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
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
"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
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
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org.