LSU Sports Interactive
Dear Louisiana State University,
If you are reading this, you are aware that I have decided to pursue a professional career. Many years before there was any conversation about me leaving LSU early for the 2019 NFL Draft, I was just a small-town country boy that called Springhill, Cullen and Cotton Valley in north Louisiana home. Some of my greatest memories from my childhood came from playing sports, fishing, hunting, riding four-wheelers, and of course, riding horses. Those three towns will forever be special places to me like the big cities that people grow up hoping to one day visit. The people from those three towns watched me grow from a kid to a young man. So many people played a vital part in raising me. I am forever grateful for the village that rallied around me during some of my greatest victories and most painful defeats. Through them, I realized my biggest inspiration, which is giving the youth back home hope of helping them exceed expectations that people and society have placed on them. The friendships and bonds that have been made with my people at home will forever remain with me long after I am done playing football.
I remember playing basketball at the Cotton Valley High School gymnasium as a tall and skinny 10-year-old boy. A man named Shaun Houston approached me about playing on a youth league football team that he was starting up in my community. Honestly, I was not real excited about the opportunity because I was convinced that my future was primarily in basketball because of my parents’ strong legacy in that sport. They were both great high school basketball athletes. Although, I had played football before, I did not have a love for the game like I had for basketball. At the time, I was traveling around the country playing AAU Basketball for multiple teams. Coach Houston was persistent though so I eventually gave him and football a shot. The way he coached each kid on the team made my love for football grow. My love for the game grew even stronger because we continued to win even when we didn’t have the things that other teams had.
By the time I finished the 8th grade, I was strictly focused on becoming the best football player that I could be. When I got to North Webster High School, I was the only freshmen to make an immediate impact for the team, which drew recognition from college coaches. The summer following my freshman season, Coach Houston drove me and a couple teammates down to Baton Rouge to participate in the LSU Football Camp. On June 3, 2013, Coach Les Miles pulled me aside and offered me my first Division I scholarship. As a small-town kid, I did not know what exactly was going on, but I did know I was very ecstatic because I grew up cheering for LSU and was a Tiger fan to the core. In the meeting in Coach Miles’ office, he asked me to stand up and shake his hand if I wanted to accept the scholarship, and I immediately rose to my feet to shake his hand. It was at that moment when my mentor stopped me from basically committing to my lifelong dream school, saying I needed to discuss it with my mother, who was back home working that day. When I finally got to share my exciting news with my mother, she said that I needed to visit more schools before I committed to LSU, because once I committed to LSU then I would remain loyal to the Tigers. After my LSU offer, scholarships started rolling in day by day. I continued to visit other schools for the recruiting experience but my heart was never taking me away from Louisiana. Louisiana was my home and LSU had my heart.
A big part of the leadership that I assume today stems from a painful memory that changed my life forever. On June 11, 2011, my mother received a call that my step-brother J’Marco Greenard was in a car accident with the church as they were coming home from a field trip in Texas. I was not worried because my brother had been in accidents before, and all I could remember was taking him to the hospital for stitches or something similar and him coming home acting like nothing had ever happened. My mom, step-dad, and auntie immediately left together to go to the scene of the accident. Immediately, I gathered my two little sisters, and went to my grandmother’s house. Patiently waiting on my brother to call me to tell me that he was alright felt like a life time. Something told me to check my Facebook, and as I scrolled down my timeline all I had seen was the words “R.I.P Jae Jae” and instantly I knew something was not right. I thought I was dreaming so I called my mom, and asked what was going on, and she had the difficult job of telling me that my brother was not with us anymore. After that devastating phone call, I sat on the bathroom floor and cried my eyes out not knowing what to do. As I was beginning to drown in my own emotions, I quickly remembered that I had my little sisters in the front room, so I had to get myself together to be strong for them. Prior to Jae Jae’s passing, I did not know how to lead because I would always look to follow him. He was my idol, my big brother, and all that I knew. I watched him and how he touched the community and had such a positive impact on people. He won a state championship in track his senior year and was set to go off to the Army. Losing my brother had a huge impact on molding me into the leader that I am today. I play with him and through him every Saturday, and I honor him by writing his name on the side of my cleats before each game.
