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|Ledford enjoying life after title|
Nathan Ledford will never forget the plane ride from Atlanta to Baton Rouge following LSU's 21-14 win over Tennessee for the SEC Championship.
"The pilot was keeping everyone updated from air traffic control on the scores of the other games," said Ledford, who was sitting in a seat across from head coach Les Miles. "There was no way we could hear the games on radio or use our cell phones. He kept updating. I didn't even want to listen because I didn't want to jinx anything. I could believe Oklahoma beating Missouri, but for Pittsburgh to do what they did (beating West Virginia), I couldn't believe it."
Of course, a bit of turbulence which made the plane dip and go back up didn't help matters.
"That was really weird," Ledford said.
When the final score was announced, he said the players were cheering.
"Everybody was going crazy," Ledford said. "I looked over at Coach Miles and the whole time he was sitting there, looking up, almost like he was in prayer. He is a very moral guy and prays out loud a lot. He said a prayer before we took off for our flight back."
The feeling was a lot different than after the loss to Arkansas in the season finale.
"I had a professor who knew I was involved with the team and she asked me if there was any way we could get back in it," Ledford said. "I told her there was a way, but I didn't think it was possible. I had pretty much ruled it out. I was focusing on playing for the SEC championship and that was all."
Needless to say, Ledford was excited about participating in the BCS Championship Game in his final official game at LSU.
"All week long we heard nothing but how Coach (Jim) Tressel showed his team last year's game with Florida and reminded them that they were 0-9 against SEC teams and that they had a lot to prove," Ledford said. "That put an idea right there in our heads that the odds were against us, not because they were better, but they had a lot of motivation coming into the game. When they went up 10-0 I was thinking maybe this motivation thing is working. I thought holding them to a field goal on their second drive was crucial for us because our defense was run around on a little bit."
Ledford said he felt the blocked field goal by Ricky Jean Francois was crucial to the win, as well.
"I think that really told their team they are playing a really fine football team that can beat them in all phases of the game," he said. "We just started dominating and were not doing the stupid things that got us penalties during the season. Being healthy made all the difference in the world (Glenn) Dorsey was being double-teamed a few times and hitting on all cylinders which allowed somebody else like Ricky Jean to do some things."
It was a perfect example of what the team stressed before the season. Five large purple and gold chain links, the size of those used to anchor large boats, are hooked to posts in LSU's meeting room in the new athletic building.
One link has the signature of defensive players, another link offensive players, another link special teams, a fourth link the coaching staff and the fifth link is managers and trainers involved with the team in practice and during games.
Ledford's signature is on the middle link with other support personnel.
"I think it is ironic ours is in the middle," he said. "It was just a way of saying everyone had to pull their weight."
Ledford said the days following the win were a whirlwind.
"It's really been fun," he said. "There have been a lot of manly hugs, lot of love and thanking players and having players thank you for what you do. It was really emotional time for me being my last game. I was really caught up in the moment. I just kept thinking, 'Wow, we just won the National Championship.' We had a meeting with Greg Stringfellow later and one of the guys who is over 70 years old asked us, 'See, ain't the blood and sweat back during two-a-days worth it.' It's really an honor to have some kind of part in putting the team in position to be the No. 1 team. And now we get to meet the President."
Ledford will work spring training beginning in late February before giving up his duties at the end of the school year.
"I've been highly involved with this program for four years and know almost everything about everybody, the coaches and the people behind the scenes," he said. "Watching this team on TV now is something I haven't done in a long time. To be looking in from the outside is really going to be weird. But it has certainly been exciting to be a part of it."
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