Supposedly considered honors, these marks of distinction serve mostly to cause angst – having ESPN analyst Lee Corso predict victory, being on the cover of the football video game named after John Madden, being on the cover of Sports Illustrated. SI may be cursed, but apparently being on the cover of Gameday – the official game program of LSU Football – was a harbinger of things to come for Jacob Hester.
Leaning against the goal post, arms dangling by his sides, helmet gripped in his right hand, Hester adorns the cover; a look on his face boldly claims he's perpetually ready to play. Against Louisiana Tech, under the Saturday night lights for the last time in his LSU playing career, Hester showed it with 11 rushes for 115 yards.
With 10:15 to go in the third quarter, Hester emerged from the middle of Louisiana Tech's defensive line and eventually covered 87 yards to give the Tigers a 37-7 advantage. The run was the longest for LSU since Justin Vincent covered the same distance against
"When I got to about the 40, I started to realize, ‘Man, I'm turning on the jets. I might score right here,'" Hester said of his run. "So I tried to put it into that last gear."
Saying it was his longest run since a 96-yard dash against
"I was fine when I got in the end zone," Hester said. "When I got to the sidelines to sit down, I was done for about three series. I was pretty worn out."
LSU coach Les Miles seemed most impressed with the fact that Hester pulled away on the run and never was in jeopardy of being caught.
"It didn't appear to me that anyone was dragging him down from behind," Miles said. "So, I liked it. I can tell you one thing: It looked like he was in that quarter-mile mode. But I enjoyed that. Again, that was one of those plays where they had to come after us and get the ball back, and when it breaks it breaks pretty clean."
Miles punctuated his description of Hester's "quarter-mile mode" with side-to-side backward glances and rhythmic breathing. Rhythm was something the Tigers found difficult to come by early, especially on the ground. Through the first two quarters, LSU had just 69 yards on 17 carries. Much of the Tigers' ability to mount the lead they did was because of decisions and mistakes by Louisiana Tech's offense and special teams. Things got somewhat on track for the Tigers in the second half, however, and LSU added 17 more points of cushion to its point total before the end of the third quarter.
"To be able to come out here and really score some points and hold them to only 10 points, we really needed a game like that," Hester said. "Louisiana Tech's been playing real good football. They've been playing good in their conference. We knew it was going to be no pushover, and they played really well at the beginning of the game. We came together at halftime, and we came out and put some good drives together. That's what helped us."
In addition to his contributions rushing, Hester also recovered a fumble on the Bulldogs' third possession when a snap to punter Chris Keagle didn't make it to him. Hester pounced on the ball at the Louisiana Tech 18-yard line, helping to set up an eventual field goal for LSU. The recovery also gave Hester something to look forward to in late December. Louisiana Tech long snapper, Thomas Graham, is his wife's first cousin.
"I didn't know what the heck he was doing," Hester said of his cousin-in-law's technique on the play. "I didn't know if it fell out of his hands, if it was a fake or something, but I just tried to get in there and get in the pile. So, I have some bragging rights at Christmas."
Hester got in there and, to his teammates, it wasn't a surprise. Hester, the bruiser, the punisher that the fans know him as, is not given enough credit for his speed, other Tigers say.
"Jacob Hester's one of the fastest guys on the team," Richard Dickson said. "He's underrated for his speed. That guy can fly."
Dickson made sure to clarify that Hester's not deceptively fast, and Craig Steltz's eyes lit up when touting the fact that Hester is a lot faster than anyone knows.
"I don't know," Hester said of whether Dickson's description of him being a "flyer" is how he sees himself. "Any time I get a chance, I just try to give it all I've got.
On the program cover that Hester adorns, he is referred to as a "complete player." The expression conjures up terms like athletic, intelligent, reliable, sure-handed, and mature. Hester fits the mold of each. Everything describing Hester on the Gameday cover is accurate. Ironically, with everything that has been written about him this season, it simply takes two words to say it all: complete player.