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Story Archives: Being a Tiger with John Ed
|Being a Tiger with John Ed|
Last week I spent my vacation with my wife, son and John Ed Bradley.
No, John Ed didn't tag along with us to Gulf Shores, Disneyworld or Branson. Actually, the farthest away we got was Baton Rouge. (If you haven't eaten at Walk-On's Bistreaux you are missing a treat).
I spent part of my leisure time reading "It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium."
The title is written in purple and gold with a picture of an LSU football player wrapped up in a raincoat.
I expected a book with Bradley regaling about playing football at LSU. What I found inside was something entirely different - but just as entertaining.
The book is actually about Bradley dealing with the ghosts of playing for LSU - and I'm not talking about Gavin Grey (from the movie Everybody's All-American where Dennis Quaid plays a former LSU football player adjusting to life after football).
Bradley actually talks about that movie and interviewing Quaid for Esquire magazine during the filming. There is also mention of visiting Jerry Lee Lewis' home in near Memphis. Jerry Lee actually has three cats and they are all named Killer.
But the book mainly talks about Bradley's inability to cope with being known as an LSU football player, especially after he graduates.
Bradley played at LSU in the late 1970s where he as an All-SEC center for the Tigers.
Twenty-three years later, he still knew the names, weights, habits and jersey numbers of the teammates he battled with side by side on Saturday nights, and whom he had been neglecting ever since.
Bradley talks a lot about the LSU-Southern California game in 1979 in which the Tigers lost a heartbreaker, 17-12, to a team many consider one of the greatest college teams ever.
I remember the game well. My brother and I were fortunate enough to have tickets to the contest. We watched in awe as Southern Cal stepped off the bus to go into Tiger Stadium. The size of these guys was amazing, but I also watched in wonder at the confidence and focus each player presented while walking past a throng of LSU fans screaming everything imaginable and more.
Our seats were next to where USC walked out onto the field and it was something to watch one by one as Charles White, Paul McDonald, Brad Budde, Anthony Munoz, Dennis Johnson, Ronnie Lott, Hoby Brenner and Marcus Allen filtered into Tiger Stadium.
I didn't know until reading the book that Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher was also on that team, and that Norv Turner was an assistant coach to John Robinson.
That team went 11-0-1, with a tie with Stanford ruining its national championship hopes for a second straight year. They did end up ranked No. 1 by College Football Researchers Association at the end of the season after beating Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
Bradley talks with genuine fondness about former LSU coach Charlie McClendon, a coach I have always had a deep admiration for, but even more now after seeing him through Bradley's eyes.
Bradley rarely went to an LSU game or listened soon after graduating. One of the few times he did go it was as an honorary captain. It was raining and he left at halftime (which is kind of where the title comes from).
There is also a touching chapter where he visits former LSU player Ramsey Dardar at Hunt Correctional.
I knew about Dardar's problems, but I did not know that Lyman White, Lawrence Williams and George Atyieh also spent time behind bar.
Bradley's stories about his dad, a former coach at Opelousas High, are memorable, as are the few times he mentions the late David Woodley, a troubled quarterback who went on to play in the Super Bowl who was dealing with some demons of his own.
The book seemed to be a therapeutic for Bradley. It seemed at times He certainly does a great job describing LSU football.
Anyone expecting a book talking about how great it is to be an LSU Tiger may be a bit disappointed. Anyone expecting a book that is heart-wrenching, honest, insightful and hard to put down will not be disappointed.