By 1997, Dr. Nick Cefalu had turned a 1,500-square-foot section of his home into a shrine to LSU, from the trinkets and memorabilia on the walls and shelves to the purple and gold checkerboard tile floor pattern.
Some Tiger fans might have thought this to be pretty cool. Some might have even thought it excessive. Cefalu thought it was a good start.
Last year, the Amite physician added a 2,400-square-foot metal building next door to his home, and now it is filled with more items devoted to LSU athletics. Many, many more items. How many more? He estimates only 10 percent of its contents were transferred from his house.
“I’m an LSU freak, I guess,” Cefalu said. “I’m on the Danbury Mint’s list for LSU stuff. If they come out with it, I’ve got to buy it. Every time I go to a game, the first place I go to is the gift shop to see if there’s something I don’t have.”
That seems unlikely.
Guarding the entrance is a bench shaped and painted like a tiger, whose three pieces combine to weigh about 1,000 pounds.
“I’m not worried about it getting stolen,” Cefalu said. “It’s solid concrete. It took us four guys to unload it, seriously.”
Passing through the front door sets off a motion-activated tiger roar as visitors enter a small foyer where the first of three LSU Tigers logos appears on the brown, stained concrete floor. The 60-by-40-foot building has a wall in the middle that divides the interior, with two passageways that allow easy movement from one side to the other.
Although there is some logic to how Cefalu has organized the collection — mostly football to the right side, mostly baseball to the left — letting him show what is there is like trying to follow a moth dancing around a flame. So excited is he about his collection that he escorts guests from one side of the building to the other, from front to back, pointing out items that each seem as important to him as the one before.
Occasionally, though, things stand out.
“This one is really special to me,” Cefalu said, pointing to the case LSU used at one time to display the 2000 College World Series trophy. Other than a mirror where the trophy once was housed, it has not been changed.
But perhaps it is not as special as what appears on the opposite end of the building. From far away, it looks like Cefalu painted “Alex Box Stadium” onto the yellow wall. On closer inspection, it becomes apparent that this is raised lettering. Read the framed, authenticating document hung beside the letters, and you realize that these are the bronze letters that for decades appeared on the original stadium itself. Each letter weighs between 10 and 13 pounds. There are 4-by-10-foot timbers behind the drywall to support their weight.
Cefalu won the letters in an auction for memorabilia after the original baseball park was replaced by the new Alex Box Stadium. Cefalu also bought purple and gold chairs from the stadium — and, for that matter, pieces of the left- and right-field foul poles and the grandstand netting, plus grandstand seating, and half a bucket of infield dirt — but those letters were what Cefalu liked the most.
“That was the last thing in the auction that was the prize, and I wasn’t going to lose it,” he said. “It cost me a few grand. It cost me a little money. I’m not a rich person, but it was the prize of the package. … It was well worth it.”
The old Alex Box seats, as well as seats from the west side of Tiger Stadium and the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, not only have been restored but even enhanced with LSU-themed embroidery by Dennis Denicola of Denicola Furniture Upholstery.
Cefalu, obviously, is a big LSU baseball fan, and he keeps every ticket to every home game each season just in case that year turns out to be another special one. He does the same thing for copies of The Advocate’s sports section, and keeps those for championship seasons. He has each of the four jersey styles worn during Skip Bertman’s last year as coach.
The football side is not lacking for memorabilia, either. He has several LSU helmets, including the old-gold version the Tigers wore against Arkansas in 2009, the purple pants worn only in the 1995 game against Kentucky and several photos or items autographed by 1959 Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon.
On the walls are photos, every poster The Advocate has devoted to great LSU moments, plus a one-of-a-kind clock with neon lettering that was handmade for a friend and given to him.
The building is air conditioned, but there is no plumbing because he didn’t want to take up any floor or wall space for anything but LSU items. He already has spots reserved for the BCS national championship he expects the Tiger football team to win this season.
That’s the problem with following a successful program. There are always more memories to document. Plus, he’s renovating his house to incorporate some of the items he doesn’t currently have on display.
“If I get more stuff I’ll have to build another building,” Cefalu said. “I’ve got another 30 feet over there. I’ll find some place to put it.”