Rabalais: LSU’s John Chavis glad to have a chance to give back

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis watches warmups near linebacker Deion Jones (45) and linebacker Ronnie Feist (22) before the LSU-Mississippi State game at Tiger Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2012.
Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis watches warmups near linebacker Deion Jones (45) and linebacker Ronnie Feist (22) before the LSU-Mississippi State game at Tiger Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2012.

By Scott Rabalais

Advocate sportswriter

John Chavis doesn’t really have time for golf.

There is always something football-related that can monopolize the LSU defensive coordinator’s attention and dominate his day. Players to coach, evaluate and recruit, or one more film study session as he tries to figure out how to better slow down Johnny Football.

Despite his demanding schedule, Chavis decided recently it was time to do something for his adopted community besides help the Tigers win football games. That’s why he created the John “Big Chief” Chavis Golf Tournament played Monday at the University Club.

Proceeds from the tournament will benefit work of the local Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation to assist in providing medical vouchers, sickle cell testing and other services to those suffering from the disease.

“I’ve been doing something like this in Tennessee for a long time, and Baton Rouge is my home,” Chavis said. “I want to be able to give back to this community. I had an opportunity with the Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation, and this was a great opportunity to get them some exposure.”

The tournament drew some well-known names, like former LSU players Jarrett Lee, Justin Vincent and Brett Bech. LSU coach Les Miles made a cameo appearance before the start but didn’t hit the links.

Any charitable organization would be thrilled to have a successful and beloved coach like Chavis lend his name to any fundraiser. Chavis said he decided to give his help to this cause because of the many players he has coached over the years with the sickle cell trait.

“I was delighted to be able to get involved because I’ve been around a lot of athletes who have been affected by this,” Chavis said. “The money is going right into this area, so it’s a great opportunity to do that and get out some awareness.”

For better or worse, there is probably more awareness in the Baton Rouge community about the challenge facing Chavis and his defense going into this season.

The Tigers lost seven starters off last year’s defense, which ranked No. 8 nationally in yards allowed. Six of those starters were juniors who bolted early to the NFL.

Chavis, as evidenced by his charity work, isn’t the type to sit around and wring his hands about a predicament. If confidence counts for anything, LSU’s defense still will be an immovable object in 2013.

“That’s one of the great things about being at a program like LSU,” Chavis said. “We’re expected to be good. This defense as the year goes on will get better and better.”

There are still plenty of questions to answer when LSU resumes practice in August — questions that will sort themselves out, Chavis believes, when the Tigers bring more true freshmen into the fold this fall.

“We’re not afraid to play freshmen,” he said. “We’ll do everything we can to get our best 11 on the field.”