It only takes a quick look at Kevin Minter’s stats to understand what kind of impact the junior linebacker had on LSU’s fortunes this season.
But as he joined his teammates Sunday night at LSU’s annual football banquet, Minter said he had no idea he would be named the recipient of the Charles McClendon Award as the team’s most valuable player.
“I was looking down at my plate, eating a little more of my cheesecake,” Minter said. “All of a sudden, I heard my name.”
Minter entered the year with less fanfare than defensive teammates like Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo and Eric Reid, but finished the season as a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection, a Butkus Award finalist and a second-team All-American.
He led the Tigers with 111 tackles to go with 13.5 tackles for loss in his first year as a full-time starter, playing a big part in the success of a defense that allowed 296.2 yards and 16.9 points per game.
In a loss at Florida, he racked up a school-record 17 solo tackles.
Minter twice earned National Player of the Week honors, but said the award Sunday as the team’s MVP was his greatest individual achievement.
“I’m a linebacker,” he said. “I don’t score points or anything, so I really didn’t expect it.”
Minter will have a chance to cap his junior season back home in Georgia when the Tigers face Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
’Tis the season
When you stick around the LSU football program as long as Josh Dworaczyk has, you have an opportunity to win many games, meet many new friends and make many lasting memories.
You also have an opportunity to receive many bowl gifts.
Bowl games traditionally dole out gifts to players from both participating teams, an honor Dworaczyk, a senior offensive lineman, will soon experience for the sixth time.
Dworaczyk said some of the bowl gifts he still owns. Some, he does not.
“A couple years, it became a last-minute Christmas deal,” Dworaczyk said. “All of a sudden, my brothers and sisters had bowl gifts (for Christmas presents) and that was their gift from me.”
Dworaczyk said his siblings never complained.
“When you’re getting stuff like iPod docking stations, iPads and Wiis, trust me: my brothers and sisters are excited about those gifts,” he said.
Dworaczyk began his career at LSU in 2007 as a redshirt and later spent two seasons as a starting guard. He got a sixth year of eligibility after suffering a knee injury in 2011 that kept him out the entire year.
As a starter at left tackle this season, Dworaczyk was recently named a permanent 2012 team captain.
No word yet on what this year’s bowl gift will be.
Palmetto State reunion
LSU has several players from Georgia who see the Chick-fil-A Bowl as a chance to play a game back home. Defensive end Montgomery, a Greenwood, S.C., native, sees it as a chance to play a team from back home.
Montgomery said the Clemson campus is a short drive from where he grew up.
“It’s right down the street,” he said. “About 40 minutes, depending on who’s driving.”
When the LSU-Clemson matchup was set, Montgomery said he received several phone calls from South Carolina players wishing him luck against their renowned rival.
“That’s the matchup of the century for them,” he said. “Now, it’s my turn.”
Miles’ Christmas plans
During his media session Tuesday night, LSU coach Les Miles was asked about his plans for the holidays.
“I am going to practice with a group of men that I enjoy fully, that’s going to be a wonderful football holiday. I’m preparing to play a quality opponent. I’m going to roar right up to the 22nd. I’m going to work a little bit the morning of the 23rd.”
Miles added that he would have a party Dec. 22, inviting “all my close friends, assistant coaches, people that work in this building.”
A Miles tradition is taking eldest daughter Smacker shopping on Christmas Eve, which Miles said he looks forward to again this year. Miles said he’d also attend church on Christmas Eve and open presents with his family that night.
“Santa Claus comes Christmas night, so in the morning we would open whatever gifts Santa left for us,” Miles said. “I think once you get older, Santa doesn’t bring you a lot of stuff.”