Louisiana State University has a long and storied history of fielding an elite college football program every year. Since 2000 under guys like Nick Saban, Les Miles and now head coach Ed Orgeron, the LSU Tigers haven’t won fewer than eight games in any season that didn’t feature a global pandemic. They even beat Alabama every now and then.
The four-time national champions became the 16th program to reach 800 wins during the 2019 season. Their 39 consensus All-Americans are only a tiny piece of the elite talent from Baton Rouge. Dozens of all-conference selections and even more football players throughout the years probably don’t get the credit they probably deserve, either.
You could build an All-SEC team with JUST the honorable mentions who didn’t make this list:
- Tommy Hodson, quarterback
- JaMarcus Russell, quarterback
- Bert Jones, quarterback
- Dalton Hilliard, running back
- Joseph Addai, running back
- Jim Taylor, fullback
- Odell Beckham, Jr., wide receiver
- Jarvis Landry, wide receiver
- Josh Reed, wide receiver
- Dwayne Bowe, wide receiver
- Kevin Mawae, center
- Alan Faneca, guard
- La’el Collins, tackle
- Andrew Whitworth, 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
- Grant Delpit, safety
- Morris Claiborne, cornerback
- Derek Stingley Jr., 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 afterward, 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 playing in Baton Rouge for three seasons. Dorsey won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Outland Trophy, the Lott Trophy and the Lombardi Award in his last season. He had one of the most dominant seasons by a defensive lineman ever.
9. Ja’Marr Chase (2018-20)
Maybe he was a product of Joe Burrow’s record-setting 2019 offense, but maybe he was just really freakin’ good. Ja’Marr Chase set LSU’s single-season receiving yard record (1,780) and touchdown mark (20) during their national championship run. He did it in the pressure-packed games, too, putting up 221 yards against Clemson in the national title game. Had he not sat out the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic, he would have left Baton Rouge with plenty of career records.
8. Leonard Fournette (2014-16)
Fournette would have become LSU’s all-time leading rusher if an injury hadn’t cut his junior season short. Still, the big running back finished his career No. 4 on the program’s rushing list, including 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 by the Jacksonville Jaguars. While Fournette didn’t work out there, he stayed in Florida and moved to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he won a Super Bowl.
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 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 revolutionized the NFL passing game.
The seven-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. His No. 37 is retired by the university.
5. Kevin Faulk (1995-98)
The only running back who could, and should, challenge Fournette is Kevin Faulk. His 4,557 career rushing yards and his 46 rushing touchdowns 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 with three-straight First-Team All-SEC selections and won three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots.
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 tackles, 16.0 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks, four INTs, 11 forced fumbles and eight fumble recoveries.
In the NFL, Honey Badger has made two All-Pro teams and won Super Bowl LIV as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.
3. 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 and racking up 1,350 return yards and two kickoff returns for touchdowns on special teams. Teams made it a point NOT to throw anywhere near the No. 7 jersey.
He became an eight-time NFL Pro Bowler and is considered one of the best shutdown cornerbacks in NFL history.
2. Billy Cannon (1956-59)
You better believe the first Heisman Trophy winner in LSU history was high on 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 his 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.
Fans should never forget Cannon as one of the greatest all-around LSU players ever.
1. Joe Burrow (2018-19)
I mean, were you expecting someone else?
For anyone who disputes Burrow’s impact as the greatest player to pass through LSU, consider what his 2019 season meant for generations of fans. Not only was Burrow’s Heisman Trophy victory the largest in history, but he also set NCAA records for total offense (6,039 yards), passing touchdowns (60), touchdowns responsible for (65) and passing efficiency (202.0). His completion percentage (76.3) ranks second all-time, passing yards (5,671) ranks third. He did it during a 15-0 season. LSU won each game by an average of almost 27 points and embarrassed the defending champs in the College Football Playoff title game.
After leading the Bayou Bengals to a national championship, Burrow moved on to another group of Bengals in Cincinnati. Burrow was the first pick of the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The Heisman winner has now been joined by another LSU legend in Cincinnati, wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. If you are a Tigers fan looking for an NFL team to root for, maybe look to the Bengals.
As for Burrow, Baton Rouge’s adopted son will have a statue outside Tiger Stadium, and LSU will never forget him after the most outstanding single season by a player in not just LSU lore but college football history.
This post was originally published on May 16, 2019. We’ve updated it to include some more LSU legends.