BATON ROUGE, La. — It’s because of Jacob Hester that the No. 18 is a digit of significance at LSU.
The tradition, as is recorded, began with quarterback Matt Mauck, who wore that number in leading LSU to the 2003 national championship. But when Mauck wrapped up his college career, he did not want the number going to some scrub. He consulted with team trainer Jack Marruci and equipment manager Greg Stringfellow to discuss the best fit. The trio determined it was freshman running back Hester.
Had Hester flopped on or off the field, the tradition never would have become one. But he excelled, helping LSU to its most recent national championship in 2007, and the legend of 18 has since become part of LSU’s identity.
“I’d be lying if I said I knew it would become what it has become,” Hester said. “The story is on a plaque at the College Football Hall of Fame. I’d say you’re crazy if you’d said that. For me, a freshman to get that, the last thing I wanted to do is disappoint Matt. You try to do everything the right way.”
Hester did not disappoint, and as such the number has been passed down through the years to new generations of team leaders. Cornerback Tre’Davious White wore it the past two seasons, and in Hester’s mind he wore it the best of all.
“He’s the most talented guy to ever wear it. He made the most big plays in it,” Hester said. “Him wearing it two years tells you what kind of person he is. It’s not about being the most talented guy. But the fact he was the most talented guy and had the character speaks volumes. It’ll be hard to top what Tre’Davious was able to do in 18.”
Yet next year someone will have to try as White heads to the NFL with his diploma in tow. And unsurprisingly, Hester would like to see his old number return to the backfield.
“It’s time to get it back on the offensive side of the ball,” Hester said. “I would love to see J.D. Moore or Derrius Guice have it.”
Guice, who currently wears No. 5, seems like a prime candidate. He did joke on Twitter that he would be the real owner of the No. 7 next year after Leonard Fournette bequeathed it to receiver D.J. Chark. Those who don’t know Guice personally — which is to say most fans — thought he was being serious about the hostile takeover.
But Guice wears No. 5 largely out of respect for Reggie Bush, so it’s possible he might want to keep that going as he mounts his own Heisman Trophy campaign.
That means Moore, a former walk-on fullback, could indeed be that guy.
“The work Moore has done for Leonard and Derrius has been impressive,” Hester said.
The LSU No. 18 family tree
|Jacob Hester||Running back||2004-07|
|Richard Dickson||Tight End||2008-09|
|Richard Murphy||Running back||2010|
|Brandon Taylor||Defensive back||2011|
|Bennie Logan||Defensive tackle||2012|
|Terrence Magee||Running back||2014|
All of the former 18s — White was the ninth — have some input on which player wears the number next. Hester recognizes what was true under Les Miles won’t necessarily remain the same way under Ed Orgeron, but he hopes to be able to drop his names in the suggestion box.
“With Coach Miles there would be conversations like that — three or four guys were nominated or talked about,” Hester said. “He got (our) input of who it was. Stringfellow and Marucci are also a big part of it. ‘How do (the candidates) treat your staff and people?’ is an important aspect.
“So far my vote’s always worn 18. I want to see if we can keep that streak going.”
No matter who wears 18 next year, Hester said they probably won’t need too much advice from the alumni.
“It’s usually not a long conversation,” Hester said. “There’s a reason they are getting ready to wear it.”