Livings making the most of chances

Persistence has finally paid off for Nate Livings.<br><br>After signing with LSU in 2000 and 2001, but unable to play due to academic ineligibility, the 6-foot-5, 300-pound lineman will finally suit up as a Tiger, albeit on the opposite side of the ball to which he is accustomed.

Considered the best offensive lineman prospect in Louisiana after his senior season at Lake Charles' Washington-Marion High School in 1999, Livings will provide depth for LSU at defensive end in 2002, with the possibility that he may make a move back to his natural O-line position in the future.


Though he took the move with trepidation, Livings is willing to do what it takes to make it back to the gridiron.


"I originally told coach Saban that I was uncomfortable with (the move)," Livings says, "but I told him that I'd do whatever helped the team. If that's my role as a player, then that's what I'm going to have to do."


Though he's been away from competitive football for over two years, Livings still has enough heart and skills to impress the coaches for whom he will be playing.


"I've been really impressed with him," defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said.  "He's not in the kind of shape you want, but he's been out of football for quite some time. But he is a big, strong kid that moves well and holds the point up front for us. He's a guy that can contribute up front for us this year — he just needs to keep progressing on the track that he is now."


Defensive line coach Lance Thompson agrees. He touts Livings' versatility and dedication to learning a new position at defensive end.


"Nate's been working great," he says. "He's a very talented guy — really diligent in his preparation. He's been out of ball a while, but every day he's getting better."


Jumping back into football after a long hiatus been tough for Livings. He is learning a whole new system and an entirely different way of thinking on the field.


"I was anxious at the beginning," said Livings. "I'm still anxious and I'm hungry. But I guess I have to wait until the heat is on. I got banged up a couple of times, but that's just to knock the rust off. I still think I have to knock some more rust off though.


"I didn't lose my speed. Strength-wise, I've gotten stronger. I just have to work on the endurance"


Livings' situation isn't anything new at LSU. Fellow defensive lineman Chad Lavalais experienced a similar layoff between high school and college. Another highly touted prospect, Lavalais worked as a correctional officer during his two-year layoff from football while awaiting his own academic eligibility.


"Chad talked to me a little bit," Livings says. "He told me that at the beginning it was going to be a little funny and how it would take time for the rust to come off, but it would come off. He's doing pretty good, so I guess he knows."


If Livings takes Lavailais' advice to heart, he may get the chance to pass on his experience to another Lake Charles product — Barbe's Justin Vincent. One of the nation's top running back prospects, Vincent committed to LSU but is academically ineligible for the 2002 season.


"I'll sit down and talk with him, if he's willing to listen," Livings said of Vincent. "I've been through a whole lot. Stuff I wouldn't wish on anybody."


When speaking about his tribulations over the past few years, Livings pauses for a moment before looking a reporter directly in the eye to answer.


"The reason I did this was to be successful in life. If I wasn't playing football, I'd probably be in Lake Charles working a 9-to-5 (job)."


"I just couldn't deal with the pressures," he continued. "When I graduated out of high school, there were so many expectations from everybody — the whole community. ‘Ole Nate is going to be the first one since Eddie Kennison to go pro, to go play ball at LSU.' So that was always in the back of my mind.


"Girls that used to talk to me, I'd see them in the mall and they'd roll their eyes, like, ‘I don't want to talk to Nate, he's nobody, he's just like everybody else now.'


"So it was basically trying to prove them wrong, but also me trying to prove to myself that I wanted to have a professional future. Even if I don't make it in football at LSU, I'll have a degree."

With that attitude — regardless of whatever football success may come — Nate Livings is already a winner.

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