Tiger faithful eager for football season to begin
Football season must be just around the corner as evidenced by the sea of purple and gold that infiltrated the LSU campus Sunday for Fan Day.
People carried footballs and helmets for autographs by their favorite LSU football players. Cameras could be found just about everywhere.
Little boys donned replica jerseys of their favorite players while several little girls were dressed like cheerleaders.
The Tiger headbands and purple and gold Mardi Gras beads were just more evidence that kickoff was only 20 days away on Aug. 31 against TCU in Dallas.
“We’re just kind of soaking it all in right now,” said Cindy Gautreau, of Gonzales, while she and her family admired the atmosphere around her.
Gautreau said her family was attending Fan Day for the first time.
Gautreau’s two sons, Carter, 12, and Caleb, 7, each held footballs of their own to collect an assortment of signatures.
Gautreau knew exactly who her boys wanted an autograph from — starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
But they’d get as many autographs as they could grab, she said.
“We’re die-hard Tiger Fans, so we wanted to see what it (Fan Day) was like,” she said.
Fan Day was held in the searing heat of the open-air Tiger Stadium until 2007. It was moved to the Baton Rouge River Center downtown in 2008 because of turf resurfacing at Tiger Stadium.
After another year at the River Center, LSU officials moved Fan Day back to the campus in 2010, housing festivities in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and Carl Maddox Field House.
This year, LSU officials utilized the PMAC and LSU basketball practice facility adjacent to it.
The cover provided by the PMAC and basketball practice facility came in handy Sunday as fans had to deal with a light rain while waiting outside for the event to begin.
Much of the crowd waited under the PMAC’s ramps and tents to dodge the raindrops.
A few brave souls went out from the cover of the ramps, tossing footballs around to pass the time. Others went for a quick pass by Mike the Tiger’s cage.
The line of fans extended about halfway around the PMAC just before the facility opened.
Once the doors were unlocked, fans quickly piled in line for autographs from their favorite Tigers.
LSU fans cheered loudly when the players finally walked into the PMAC for the autograph session.
Offensive players dished out their John Hancocks in the PMAC. The defensive players and coach Les Miles were relegated to the basketball practice facility.
Fans also grabbed signatures from LSU’s volleyball and women’s soccer players along with the cheerleaders.
As usual, the lines were longest for Miles and the offensive skill players, especially the quarterbacks.
Cade Romero, of Erath, darted quickly to the running backs line for an autograph from a player he knew all too well from high school.
Romero donned a No. 27 jersey for running back Kenny Hilliard, a former Patterson High School standout. Romero said he played against Hilliard while attending Erath High School.
Romero played quarterback and linebacker at Erath, so he knows what it’s like to take a bruising from the 233-pound Hilliard.
“You don’t really know how awesome it was to play against him until he becomes a college football player,” Romero said.
Romero said he’s a student at University of Louisiana at Lafayette but still considers himself an LSU fan through and through.
And he’s just itching for football season to start.
“I actually planned my classes around so I can have my Fridays off to come here (for games),” he said.
While the offensive players drew the most attention, the defensive players drew their fair share of admirers.
Brian Gibson, of Alexandria, brought his two daughters, Gracie Glaze, 9, and Maddie Glaze, 7, straight to the line for defensive linemen.
The girls, though, really wanted Miles’ autograph. The coach’s line would be their second destination, Gibson said.
Gibson said he wanted autographs from the defensive linemen before going to Miles because he has always admired defensive players.
“I’m more of a defensive guy anyway,” he said. “I’m a fan of their size and speed.”
Paul Navarro, of Metairie, and his sons, Vincent, 17, and Ryan, 8, were in line plenty early enough to grab an autograph from Miles.
Navarro said he’s been going to Fan Day for about 20 years.
“I’m an LSU alum, and I just always like to bring my kids out,” he said. “They like to get a picture with Coach Miles.”
Navarro said he likes bringing his boys to Fan Day because it serves as an all-guys trip for a dad and his two sons.
It’s also a way to get pumped up for the coming season.
“We’re just as ready as ever,” he said.