IN FOCUS: Derrius Guice
Communications Student Assistant
The Derrius Guice story is well documented; he has struggled through trials and tribulations for most of his life. His journey to become a team leader for the LSU football team has been long and, at times, treacherous.
Filling the shoes of former LSU star and friend Leonard Fournette would be a substantial burden for most people, but not for Guice. With assistance from friends and former teammates, he’s ready to embrace it. Now in his junior season, he feels no pressure becoming the face of one of the top programs in the country.
“Football is not a pressure game to me because it’s something I love,” Guice said. “I’ve been doing this for 14 years. Even though I’m on a bigger stage now and I’m the starting running back, it doesn’t bring any pressure to me. How I look at it, I’m out there doing something I love, and when you’re doing something you love, you shouldn’t feel pressure.”
Fournette’s season a year ago was the perfect classroom for teaching Guice the tricks for handling the spotlight and pressure of being “the guy” on the team. Fournette was a Heisman candidate, the face of the program and a leader in the locker room and on the field. This year, Guice must fill that role.
“The main thing I learned from his experience is that you have to overcome a lot of adversity,” Guice said. “You’re not always going to do well and people might try to rip you down, but you have to remember that the people you’re on the team with and the people you go out on the field with are the only people that really matter.”
Guice is on the brink of becoming an LSU legend. He has already joined great company by reaching 2,000 yards in fewer attempts than any LSU back in history. Clearly, added pressure does not affect his performance. Most people that watched Guice earn those 2,000 yards would describe his running style as “angry,” and Guice has an explanation for his running style.
“Football is a competitive game,” Guice said. “I could say I run angry sometimes, I run with a lot of passion and strength, because I never want to get tackled. I’ve always played with that style since I was born and I don’t see anything changing.”
But Guice’s career in the Purple and Gold hasn’t always been easy. He had to learn patience in a backup role behind Fournette for two years. While waiting his turn, LSU changed its head coach and offensive coordinator, but Guice knew the change would not affect his opportunity to live out his dream. He simply went about his craft with the same relentless approach that carried him to his current position.
“It’s a business. It’s only going to get worse when we get to the NFL,” Guice said. “How I look at it, I just got to do me. You can’t get too comfortable with people. You never know when you’re going or when they’re going.”
Guice shares a special bond with teammate and fellow backfield member Darrel Williams that has helped each of them get through rocky times.
“Darrel and I have both waited our turn the past two or three years,” Guice said. “I always tell Darrel, ‘this is your year. You’re a senior; you’ve been here longer than me and now is your time to show out.’ Coach [Matt] Canada came in this year and he’s got a lot of two-back packages with both of us in it, so I told Darrel, ‘whenever you get the ball just do what you came to LSU to do.’
"There is no more ‘Oh, I’m not playing’ or ‘coach is this, coach is that,’” Guice said. “Whenever we get on the field, there’s no regrets and no remorse.”
The two backs have learned that they complement one another’s game. Guice credits Williams with enhancing elements of his running style.
“He’s the bigger, more patient guy,” Guice said of Williams. “He runs with a lot of power and strength. When I watch him, he runs his tracks slower than I do; he’s more patient and reads his blocks better than I do. I learned all that from him.”
Guice realizes that he and Williams are now the leaders of the backfield. One thing he learned from playing behind Fournette for two years is that talk is cheap. His advice to the underclassmen now is simple: just watch me.
“You can’t really tell them anything, they’ve got to watch,” Guice said. “You can’t really teach somebody the game of football by just talking to them. They’ve got to go out there and watch you do it. Football is not really a talking, teaching game. You’ve got to go out there and rep it out.”
There is more to being the face of a program than playing the game. Guice parlays the fame he has gained from his football talents to help out kids in the community where he grew up. He visits underprivileged children in school with hopes of giving them a role model or the ambition to be successful one day.
He recently helped southeast Texas hurricane victims, finding time in his busy schedule to fill cars with cases of water. He assisted freshmen with moving to their dorms. He doesn’t look for the spotlight when performing these tasks; the Baton Rouge native just wants to make a positive impact in his community.
“It’s always an honor to represent where you come from,” Guice said. “I was born in South Baton Rouge, like two minutes from campus. To be able give back to the people that are in the same shoes I was in is an honor. The opportunity that I can be somebody that everyone looks up to is amazing. I’ve come from the same struggles they’re facing and now I’m the face of one of the top programs in the country. It’s a great feeling.”
The South Baton Rouge superstar isn’t worried about the added pressure, the Heisman race, or any of the extra media attention he draws. At the end of the day, he is playing the game he loves and trying to make his city and teammates proud.