It’s more than just a football game.
Guerra, a New Orleans native who served in the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division before graduating from LSU in 1984, originally had the idea for this collection of first-hand accounts of LSU football four or five years ago.
He set about his mission to gather stories by soliciting them via email from fan friends that go “as far back as grade school and high school in New Orleans” to former LSU players, staff and even members of the color guard and Golden Band from Tigerland.
More than 40 people responded with detailed descriptions of their favorite and most enduring moments involving the Bayou Bengals on the gridiron. Included in that number were Tiger greats Charles Alexander, Herb Tyler, Randall Gay, Jacob Hester and Marcus Spears. The book also has submissions from Gordy Rush and Ruffin Rodrigue as well as Rudy Niswanger’s recollection of the Bluegrass Miracle.
“I think the underlying motivation for me was to express my feelings about my friendships and some of the aspects of the LSU football experience that are not written about in most of the books that have been published,” Guerra told TSD. “There are always great stories about the Xs and Os and some of the things that happen during games from a journalistic point of view, but my objective was to get my friends involved and to get feedback on what people remember about so many of these memorable games because they cherish those memories.
“I also wanted to get people to understand that it really is more than just a football game. Far too often fans are so eager to boo our players, and I just hate to see that. So I wanted people to see more than just a football game.”
Of course, as with anything LSU-football related, food is also a constant theme in Gumbo for the Tiger Soul.
The book brings to life a number of recipes, contributed by chefs and cooks in the area and even a few avid fans and tailgaters with stories to tell about their cuisine . . . and what the Tigers were doing while they were eating it.
How else could one land on concoctions with names like “Earthquake Shrimp Creole” or “The Bluegrass Miracle Dogpile Bread Pudding?”
Still it’s the flooding of memories from decades of life in and around LSU football that makes Guerra’s compilation shine. He even shared with TSD his own personal favorite moment on the purple and gold, one most outside of Bobby Bowden will remember fondly.
“I would have to say for me it was in 1982, the LSU-Florida State game. It was the night that it rained oranges. It was just a fantastic scene,” Guerra recalled. “LSU had kind of wavered a couple of years before that, and then 1982 brought us Garry James and Dalton Hilliard. We beat Alabama that year in a game that was just dominated by our defense. It led up to that game against Florida State.
“Back then with the way bowls were divvied out, it was clear cut. If you win this game, you go to that bowl. So it was known the winner of the game would go to the Orange Bowl. There was not a single orange available in all of Baton Rouge that day. I got a late start, went to the stores and there weren’t any to be found. I managed to grab a couple from some friends in the stadium. But I mean every time we scored that south end zone was just covered in oranges.”
Now living in Houston, where he was for a time president of the local LSU Alumni Association chapter, Guerra loves being in what he calls “Baton Rouge-West or New Orleans-West,” an area heavily populated with Tiger fans.
As Guerra puts it on being a Louisiana transplant in Houston: “It makes you feel at home and there is a connection.”
Gumbo for the Tiger Soul accomplishes that same objective for fans of LSU football around the world. In the end that’s all Guerra was really hoping for this whole time.
“It’s heartwarming for me to see that people are getting so much joy out of it, and getting some laughs,” he concluded. “That’s important to me.”
Gumbo for the Tiger Soul is available for purchase at major online retailers such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon and AuthorHouse as well as a growing list of local and regional book stores. A portion of the proceeds from “Gumbo” will go the LSU Alumni Association. CLICK HERE to learn more.