OXFORD, Miss. - James Stampley arrived at LSU as an offensive lineman, but gladly moved into the backfield when coach Les Miles told him the Tigers needed a fullback.
The former Baker High School center has been leading big-name teammates through the line ever since.
But Saturday night at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, with LSU’s 52-3 victory over Ole Miss well in hand, Stampley got a chance to experience the same joy he has worked so hard to help others discover.
The walk-on fullback’s 1-yard score late in the third quarter was a hidden highlight of this one-sided laugher.
“I’m always the one helping us get the score, but to be the one that actually scores?” Stampley said. “I was like, ?So this is how everybody feels?’”
Teammates rave about Stampley’s quiet confidence and selfless, head-first approach to playing football.
Until the penultimate regular-season game of his college career, Stampley had never recorded any offensive statistics despite having made 14 career starts. He had broken 25 of his own facemasks and one helmet, according to the LSU media guide, during practices and in games.
There he was Saturday as LSU reached the Ole Miss 2-yard line, ready to go about his business paving the way.
He got a surprise.
LSU coach Les Miles called Stampley’s number on three straight plays, making it a point to see his senior fullback cross the goal line.
“I was definitely surprised he kept calling my number,” Stampley said.
It appeared for a moment Stampley would let the moment pass him by. After the Rebels stopped him on second and third downs, Stampley nearly botched the handoff from Jarrett Lee on the last of three straight fullback dives. But after initially losing control of the ball, Stampley not only got the handoff, but also spun away from a defender to reach the end zone.
“I mean, the guy showed up here as an offensive guard,” Miles said. “We told him we needed a fullback. He’s a very bright guy and a very team-oriented player. We basically said to him, ?We need you to play fullback for us.’ He said OK, and he learned it.”
The smile Stampley wore Saturday was as wide as his 5-foot-10, 239-pound frame.
“An opportunity like that doesn’t come around very often,” he said. “I was determined I wasn’t going to be denied.”
Stampley wasn’t the only LSU back who had a good time.
Alfred Blue had 74 yards on only four carries, including the longest rush by an LSU runner this season on a 57-yard gain. Spencer Ware had his longest run of the season on a 35-yard touchdown and finished with 70 yards on 10 carries.
Kenny Hilliard scored his third goal-line touchdown in two games. Terrence Magee, another freshman, had the best night of his young career with 55 yards on seven carries.
All told, LSU backs rolled up 353 yards against the Southeastern Conference’s worst rushing defense.
“I don’t care who’s back there, they all run hard,” LSU guard Will Blackwell said. “They’re all great backs. I was excited to see them all get some work.”
He was most excited for Stampley.
“It was definitely good to see a guy like Stampley get a touchdown,” Blackwell said. “He told me tonight it was the first touchdown he’s ever had in any level of football.”
A sign of things to come, perhaps? “I would love the idea of doing that,” Stampley said with a laugh. “We’ll see what happens.”