Jordan Jefferson said he’s “thankful” to be back on the LSU football team, it’s “very important” to him to become the starting quarterback again, and he has no regrets about his recent legal problems.
Jefferson spoke with reporters for about 11 minutes Monday night for the first time since a bar fight Aug. 19 that led to his arrest, suspension, indictment and reinstatement in a whirlwind subplot as the 5-0 Tigers have ascended to the No. 1 spot in The Associated Press poll.
“I know what I did,” Jefferson said. “I know what type of situation I was in. I was positive that I was going to play with LSU again. I was confident about the whole deal, and now I’m back for my second opportunity.
“It was a tough experience for me, just watching the guys go out and play these tough games that they had. They did a great job playing without me, but it was a tough situation just sitting there watching - probably the hardest thing I had to go through throughout my life - but now I’m back, still fulfilling my dream. I’m going to do whatever it takes to make this opportunity that I have successful.”
Many fans booed when Jefferson entered the Tigers’ game against Kentucky on Saturday in Tiger Stadium.
“It’s just fans being emotional,” Jefferson said. “We have the most emotional fans in the country. They like football. They pay attention to everything that football players do. They heard the rumors, they heard the facts - that’s just fans being emotional.”
Jefferson said he was “slightly” surprised when coach Les Miles chose to put him in on LSU’s second possession of the game as the Tigers faced fourth-and-goal from the 1. Jefferson sneaked in for a touchdown that started LSU on its way to a 35-7 romp.
“During that time, I was standing right next to Miles and told him that I was going to score the touchdown for the team,” Jefferson said. “And he gave me the opportunity, and once he gave me the opportunity, I had to do whatever it takes to get into the end zone, and that’s what I did.”
Jefferson said he will do “whatever I can” with any future opportunities. Miles has said repeatedly since reinstating Jefferson on Wednesday that Jarrett Lee, who has played well in Jefferson’s absence, remains the starter.
But Jefferson, a senior who was scheduled to start before being arrested and suspended eight days before the season opener, said returning to the starting lineup “is a personal goal of mine.”
“It’s very important to me,” he said. “I would do whatever it takes to get to that situation, but as of right now, it’s what’s best for the team.”
Jefferson said his relationship with Lee, a fifth-year senior, “always has been good.”
“I’ve been supporting Jarrett throughout the whole year,” Jefferson said. “He’s done a great job on the field. He’s led the troops to victory. That’s what we’re trained to do, and he’s been doing a great job at that.”
Miles said he plans to continue using Jefferson periodically in games, including the Southeastern Conference showdown with No. 17 Florida on Saturday afternoon in Tiger Stadium.
“The coach and the team are going to use me to my full abilities,” Jefferson said. “I’m just very thankful for the opportunity to be back. It’s a tough situation for me, definitely a learning experience. I can’t imagine anybody else in the country that has gone through what I have gone through. By far it was something I never thought I would be in the middle of.”
Jefferson said he “learned a lot of things” during a month-long ordeal in which he was arrested and booked on second-degree battery, a felony, suspended, then reinstated after an East Baton Rouge grand jury indicted him on a misdemeanor simple battery charge and not a felony.
“The toughest thing I learned is that you never know how popular you are until a certain situation like that,” Jefferson said. “At a time I was just being a college student - I wasn’t trying to get myself into trouble, I was just enjoying myself with my teammates - and a certain situation happened to me off of my popularity.
“So that’s definitely the main thing that I learned - just who you are and the position that you play for a football team can really cost you a lot, and it really can put you in trouble if people wanted it to.”
Jefferson said he doesn’t “regret anything.”
“God puts people in certain situations for a reason,” he said. “He’s the only person that can control my destiny. He’s the only person that knows my future. So the judgment from a lot of people is not being heard from me. It’s not being heard from other people.
“The only person that can judge me in this world is God, so I don’t regret any of the pain that I’ve been through. I don’t regret anything that has happened to me. I don’t regret the situation that I’ve been in. I thank (God) for the pain that I received. Now, I’m wiser and more aware of everything that can be in front of me in my life.”
Jefferson said the support of Miles and his teammates “definitely means a lot.”
“I had a lot of support from different areas,” Jefferson said. “Coach Miles supported me a lot, and the team supported me a whole lot as well.
“I needed the team and coach Miles to be behind me 100 percent, and that’s what they did throughout the whole process. I thank them for that, and now I’m back, and the team is happy, and a lot of fans that are my true fans are happy that I’m back, and I received a lot of encouragement from a lot of people so I feel good about the situation.”
Jefferson said he would have considered redshirting this season had he missed “seven or eight” games, but didn’t after missing just four games because “that’s a lot of time (left).”
He said he never considered transferring to another school.
Though Jefferson said he didn’t feel he had to apologize to the team for anything “because we were all there,” he did say, “I’m my own person (so) I have to accept responsibility for being there, period.
“I know I shouldn’t have been there, but a lot of doors have opened for me throughout this situation,” he said. “I’m a lot wiser and a lot smarter than I was back in August. (God) putting me in this situation made me see my destiny and see my future, and now I’m still fulfilling my goal. I’m still controlling my future.”
Jefferson, who sill faces a court date on the misdemeanor charge, said he has “put everything behind me.”
“I’m back on the team. I’m back where I need to be,” he said. “I’m still going to school, still playing football. That’s what I’ve been doing the whole time. It’s a situation that I’ve been through that a lot of people don’t understand and probably won’t understand. There’s no way for me to help them understand, but all I can say is, I’m happy to be back on the team. Whenever I get my opportunity on the field, I will fulfill fully that opportunity and do what I need to do on the field.”
Jefferson said it’s “very emotional” being back on the football team.
“You’ve been playing football your whole life, and a certain moment takes you away from football for a month,” he said. “It was tough for me to not be playing football, and I’m happy to be back on the team.”
Jefferson, who has started the past two seasons, said he has a lot to offer the Tigers.
“I’ve been in the toughest battles there is throughout our schedule before,” he said. “I have a 20-7 record (as a starter). That’s very high for a quarterback standard at LSU. I’m a leader. I’ve been leading this team for the last three years. I know what it takes to win. A lot of us on the team know what it takes to win. I can help this team win. Whenever coach Miles gives me that opportunity to get on the field, I’m going to do what it takes to win.”