Greg Stringfellow began dreaming up designs early for a ring that would match LSU's dream season.
After the Tigers beat Texas, beat Florida, beat Auburn — the first three of the program's NCAA record seven victories over top 10 teams in 2019 — Stringfellow, LSU's assistant athletic director and equipment director, began research on his own.
Stringfellow has worked in the LSU equipment room for more than 30 years. He designed LSU's championship rings in 2003 and 2007, and he wanted to retain some of their legacy while following recent trends and setting a new standard.
As the Tigers piled on wins, Stringfellow wanted to be prepared, as one of his bosses, head coach Ed Orgeron, would want him to be. Stringfellow also didn't want to jinx anything.
He kept the brainstorm circle small. He brought in an assistant equipment staff member, Louis Bourgeois, to help conjure designs.
After LSU won the Southeastern Conference Championship Game, the ideas began to form the final product: A two-toned gold ring in an oval shape, a purple football-shaped stone in the center. A College Football Playoff trophy full of diamonds. Four stones above to mark LSU's four football championships.
In the upper part of the bezel mark the words "Hold That Tiger" and "One Team One Heartbeat." On the inside, "LSU Standard Of Performance." On one side of the ring is the state of Louisiana with "LSU" in it with their perfect record "15-0." On the other, a graphic depiction of Tiger Stadium, viewing down into the stadium, where the words "Geaux Tigers" in the stands.
Orgeron countlessly repeated those phrases last season, in which the Tigers beat Clemson 42-25 in the CFP National Championship in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Jan. 13.
Shortly afterward, Stringfellow, Bourgeois and Derek Ponamsky, a special assistant to Orgeron, assembled a 3D graphic of the final ring design. They went to see Orgeron, and he told them he didn't want to see the design until the actual rings came in.
Weeks ago, the rings arrived.
"We brought them up to him," Stringfellow said, "and he was fired up."
LSU's players and coaches received their championship ring in a small team ceremony Tuesday night. The players each received three rings: an SEC Championship ring, a CFP-issued championship ring, and the team-designed championship ring — the "crown jewel," Stringfellow called it.
It's LSU's largest championship ring — each a size 5X — and every ring falls under the $415 NCAA price tag limit for construction.
"They're really enormous," Stringfellow said, trying his ring on during a phone interview Tuesday.
Can't really wear all three at once, can you?
"Uh, no," he laughed.
It was a simple ceremony, Stringfellow said, a much-needed celebration as the nation continues to wrestle with the coronavirus pandemic.
LSU intended to hand out the rings the night before the spring game, an annual event that was canceled along with the rest of sports in the country. The ring manufacturing company, Jostens, even shut down its plant for a time.
Orgeron knew the ceremony couldn't be an "elaborate festival," but they still came together in a team-meeting style and shared the moment together as a team.
"What a great night for our football team," Orgeron said Tuesday morning on 104.5 ESPN's "Off the Bench." "I'm happy for our players and our coaches to be able to get this."
Some graduated players were able to return. Former running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, now with the Kansas City Chiefs, and starting center Lloyd Cushenberry (Denver Broncos) both attended.
Others could not. Some players, like Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Joe Burrow, chose not to attend out of precautions for their health as they begin an NFL season.
They'll still all receive their rings, which Stringfellow believed he'd have to design for a long time.
"If the team feels like they were represented in what we've done in the three rings," Stringfellow said, "that their desires and their wants and their dreams of having a ring — if this meets all their expectations, that's all the satisfaction I need.
It's not about me or anyone of us individually. It's about making sure the players get what they want and have something that designates them as a national champion that they'll appreciate for a lifetime."