In Focus: Three of a Kind
Junior Running Backs are Dynamic Components of LSU Offense
A hero is usually defined as someone with a superpower or an incredible talent. Just as every superhero has a symbol, a phrase or a call, the roaring crowd of Tiger Stadium calls upon the heroes of Death Valley each Saturday night. And the call never fails.
But the true definition of a hero is not someone who wants to be something, but one who wants to do something, and LSU running backs Alfred Blue, Michael Ford and Spencer Ware stand as icons, as the players hold their personal aspirations behind those of their team.
"Obviously, we want to get to the National Championship," Blue said. "But our main role on the team is just doing our assignments, rushing and making plays. We just want to help the team move the ball down the field."
"We just try to stay humble," Ware said. "Stay humble, and just go out there and do what the team needs us to do in order for us to win."
With the team's success as the main priority, the backs overlook their age and lead the team despite being juniors.
"Age and classification really don't matter," Ford said. "You just go out there and do the best you can, no matter what grade you're in. You go out there and play hard."
Although age is no issue on the field, the players understand the importance of protecting their teammates off the field as well.
"We treat each other like brothers," Blue said. "We're our brothers' keepers. If one's in trouble, we try to help them out and give them advice. We try to mentor the younger guys that come in."
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It is the players' passions that continue to drive the traditions of LSU, and that is an incredible talent.
On the field, the clashing of helmets and unmistakable thumping of shoulder pads have never stopped the running backs from giving their all and encouraging each other to do the same.
"It's a friendly competition," Blue said, laughing. "We try to push each other to be great. When we're at practice, we always joke around and tell each other 'If you don't get in there, my number's going to be called before yours!'"
With two seasons under their belt and a vast amount of time devoted to practice during the offseason, the juniors have perfected the superpower of giving their all 100 percent of the time, while still maintaining an atmosphere fit for a Tiger.
"It's a blessing to have so many running backs, because you get to constantly grow and work together," Ford said. "Everyone has so a different style of running, so when you get to a game it makes it really easy to run. So, we really all help each other."
They serve as role models for younger players through their incredible ability to constantly and consistently give their time to both their team and the community.
"It's more than just football," Ford said. "We care about our community. That's the main thing, people that support you at the end of the day. It's those people that fill up Tiger Stadium and cheer us on every Saturday night. It's always good to give back."
Overcoming hardships is no easy task, and 2011 proved to be a tough year for Blue, as a devastating fire destroyed his family home during the middle of a packed season. Through this difficult time, he found that the support from the community was more than enough to rebuild his strength.
LSU created the "Relief-4-Blue Fund," allowing fans to make donations for his family to assist in rebuilding. Fans' support surpassed expectations. He admits that the compassion shown and assistance given to him and his family was humbling, and it changed his viewpoint of what means to play football for LSU.
"I think it motivated me to be better and to do better," Blue said. "It gave me that mindset that I have to be great when I'm out there on the field. I want to make an outstanding play for the community and my parents. It really changed my mindset."
Aside from supporting their teammate as much as possible, the rest of the squad witnessed the devotion of their beloved fan base support one of their own, and that heavily impacted the players as well.
"It definitely helped us grow together as a team," Ford said. "It shows you the bond that LSU has with their players. They're not going to leave you when you have a tragedy. They're really your family, and they're going to come closer together to help. It really showed how much they care, and it shows you how blessed you are to get to play this game for LSU each and every day."
So, the running backs join their team in wearing the purple-and-gold suit of armor as they charge the field each Saturday night to fight for the Tigers and their fans.
The running backs aspire for greatness, but hold their team to the highest standard. For that reason, every moment as a Tiger will stay with them forever.
"During the Alabama game last season, I would've been a hero if I hadn't stepped out of bounds," Ford said the near touchdown during overtime of the tremendous victory over the Tide last season. "But, you know, just to be a big contributor to the play that helped us win the game was bar none the best play ever of my life."
The players may not see it now, but their efforts both on and off the field in only two full seasons of play were more than enough to earn the hero standard. With the rest of this season and their senior year still in store, it's undeniable that they are superheroes for their team, fans and community.
So, on Saturday night they won't tie on their capes, but they'll lace up their cleats. They won't hear the pounding of a drum, but they'll watch the Tiger Band drum major storm the field. They won't fly through the air, but the football will soar; and they won't be immortal, but they'll bleed purple and gold.