Last year is history as Southern seeks a SWAC title streak

Southern won its first Southwestern Athletic Conference football championship in 10 years last season.

The Jaguars consider that a good start.

But just that — a start.

Now they’re setting their sights on being championship contenders every year, building the SWAC’s best program.

It wasn’t that long ago that Southern was a perennial SWAC title contender. It won three straight titles (1997-99) and another in 2003 during a seven-year span that preceded the drought that ended last year.

Returning the program to that level is the next goal.

“Our guys need to understand it’s not, ‘We’ve done it, we’ve achieved it, we’ve arrived,’ ” coach Dawson Odums said. “We haven’t done anything. All we did was be the best team in the SWAC in 2013.”

Southern has championship rings to recognize last season’s achievement, but the time to admire and show them off has long since passed. Now is the time to avoid being a one-hit wonder.

“I’m not a ring guy,” Odums said. “I wore it to certain events, but I look at a ring as motivation to put it up beside the others and say, ‘Let’s chase another one.’ That’s what it’s about. I like collecting them.

“When it’s over, there’s sentimental value. You look at it years later and you can say you were part of something great. But I think what challenges us as coaches is trying to do it again.”

Southern appears to have a chance to do it again, though Odums noted that the past three SWAC champions were a combined 7-26 in the seasons they tried to repeat.

The players insist that last season’s success wasn’t nearly enough to quench the thirst created by records of 4-7, 4-7 and 2-9 the preceding three years.

“You stay hungry because, ever since I’ve been here, the seniors have gone out losers except for last year,” senior offensive tackle Zach Brown said. “I know what it feels like to have a losing season. I’ve gone 2-9 and 4-7. I don’t want to go back to that.

“I want to end my career at Southern with a winning record. That’s how I stay hungry and how my teammates stay hungry. The guys who didn’t get a ring last year want to get a ring this year. Everybody has got something they’re working toward. I want to finish my career with a positive record.”

More than 50 of the players on this year’s team grew up in Louisiana and remember the heyday of Jaguars football.

“I grew up watching the Bayou Classic with my family every year with my relatives,” said senior linebacker Daniel Brown, a New Orleans native. “I used to see how dominant Southern was and how it always came down to the Bayou Classic between Southern and Grambling. So we’re trying to bring it back to the old days to be the old Southern to where Southern wins another SWAC championship.”

Defensive end Arthur Miley said last season’s championship belongs primarily to the seniors who were on that team. He and his fellow seniors are working to go out on a similar note.

“One championship means nothing,” he said. “We’re here to compete for another championship this year and, when I’m gone, I hope they’re still competing for championships. We’re trying to keep building and building, not just the team but the program.”

Odums said the Jaguars aspire to have the perennial consistency of LSU’s program.

“You can always look at (LSU coach) Les Miles and say that football team is going to be in contention,” Odums said. “That’s why I respect the way they do things over there, how they run a program. I’m trying to get our program to that level consistently.

“No matter what year it is, you’ve got to say Southern is one, two or three at the end of the SWAC season.”