Make jokes if you want about old man Josh Dworaczyk.
Call him LSU football’s senior citizen. Ask him what it was like to play for the Tigers in the first Chick-fil-A Bowl (then the Peach Bowl) — back in 1968. Find out what he did with that Sega Genesis video game system they gave as player gifts for the 1996 Peach Bowl.
Even Dworaczyk’s coach can’t resist a jab now and then.
“He’s been here longer than I have,” Les Miles said.
Almost. Miles is wrapping up his eighth year as LSU’s coach, Dworaczyk his sixth in the purple and gold. The big offensive lineman from New Iberia was granted a sixth year of eligibility earlier this year by the NCAA after missing all of 2011 with a torn ACL.
The NCAA doesn’t give seventh years, but if it did, Dworaczyk would take it. Playing in the NFL is every college football player’s dream, but Dworaczyk knows he will miss LSU when the whistle sounds on his final game Dec. 31 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Clemson.
“It’s nice to go to the NFL and have a long career,” Dworaczyk said, “but there are so many guys who come back and talk about all the things that happened at this school, and the camaraderie you have here you don’t have at the next level.
“It’s a good job, but I love football enough to do it for free.”
In that respect, with level of devotion to the game, Dworaczyk has a common bond with Miles, who knew his football career would come to an end after his final game for Michigan in the 1976 Orange Bowl against Oklahoma.
For all his playful jabs at Dworaczyk, there is definitely an undercurrent of admiration on Miles’ behalf, a love for the young man who played any position asked of him as a Tiger.
“It would be a compliment to me to say that in my senior year I was in any way like him,” Miles said Tuesday. “He’s really a pretty special guy.”
A guard by nature, Dworaczyk moved to left tackle in Week 2 when starter Chris Faulk went down with a season-ending knee injury in practice.
He’s been a mainstay their since, doing his best while acknowledging that it isn’t his best position.
Dworaczyk is so self-deprecating he gleefully predicts how the LSU offense will be better next season with Faulk — considered the Tigers’ best offensive lineman going into the season — back in their old spot.
“I know the offensive line is going to be improved,” Dworaczyk said, “just speaking along the lines of having Faulk come back at a position he’s comfortable at. I’ve been at that position all year, and I’ve had some good games and some games where I’ve struggled. Faulk is a lot more consistent.”
If Dworaczyk sounds a bit like a coach with that assessment, there is good reason.
He served as a sort of player/coach during the 2011 season after his injury, tutoring his teammates as they returned to the sideline after an offensive series.
Dworaczyk of course welcomed the opportunity to return to football full time this season and would relish a chance to play professional football, but the idea of eventually becoming a coach is also at the top of his list.
The former offensive guard who is now LSU’s head coach can see that happening for Dworaczyk eventually.
“He has leadership,” Miles said. “He was voted one of our (permanent) captains.
“His work ethic and technique is better than in all the other years he’s played. He knows how to do it even better. His view of that position as a coach gives him great insight. He’d be a tremendous coach.”
As a player, Dworaczyk will leave LSU with few regrets — or goals left unfulfilled.
“We have a board (in the team meeting room) called ‘Outcomes,’ ” Dworaczyk said. “It says to get your degree, win a national championship, win an SEC championship and a Western Division championship. I’ve done all those. I’ve got two degrees (in sports administration and general studies with a concentration on business), been in two national championship games, two SEC championship games, won two Western Division championships.”
Despite all that he’s done, though, there’s a part of Old Man Josh that wishes he could do it all one more time.
“I don’t know what it’s going to be like at the end of this one,” Dworaczyk said. “We’ll see.”