The making of a champion

Not only is LSU senior right offensive tackle Rodney Reed an Academic All-America, but he understands the human psyche as well. <br><br> Reed received an undergraduate degree with a 3.9 grade point average, but that doesn't guarantee he knows anything about motivation and how to get others to perform at their best. What he's done so far as an elder statesman on the football team is a better indication of his insight into people.

Rather than set tangible goals for the Tigers such as winning this or winning that, Reed and some of his fellow seniors figured it would be better to establish less concrete aims. "We wanted to have something we could work on every day," said Reed, now on pace to receive his master's degree in accounting in May.


Being "a champion," which Coach Nick Saban said is the seniors' theme phrase, represents a product of such thinking. It has little to do with wins or losses, or even titles, but everything to do with how the Tigers conduct themselves daily. It's more a mindset or a belief than something based on results.


Champions overcome adversity. They give it their best every day no matter the circumstances. They want the best for each other and push themselves to create a cohesive team atmosphere. Plans to win the national championship, or the Southeastern Conference, may slip away, but being a champion becomes a lifestyle. Along the way, with an attitude like that, LSU is sure to experience prosperity.


"The seniors wanted to have goals where we were able to have a positive affect on somebody every day...," Reed said. "This is the best chemistry there's been since I've been here."


If others may lose sight of what they're trying to accomplish, Reed is there to remind them. "I'm a leader by example," he said. "I want others to play up to my level of intensity."


It's still early, but so far it's worked well. You know something's right if even Saban would admit he's "been very pleased with the way this team has come together."


Much of that has to do with the Tigers' approach. They seem to be driven more internally, as in performing well in practice each day, than externally, as in winning honors that will bring them individual praise.


"The goal board is a very important thing for us," senior left defensive tackle Bryce Wyatt said. "A lot of time and focus went into it. That has a lot to do with how we play."


It helps, too, that the Tigers have the maturity to recognize that championships are won with daily improvement, not simply through the establishment of some lofty standards.


The personable Reed always has been a no-nonsense person who wasn't about to get sidetracked. That was evident his first year when he not only made the SEC Academic Honor Roll, but also the Knoxville (Tenn.) News' Freshman All-SEC team.


Wyatt has never been one to give up, either, although that would have been easy to do for the former tight end who redshirted his first year and played only in the season opener the next. Like senior linebacker Adrian Mayes, Wyatt patiently persevered until finally cracking the starting lineup.


Wyatt and Mayes are akin to what Skip Bertman referred to as "program players" when he was coaching the baseball team. Those are third-and fourth-year players who have finally been given an opportunity to play after years of behind-the-scenes service. Not only do they bring a hungry attitude to their game, but they influence others with their desire and diligence.


Add in junior quarterback Matt Mauck, with his level head and years of professional baseball experience, and the Tigers have their feet planted firmly on the ground while still reaching for the stars. It's not likely they'll lose sight of the need for hard work to make all things possible.


It can become an infectious spirit that prompts even the untested to lend a hand. Third-year sophomore tailback Joseph Addai has carried all of 80 times in his career, yet he's taken it upon himself to behave as a veteran.


"I feel my role on the team is to help the young guys out," he said. "I'm going to do my part....I'm going to try to set standards from the beginning, and go forward with that frame of mind and stay focused."


Saban used the analogy of a Christmas tree and how beautiful it looks when decorated. All it takes to mar that beauty is for a single inoperable light bulb to cause an entire strand to flicker, he said. Likewise, the very essence of a team can be disrupted when someone is not in tune with what others are trying to accomplish.


Should that ever happen, Saban wants to make certain he has enough operatives to reign in the offending party.

"Everybody needs to function together so we don't have any flickering lights," he said.


Dave Moormann is a long time member of the Baton Rouge media having worked for the Baton Rouge Advocate and the Alexandria Town Talk. You can read his column weekly in Tiger Rag. He can be reached at

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