MOBILE, Ala. — Craig Loston watched a year ago as 11 of his LSU teammates, believed to be a record for one school, gave up their remaining college eligibility to enter the 2013 NFL draft.
Loston toyed with the idea of joining them, which would have depleted coordinator John Chavis’ defense even more, before deciding to return for his senior season.
Just call him the one who stayed.
On Monday, as he was throughout LSU’s 10-3 season, Loston couldn’t have been happier about the move he didn’t make.
“Without a doubt, I thought about coming out,” he said. “But I had some personal goals I wanted to experience. I just wasn’t ready to leave LSU.
“I love LSU, and I wanted to experience that last year and reach some personal goals. I wanted to graduate, but there were a lot of reasons why I stayed.”
Playing in the Senior Bowl certainly wasn’t atop his list of things to check off, but it wasn’t lost on him after his first practice with the South squad Monday.
“I’m thankful I enjoyed my last year there,” he said. “Now it’s on the next step.”
That first step came Monday when Loston and former Tigers linebacker Lamin Barrow began their quest to be selected in the May 8-10 draft — and join the teammates who went ahead of them a year ago.
Loston learned rather quickly that being coached by an NFL staff wasn’t much different than what he experienced in his five seasons at LSU.
“It’s easy,” he said of the transition from the college game to the pros. “There’s no difference at all (in the coaching). It’s funny because it’s a lot of the same things we did at LSU.
“It’s just different terminology, and we just had to get used to that. ‘Chief’ did a great job getting us ready to be in a position like this, and it was up to us to make the best of it.”
As the leader of a young LSU secondary, Loston made the best of the opportunity he returned for in 2013.
The two-time second-team All-Southeastern Conference pick finished his career with 24 starts in 45 games. A big hitter in the back end of the secondary, he had 148 tackles and intercepted seven passes — after getting three in both 2012 and ’13.
Loston was named to ESPN.com’s All-Bowl team after LSU’s 21-14 Outback Bowl win against Iowa on Jan. 1. He closed out his Tigers career with six tackles — three for a loss — and added a sack and an interception.
He also came up with an interception off 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel in a 34-10 blasting of Texas A&M. But that’s in the past, Loston said.
This week, it was about proving to the Jacksonville Jaguars’ coaching staff, who worked with the South squad, and hundreds of NFL front office execs, coaches and scouts that he’s worthy of a draft pick and a career in the pro ranks.
Loston, who is projected by NFLDraftScout.com as a fourth-round pick as the fourth strong safety available, said his strengths are being able to run the alley and hitting. But he admitted he needs to work on his man coverage skills.
“This week is a blessing, being able to be here in front of all these guys and showcasing my skills and showing I can do the right things outside of my (LSU) scheme,” he said. “I just have to make the most of it.”
Louisiana-Lafayette linebacker Justin Anderson was added to the North roster Thursday as an injury replacement.
The 6-foot-2, 232-pounder, a native of Foley, Ala., was a two-year starter who ended his career with 257 tackles, including 165 solo. He had at least 100 tackles in a season twice.