The jersey a player chooses means much more than just the number across the back. Athletes develop a special bond with the number they choose to wear. The jersey becomes part of their identity, especially in a sport like football where the players’ heads are covered by their helmets. This decision is personal and special to each player. It’s a choice that’s usually is theirs to make, excluding position restrictions and players wanting the same number.
These characteristics are what make LSU’s No. 18 jersey so special. Players don’t get the opportunity to choose No. 18 by picking it out in the equipment room. They earn it through their actions as a player, student and man. This player will possess the integrity, resilience, character and selflessness all of LSU’s football players and representatives strive to build within themselves.
The No. 18 jersey is awarded to the player who best exemplifies how a LSU football player should conduct himself on and off the field.
Former LSU quarterback Matt Mauck began the tradition of passing down the jersey following his final season with the Tigers. Mauck was the starting quarterback during the 2003 season, which culminated with a 21-14 victory over Oklahoma during the 2003 BCS National Championship Game.
“We had no intention for it (the No. 18 jersey) to become what it is now,” said Mauck. “It was supposed to be something for the guys in the locker room.”
Mauck, along with the assistance of Director of Sports Information Michael Bonnette, Equipment Manager Greg Stringfellow and Director of Athletic Training Jack Marucci, wanted the jersey to go to an individual who personified how all the football players should conduct themselves. After Mauck, the player chosen to carry on the legacy of the No. 18 jersey was running back Jacob Hester.
“He was active in his community, did well in class and conducted himself in a mature manner,” praised Mauck.
Though Hester was a freshman, he grasped the importance of the jersey bestowed to him.
“There was a little pressure, but I embraced it,” said Hester. “The team had won the year before, and Matt was a contributor to their success, so I took it upon myself to work hard and give my best every day.”
Mauck’s decision proved to be a very wise one. The No. 18 jersey quickly became synonymous with success and selflessness—in football and life—following Jacob Hester’s leadership role on the 2007 BCS National Championship team.
Hester did the big and little things throughout his LSU tenure, which included playing on offense and special teams, so the Tigers could succeed. He also carried himself as a living embodiment of the virtue and character LSU’s football program strives to ingrain in the young men that represent the Purple and Gold.
“It's a tremendous honor to be mentioned in that fraternity of guys and to be in that fraternity,” Magee said. “It means a lot to me. I've seen three guys wear the number - Lamin Barrow, Bennie Logan and Brandon Taylor. They really showed me what it means to wear the number 18 and be a leader on this team.”
The connection between Magee and Taylor is particularly special because they’re from the same hometown of Franklinton, Louisiana.
“Now there are two of us representing,” said Magee.
Magee didn’t have the red carpet laid out before him when he first stepped on campus. In fact, he faced adversity early and often, which included being switched from running back to wide receiver then back again.
Through the role shifts and position battles for field time, Magee’s character and integrity never wavered. The long, tough journey helped mold him into the exemplary student-athlete and leader he is today.
The fraternity Magee talks about extends beyond the players’ time in the jersey. Mauck makes sure to check in with the team annually to find out who the next No. 18 will be so he can contact them personally to congratulate them.
Hester still visits LSU during the summer, and his discussion of the next No. 18 with Marucci proved to be prophetic.
“Magee was definitely my first choice,” said Hester. “He’s a guy who’s put in the work and done all the little things throughout his career at LSU. He’s very deserving.”
Though the jersey is Magee’s to wear for this season, next year a new player will join this sacred brotherhood within LSU’s locker room. The only advice Hester and Mauck have to offer Magee along with the future recipients is to not change.