With all the talk of LSU getting a new Mike the Tiger, former LSU kicker Mark Lumpkin couldn't help but remember another tiger — the cub he owned back in 1971.
That's right, Lumpkin had his own Tiger mascot, even though it was only for a few days.
Here's how the story goes: Lumpkin and his fellow Tigers, including Mike Anderson, Tommy Casanova, Jack Jaubert, Richard Picou, Al Coffee and quarterback Buddy Lee went to Miami to play the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the 1971 Orange Bowl.
Dr. Eglin "Doc" McKeithen, brother of then Gov. John McKeithen, was among the thousands of LSU fans to make the trip the cheer on the team.
"He would come with the governor to watch us practice, so I knew him," says Lumpkin, now an insurance agent. "Fox (McKeithen, the governor's son) would be with them most of the time."
During the days leading up the big game, the team got to take photos with a tiger cub, and Lumpkin ribbed Doc McKeithen that he needed to buy the tiger. McKeithen countered that he was going to buy the tiger for Lumpkin. It was just a passing moment, a small event in a week full of big events.
Lumpkin turned his thoughts to the game, where he kicked two field goals — one for 36 yards in the second quarter and another for 25 yards in the third to keep the Tigers in the game. Lee's 31-yard touchdown pass to Coffee put LSU ahead 12–10 to end the third quarter. But Nebraska put seven points on the board in the fourth to win 17-12, earning the Cornhuskers the National Championship.
"About three or four days after I got home, I got a call from the New Orleans airport: 'Mr. Lumpkin, you need to come pick up your tiger,' ” recalls Lumpkin. "I had no idea he was coming. Doc never said anything to me other than when we were in Miami."
So Lumpkin and a friend headed to the Crescent City to pick up Cajun, which is what Lumpkin named him.
And, for several days, Cajun and the guys wrestled around Lumpkin's apartment.
"Buddy Bombet came over and took photos of us playing with him," says Lumpkin. "We got a little frisky, and I quickly realized just how powerful he was when he batted me with his paws."
Lumpkin also realized that an apartment was no place for a tiger, even a little one. So he contacted the Baton Rouge Zoo and made arrangements to take Cajun there.
"LSU already had a Mike, so there was no need to keep him," he says. "I think the zoo gave him to another zoo. But, you know, I never talked to Doc after I got the tiger. I'm not sure why; I just never did."