In Focus: In Rhythm
P.J. Lonergan Orchestrates the Cohesive LSU O-Line
Entering the 2012 season as one of the top centers in college football and a two-time Rimington Trophy candidate, senior P.J. Lonergan has been the foundation of the Tigers' offensive line as a third-year starter with the skill set to effectively protect the pocket and earn the admiration of his teammates.
Although Lonergan's expertise and work ethic provide stability to the Tigers leadership core, it's the culmination of effort and grit from the seniors on the team that exemplifies the guidance and resilience needed to lead a winning tradition.
"It's up to the seniors to lead the team and I feel everyone has stepped up and done a good job at that," said Lonergan. "There aren't that many of us left from last season but we have all taken on leadership roles. Whether it's on offense, defense or special teams, there is always a senior leader calling the shots."
A product of Archbishop Rummel High School in Metairie, La, Lonergan understands the necessity of a team to become more than just teammates. The bonds that the seniors forged on the gridiron throughout the years have transcended into relationships that will last far beyond their time in Baton Rouge.
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It's the chemistry that these friendships create that propels the team into being a perennial contender in the toughest division in college football. Along with the rest of the squad, Lonergan attributes the majority of the Tigers' successes to their camaraderie.
"I'm getting married to the love of my life in July and two of my groomsmen are (LSU offensive linemen) Chris Faulk and Josh Dworaczyk. Just like them, all my teammates are my family," said Lonergan. "They are there for anything. I've been with them for four to five years now and when you become an LSU Tiger you become family. They are like brothers always there to help you out. We live together and spend so much time together so it's a real family here."
Lonergan arrived in Baton Rouge a second-generation Tiger looking to follow a similar path of his father, Pat Lonergan, who played offensive line for LSU in the 1970s. Lonergan has since been a devoted LSU fan and credits his father for helping him become a versatile center and an independent adult.
"During high school, he was always there helping me out with different things. When I struggled to learn the plays or needed advice he would help me adjust," said Lonergan. ""He never pressured me to go to LSU because he wanted me to make my own decisions. He's always there when I need him to ask for help or advice. "
Lonergan has shined for the Tigers on the field and in the weight room, where he currently holds the LSU school record in the clean with a 374-pound lift. Being 6-4 and 305 pounds adds to his tremendous athletic abilities on the field. He is able to take on nose guards without the help of an offensive guard, which allows the Tigers to use more intricate blocking schemes.
As one of four returning starters on the offensive line this season, Lonergan is at the helm of the run and pass blocking game for the Tigers. Last season, he played 677 snaps with 65.5 knockdown blocks, accomplishing a career-best of 14.5 knockdowns when the Tigers defeated No. 3 Oregon 40-27 in the season opener. As well as being a great football player, Lonergan was named to the 2009 SEC Academic Honor Roll and is majoring in business management.
Lonergan is a student of the game who thrives at making the necessary improvements when needed. LSU offensive line coach and offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa has always praised Lonergan's ability to control the line when opponents show different defenses and believes "his knowledge is invaluable" to the team.
"At LSU you have to put in more time and effort to improve your craft. I began understanding the playbook more, which made me mature quicker to adapt to football on a college level," said Lonergan. "I learned new techniques and blocking schemes that can all be credited to the program. I wouldn't be as good as I am today without the help of my family and coaches throughout the years.
"It's not just me, it's the combination of experience from everyone. I know I'm the person in there calling the coverage and setting the protection but it's all up to the guys to understand how to adjust to it. It takes all five of us to be in rhythm to get the job done."
Perhaps the most unknown trait that Lonergan possesses is his knack to make people laugh. Whether it is at the football complex or on plane trips to away games, Lonergan embraces the title of team jokester. His outgoing personality makes him easy to relate to and offers a needed comic relief during down times.
"I just love to have fun and cut loose. I've always done it growing up and at Rummel. I just enjoy lightening the mood when things get tense," said Lonergan. "I've been known to crack jokes but my teammates know I would be there in a second if they needed me for anything."
Becoming a consistent starter for LSU is no easy task. Lonergan has put in the time and energy it takes to wear purple and gold on Saturdays, while constantly impressing his coaches and teammates. It's not about what he has accomplished that makes him a great football player, rather it's his vision to keep succeeding and fighting that defines him.
"Playing the games, watching the films and practicing against the LSU defense allows me to be able to see the looks and call a change in protection. It becomes second nature to call it," said Lonergan. "I always watch film on other team's defenses and practice against similar defenses. It's a 100 percent mentally and physically challenging game."
With the 2012 season football season coming to a close, Lonergan and his fellow seniors aim to leave LSU with a lasting legacy just as their predecessors did. Their legacy will forever be remembered by all the wins and losses, smiles and tears, successes and setbacks they have endured during their football careers.