Marcus Spears, Booger McFarland among local stars of SEC Network _lowres

Marcus Spears

Marcus Spears hasn’t been shy about his love for Baton Rouge.

He hasn’t stopped talking about it to his colleagues at SEC Nation.

“(He’s talked about Baton Rouge) since we hired him at the end of last winter,” said SEC Nation broadcaster Joe Tessitor. “‘Wait until ya’ll get down to Baton Rouge.’ We heard it a good bit. It is everything it is supposed to be. It’s wonderful to be here with him, and I’m very happy for him.”

Spears, a Southern University Lab alumnus and LSU defensive end from 2001-2004, finally got his chance to show off his home town to his coworkers when SEC Nation arrived on campus Friday. The program, which began with the premier of the SEC Network prior at the start of the 2014 regular season, was in Columbia, Missouri, last weekend for the Kentucky-Missouri contest.

The former Cowboys’ 2005 first-round draft pick hung up the cleats on April 5, 2014, immediately joining the SEC Network following his retirement.

It didn’t take a complicated application process to find himself at ESPN, though. He simply sent out a tweet at the program’s executive producer.

“It’s been a blast,” Spears said. “This part of it is still surreal. It’s crazy. Later in my junior year, I figured I’d go play in the NFL, but this has blown me away. I enjoy every minute of it. The great thing that I always tell people is that I’m just working with another team.”

Spears is no stranger to an Alabama-LSU atmosphere in Death Valley or the Crimson Tide’s head coach.

He played under Nick Saban for the entirety of his Tigers’ career.

The SEC Nation crew stopped in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, back on Sep. 20, where Spears said he reconvened with his former coach.

“Me and Coach Saban’s relationship is great,” Spears said. “It has not wavered since he left and went to Alabama, and it hasn’t wavered since I left and went to the pros. He understands the magnitude of this matchup, and he knows where my loyalty lies. I think everybody in the conference understands that.”

Former Florida quarterback and Heisman winner Tim Tebow also reminisced about the contests he played in Tiger Stadium. The last time Tebow visited Baton Rouge as a player was in 2009, when his Gators lost to the Tigers 13-3.

Tebow hasn’t had the smoothest experience with the LSU faithful. He received “thousands” of text messages and phone calls after his phone number was made public prior to the 2009 contest.

He said the environment in Death Valley only fueled him.

“I loved it,” Tebow said. “I loved playing in hostile environments where the crowd is rocking. I feel like it gave me more of an edge. But it is something that you need to be ready for.”

Both Spears and Tebow said Saturday night’s rivalry game could finish with either team emerging victorious.

“For me, this is one of the most honest games that you can play,” Spears said. “At this point, it’s obvious that Alabama has more talent than LSU, and that’s coming from someone who bleeds these colors. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you win the football game.”