted to party with us. It was an all night deal. We just beat the No. 1 team, we’re still undefeated, basically going to the SEC Championship. Got the national championship in New Orleans that year. It was a fun season all together, but after that game especially, that’s when we knew man we were something special. We just beat an incredible Alabama team at Alabama and this was our year until we got to New Orleans.” (Alabama won the rematch at the national championship game by a score of 21-0.)
Q: It is a bummer how that national championship game turned out, but just kind of talking about your LSU career as a whole. What was your proudest LSU moment?
Alleman: “I think obviously [the game-winning kick against Alabama] was the most proud I was in that position. You know, it was a five-year career. I got redshirted, came in as a walk-on, eventually earned a scholarship and didn’t really know I was going to be the starter.
“We had a bunch of kickers when I came in. Colt David was the first kicker and then you had Josh Jasper and Andrew Crutchfield, who were the same year. It was kind of a dual thing they were doing on kickoffs that first year with Colt David kicking field goals. Then Colt graduated and Josh became the starter and then Andrew transferred. Then I knew kind of at that moment I was told, ‘Hey look, right after Josh is done you’re going to be the guy for two years.’
“So, I was preparing myself for that and my junior year was an incredible season — I think I went 16-for-18. My senior year was a great season. I missed a little bit more, but had way more opportunities. It was a good career as a whole, but [2011 vs. Alabama] is very special. Every time I talk to someone they’re like, ‘Wait didn’t you kick at LSU? Weren’t you the guy who kicked that field goal at Alabama.’ That’s kind of what I get a lot. It was a special moment and just to be in the Game of the Century and such a big game like that and to have your number called to kick the game winner–it all came together great. Obviously at an opponent’s stadium — huge venue, very nice stadium, national television, CBS, you know, all the celebrities there was a cool experience.”
Q: That’s hard to beat. What was the toughest SEC stadium to kick in?
Alleman: “You know, Alabama was tough. Florida. Florida is a tough place to play. It’s hot, it’s loud. Those two SEC stadiums are pretty insane. One that’s surprising is Mississippi State. I know it’s not as big, but it’s just so loud with those cowbells, man. You get a headache after the game. Especially when they’re good, their fans are crazy. They’re shaking those cowbells 24/7.
“I’ve played in pretty much all of them except Kentucky and South Carolina — those are the only two I didn’t make it to. Obviously, now Missouri I didn’t play in. One that was surprising my senior year was Texas A&M. It was cool in a sense of how big it was — you know, home of the 12th Man — and then when they start locking arms and swaying. It’s a weird experience, man. It’s like the whole stadium is moving. When you’re on the field and looking up you kind of get a little seasick. I’d say those are the top three. Georgia was great, too. But, I think Florida, Alabama and Texas A&M are obviously the top three.”
Q: Kyle Field is different, man. It’s like an insane religion down there. Last question before I let you go. What are you up to these days?
Alleman: “So I’m in the financial business. I own a financial company in Baton Rouge and in Texas. I’ve been doing it almost 10 years now. Started it part-time right after college. Tried for the NFL for four or five years and after I tore my ACL and got hurt, it was kind of the end of that dream and I just went into the financial business. Still wanted to make a lot of money. Still wanted an incredible life the NFL can give you. I found that in an incredible financial company.”
Alleman will always have a place in LSU history as more than the guy who kicked the game-winner to beat Alabama. He had a great career and embodied what it meant to be a Tiger. Although, his game-winning kick is a memory that makes LSU fans smile with pride.