In his first three seasons as a member of the LSU football team, running back Terrence Magee sat up and took notice when jersey No. 18 was handed out by coach Les Miles before the start of preseason practice.
More importantly, Magee watched how Brandon Taylor, Bennie Logan and Lamin Barrow carried themselves in continuing a tradition started by Matt Mauck after he wore the number while quarterbacking LSU to the 2003 BCS national championship.
On Sunday night, the number, which became synonymous with success “as well as a selfless attitude,” according to the LSU media guide, was officially passed down to Magee by the coaching staff and players who’ve worn it since Mauck gave it to running back Jacob Hester in 2004.
Hester wore it for four years, leading LSU to a second BCS title in 2007, before it was voted to Richard Dickson (2008, ’09), Richard Murphy (2010), Taylor (2011), Logan (2012) and Barrow (2013).
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Magee said after the team’s first practice of camp Monday. “I was fortunate enough to see three guys wear it before me, and they really showed me what it means to wear No. 18.”
Magee pointed to leadership when asked what he learned specifically from Taylor, Logan and Barrow — all of whom are in the NFL now.
“When things get hard and people questioned our team,” he said, “those were the first guys to step up and lead us. They showed everybody how it’s done. It was like, ‘Follow me,’ or ‘Watch me.’ That’s what I really admired about those guys.
“Sometimes you have young guys and they’re looking for somebody to follow,” Magee added. “Each guy that I’ve seen with it since I’ve been here, that was the guy we would look to.”
The number has added significance for Magee. The 5-foot-9, 214-pound running back is from Franklinton, the same hometown as Taylor, and both played at Franklinton High School.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be mentioned in that fraternity of guys,” Magee said, “but it’s even bigger that Brandon Taylor was from my hometown. Now it’s two of us representing.”
Linebacker D.J. Welter said he couldn’t have thought of a more deserving player to get the number this season. He said players were telling Magee before Sunday night’s team meeting that he was going to get the number.
“He’s been through a lot, but he never gave up and is a hard-working guy,” Welter said. “I work out with him in the weight room pretty much every morning and, being around him, I know what a positive guy he is.”
A converted high school quarterback who was the state’s Class 4A offensive player of the year as a senior, Magee played in only 14 games in his first two seasons at LSU. He had just 28 carries for 133 yards before gaining 626 yards on 86 attempts last season as an effective backup to Jeremy Hill.
“I just had to stay the course and keep fighting,” Magee said of his first two seasons. “That’s gotten me this far, and I’ll just continue to do the things that got me and here. Hopefully that’ll take me farther.”
Magee, who said he received a congratulatory phone call from Taylor on Sunday night, said it was a special moment when he slipped the white No. 18 jersey over his head.
“I didn’t really think about it (Sunday) night when I went home because I was really trying to focus and get in my playbook,” he said. “But when I put it on today, to hear some of the guys congratulate me, it made me feel good.”