On January 8, 2016, I committed to LSU. It was one of the happiest days of my life. I was filled with so much excitement. The people around me were thrilled as well. I felt like I was set apart for a special purpose because we’d all heard stories of previous players from my hometown who had talent but never reached their true potential. I knew that I had to make the most of the opportunity because they did not come through my community often. By the time I arrived on LSU’s campus for spring classes, I was more than ready.
My mentor told me to surround myself with somebody that was chasing greatness, and I instantly glued myself to Leonard Fournette in hopes of learning as much as I could. By doing that I was put back into that follower role that I had once been in with my brother. LF7 did not stay in college long, so when he left it was time for me to man up and lead. I can honestly say my sophomore season had many ups and downs, but I was able to find my place at LSU and on the football team. It was the year for me to take ownership on and off the field and to become that leader that I had spent most of my time preparing for. I believed in myself and was ready for the challenge. When my sophomore season ended, I instantly knew I wanted more for my team and the many supporters of LSU Football. I made it my primary focus to get LSU back to winning SEC and National Championships with my leadership and play on the field.
While we fell short of these goals, we did accomplish a great deal as a team in 2018. In my eyes, the 2018 season was not a fail, however, it was a step closer to where we expect the program to be in the years to come.
I look back over my time at LSU, I am very truly thankful for every single person and experience. To the LSU president, Dr. King Alexander, and the LSU Athletic Director, Mr. Joe Alleva, thank you for the opportunity to attend this esteemed institution, and represent its phenomenal athletic department. To Coach O, I can’t thank you enough for entrusting me as a team leader and for treating me, not like a player, but like a son. You have made a tremendous impact on my life and for that, I’m forever grateful.
The academic staff at the Cox Academic center played a major part in my career. They made it easier for me to focus on football while excelling in the class room and I give them all the credit for putting me in a position to graduate. I only have four classes remaining to complete my LSU degree and I will become the first person in my immediate family to graduate from college. A special thanks to Dr. Louise Bodack for all that you have done for me and the great guidance you gave me. To the athletic training room staff, Sister Shelly Mullenix, Jack Marucci and Derek Calvert, thank you for everything. All the treatment, laughter, stories, and life lessons will never be forgotten. I know each of you will miss my contagious smile, and outgoing spirit around the training room. To the LSU football staff, thank you all for everything. I am sure I could write a book on how thankful I am for you guys. To Tam, thank you for everything. You have put up with so much from me without having to. We may argue, clown and fuss, but you know it is all love between us. Boss lady and Keava, please do not feel left out. I thank you two just as much for being great people to me, I really do appreciate it. Thank you to the best media staff in college football. You have really helped me build such a solid brand all while having tons of fun. Michael Bonnette and Brandon Berrio were literally always ready and willing to work with me, I honestly could not be any more thankful for them. To my phenomenal coaches and teammates, this has been such a fun and fulfilled ride for me, and I could not hand pick a better group to have done it with.
To the great supporters of LSU, this was the hardest decision that I ever had to make in my life. Going into the bowl game, there was no doubt in my mind that I was coming back to school for my senior season which is why not playing in the bowl game never crossed my mind. For me, the Fiesta Bowl was just the next game on the schedule, so why would I not play? But after the season ended, I immediately reached out to numerous people that have been put in my position before. I had long talks with my family and coaches, but more importantly, I prayed for God’s guidance through this process. I am very honored and thankful to have worn the purple and gold and play in front of the best fans in America, and I humbly ask for your continued support in the next phase of my life. To the wonderful people I have encountered at LSU, I can honestly say, we are family and I will forever carry you with me along my journey. Thank you and God Bless.
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