DT CHAD LAVALAIS
A member of the 2003/04 SEC & National Champion LSU Tigers under Nick Saban, Lavalais walked a long road to arrive at the gates of his promised land:
Initially, Lavalais committed to the Tigers way back in 1998....but due to academic ineligibility, the monstrous DT was stuck on the fringes of Louisiana State athletics until he could pull up his SAT score.
During his time in the wilderness, Chad Lavalais moved to Atlanta to work at a department store after failing to pass his ACT by a single point; before long, he moved back to Louisiana and worked at Ayolles Parish Correctional, "hiding to avoid the jokes" about his fall from grace, as he told media during a 2004 Sugar Bowl press conference.
After first-year Head Coach Nick Saban met with Lavalais, the Marksville man was set up with tutors and implored to try the SAT again. Following Saban's academic intervention, encouragement & belief, Chad passed the SAT, joining LSU's 2000 football squad.
Over the next 3 1/2 years, hard-fought glory rained down upon Marksville's reigning G.O.A.T:
As a freshman, Chad made his first start late in the season vs Alabama.....a grand stage upon which his Tigers Legacy would be born....
Picking up Co-SEC Defensive Player of the Week alongside fellow Tiger Lionel Thomas, Lavalais sacked Bama QB Andrew Zow while collecting 8 tackles.....from then on, Chad became a bona fide LSU starter.
Finishing his first season at 22 tackles, 3 TFLs, 2 sacks as well as claiming a fumble recovery during LSU's 2000 Peach Bowl win over Georgia Tech (a game where LSU's defense forced 6 Yellow Jacket turnovers), Lavalais made his DT spot fixed for the next 2 1/2 years, growing from strength to strength.
Across his sophomore, junior and senior seasons, Lavalais would add 180 tackles, 44 QB Hurries, 29.5 TFLs and 9 sacks, although his senior season stands alone as the ultimate Chad Lavalais moment in SEC, CFB and LSU history:
A near unanimous All-American & finalist for the Nagurski / Outland trophies as he anchored Nick Saban's National Championship-winning #1 nationally ranked defense, Lavalais smashed, bashed and harassed Heisman QB Jason White repeatedly in the title game, caught an interception vs Alabama, and led the charge up front for a defense which only allowed two different offenses to rush in excess of 100 yards, and surrendered over 20 points to just a single team.
Built for extreme impact from his defensive tackle position, Lavalais' 2003/04 was so brilliant, wire to wire, it could perhaps challenge Glenn Dorsey's 2007/08 reign:
Appearing in all 14 games as the Tigers won both National & SEC titles, the former prison guard racked up 61 tackles, a whopping 16 tackles for loss, a filthy 7 sacks before finding time to bat down 6 passes (plus the aforementioned interception)......becoming one of the primary faces of Saban's historic 2003/04 Tigers squad.
Through his epic accomplishments at LSU, Lavalais controlled his own destiny, ensuring he would never be remembered for working at a prison or for SAT scores....
....Chad Lavalais is remembered for overcoming all the odds while dominating college football and the SEC's trenches for three straight seasons.
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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