LSU announced this week that Jerry Stovall will become only the 13th former athlete or coach to have his or her jersey retired by the school. It’s an honor that still has not sunk in for the 77-year-old former All-American and head coach of the Tigers.
“You go into the stadium and you see the other two football players that have been retired and you’ve got Tommy Casanova and Billy Cannon,” Stovall said on my radio show. “One has won the Heisman Trophy and the other is the only three-time All-American in football that LSU has ever had. How can you possibly take yourself from the grass of the field and put yourself up there where they are?”
Stovall was SEC Player of the Year and a unanimous All-American running back in 1962. Following that season, he was the Heisman Trophy runner-up, finishing 89 votes short of Oregon State’s Terry Baker. He also played defensive back, returned kicks and was the punter.
He followed his college career by playing nine seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, where he made three Pro Bowls.
“This is an honor you never start out in your career saying, ‘I’m going to get that,’” he said. “I was not a spectacular athlete, but I turned myself into a pretty good football player because of Paul Dietzel and Charlie McClendon and hundreds of young men I played with.”
When Stovall’s playing career ended, he returned to LSU as an assistant coach under McClendon. He was elevated to head coach in an emergency situation before the 1980 season when Bo Rein died in a plane crash before coaching a game at LSU. He would be named National Coach of the Year by the Walter Camp Foundation after the 1982 season. Following his coaching career, Stovall would serve as Athletic Director at Louisiana Tech and then as CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Sports Foundation.
“The thing I’ve learned is die to self,” Stovall said. “I played with so many good guys that gave me so many examples that it was a joy and it was a pleasure.”
As for when the ceremony will take place this fall, LSU administrators are leaving that decision up to Stovall and his family.
“I always like to beat Alabama in Baton Rouge,” Stovall said slyly, alluding to the Nov. 3 home date with the defending champion Crimson Tide.
Stovall will have him family by his side this fall when his name joins Cannon and Casanova adorning the wall of Tiger Stadium.
“I’m excited watching my grandchildren get excited about it,” he said. “It appears they’ve caught the magic themselves.”
(You can follow Matt Moscona on Twitter @MattMoscona)
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