Walk-on soldier joins LSU in '03

The LSU football program has benefited from some quality walk-ons who have proven their worth on the gridiron and in the classroom.<br><br>In 2003, the Tigers will get a walk-on who has faced much tougher battles.

Recent walk-ons of note for LSU include current quarterback Matt Mauck, who came to Baton Rouge three years ago after a stint in minor league baseball.

Former linebacker Ryan O'Neal passed up scholarship offers to walk-on with the Tigers and became a valuable special teams member. Running back Elice Parker, who served with the Marines before coming to LSU, earned his stripes with special teams and completed his eligibility last season with IUPUI.

The latest in that line could be Boca Raton, Fla. standout Jim Rathmann (5-10, 185, 4.4). Rathmann joins the Tigers after spending five years in the Army Special Forces, where he served his country on peace-keeping and anti-terrorist missions.

Rathmann said he recently turned down invitations to walk-on at Ohio State and Miami (Fla.) to become a Tiger. With a couple of connections to the LSU program, the chance to play for one of the most storied programs in the country was too much for him to pass up.

"A lot of it was I knew the tradition at LSU and Jimbo Fisher recruited me when he was at Auburn," Rathmann told Tiger Rag. "So having him around here, plus being close to my brother, was too good to pass up."

Rathmann's brother, Dr. Tom Rathmann, was a reserve quarterback for the Tigers in the mid-90's and he played a large role in luring his brother away from the top two college football teams in 2002.

Out of high school, Jim said he was recruited by Auburn, Miami and Florida but he decided to serve his country instead and put his college football dreams on hold.

As a senior at Boca Raton High School, he switched from the free safety spot that he took over late in his freshman season to cornerback because of need at the position. The move turned out to be a good one for the team and Rathmann, who earned All-District, All-City and All-County honors for the 84 tackles and four interceptions he posted.

Rathmann will have three years of eligibility remaining since he played a season at Vermilion Community College in Minnesota, but he hopes to land a spot on the Tigers' special teams units and then challenge for the free safety spot that will be open once Jack Hunt graduates in 2004.

"I want to beef up to 195 and then come spring, compete for the safety spot," Rathmann said. "I think a redshirt year would help me get strong and get a year of practice in. That would give me time to get noticed. I know I could be a special teams' contributor because that is where I made a name for myself in high school. I'm a hard hitter."

If Rathmann can work out the rust and get back to his high school form, coach Nick Saban could have a little more depth in the defensive backfield than anticipated.

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