Jerry Stovall to Enter the College Football Hall of Fame
"He can do it all."
Each Saturday, those words can be heard on just about every college football broadcast on television. In most cases, the phrase is a gross exaggeration of a particular player's skills.
That is not the case with former LSU All-American Jerry Stovall. Part of the National Football Foundation's 2010 College Football Hall of Fame Class, Stovall served as a halfback, defensive back, kick returner and punter during his four years at LSU. And for good measure, he later returned to Baton Rouge as head coach of the Tigers from 1980-83.
"This is a tremendous honor," Stovall said of being named to the 2010 class. "It's very humbling to be associated with such an impressive group of men who are in the College Football Hall of Fame. I'm sure I won't feel the full impact of this honor until I'm on stage at the dinner in New York or the enshrinement next summer."
During his illustrious four-year career at LSU, Stovall produced an impressive resume of accomplishments. A two-time All-SEC selection, he enjoyed his best season in 1962 in which he was named the SEC's Most Valuable Player and finished second in the Heisman Trophy race.
"I came to LSU as a freshman in 1959 when Billy Cannon won the Heisman Trophy during his senior season," Stovall said. "We were not very good my sophomore year and finished 5-4-1. The next two years, though, we did very well. I most remember the growth of our team accepting full responsibility and taking on its own identity."
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The West Monroe, La. native finished his career with 1,081 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground as a halfback and 452 receiving yards and one touchdown through the air. He also accumulated nearly 700 yards as a return specialist and collected seven interceptions as standout defensive back.
"It was a different era," the former All-American said. "There was an awful lot of focus on the team concept. Guys were willing to change positions from offense to defense to make the team better. The unselfishness stands out to me the most."
As if playing four positions for the Tigers while juggling schoolwork was not enough, Stovall married his high school sweetheart, Judy, at the conclusion of his junior season.
"We got married in February of my junior year after we played in the Orange Bowl," he said. "We lived in married housing during my senior season. I probably enjoyed that one year more than any I have ever had in athletics."
Upon the completion of his career in Baton Rouge, Stovall was selected second overall by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1963 NFL Draft. During his nine-year career, he was named to three Pro Bowls and was twice named to the All-Pro team.
"I played in a time of transition in the NFL," he said. "There were only 16 teams and each team only had 32 or 33 players. The expansion of the game was occurring at the time. It was a very exciting time to play football, and I was fortunate to play against some of the very best professional athletes."
After retiring from the NFL, Stovall returned to LSU in 1974 as running backs coach under former Tiger coach Charles McClendon. He worked under the legendary coach until McClendon retired following the 1979 season.
"I was very fortunate to have two of the very best coaches - Charlie McClendon and Paul Dietzel," he said. "As much as they taught me as a player, they taught me even more as a coach."
When recently hired head football coach Bo Rein tragically died prior to the 1980 season, Stovall assumed the role of head coach.
"They were conditions under which you do not want to get a job," he said. "However, we played and recruited and worked hard."
Guiding the Tigers for four seasons, Stovall registered his best season in 1982 when he led LSU to an 8-3-1 record and was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation Coach of the Year. The 1982 team tallied wins over No. 4 Florida, No. 8 Alabama and No. 7 Florida State en route to a 1983 Orange Bowl appearance.
As is the case with many men, Stovall had lots of help throughout his career. He admits he could not have attained what he has without the support of his wife.
"It was comforting and exciting to have her with me," he said. "It was a career highlight of mine to have her with me the entire time. We have had lots of fun, and the Lord has blessed us."
With all the success he has accumulated, Stovall still feels indebted for the opportunity to be a part of LSU.
"I had the good fortune of being part of LSU for a very long time," he said. "I believe I am the only person to be a student-athlete, assistant coach, head coach and part of the administration. I enjoyed it and will be forever grateful for the opportunity to be a part of LSU."