Jacques Talk: Former LSU QB Jarrett Lee says booing 'takes a toll on you'
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Booing at LSU football games has been a very hot topic this week because there was certainly plenty of it last Saturday in Tiger Stadium.
Struggling quarterback Anthony Jennings turned the football over three times in the first quarter alone against New Mexico State and although the Tigers won in a rout 63-7, the negative atmosphere early left a bad taste in the mouths of many. If there's one former LSU player who is well versed on this subject, it is quarterback Jarrett Lee.
As a redshirt freshman in 2008, Lee was thrown into action after the dismissal of talented signal caller Ryan Perrilloux and the ineffectiveness of Harvard transfer Andrew Hatch. Lee had his moments, but overall, the season was predominantly a nightmare. He threw 16 interceptions, with seven of them being returned for touchdowns. Lee's multitude of turnovers likewise led to a barrage of boos in Tiger Stadium. He only started one game the following season and was booed loudly in that contest as well, with LSU winning an ugly 24-16 affair against Louisiana Tech. Lee was 7-22 passing, for 105 yards and one touchdown.
So, what's it feel like to get booed?
"It's tough," Lee said. "When you sign that dotted line as a senior in high school and come to a university and program like LSU, that's not something you expect or want to happen. It's not something that's very fun. As a 17, 18, 19-year-old kid, mentally, it's tough on you."
What's the worst you were booed?
"Oh, I had a lot of those. I'd have to say Alabama, (a 27-21 overtime defeat to the No. 1 Crimson Tide during Nick Saban's return to Tiger Stadium in 2008. Lee threw four interceptions, one returned for a score) because we had a chance to win. And throwing that interception in overtime (third play, as LSU received the ball first) was tough. I grew up in a coaching family and I know if you make mistakes, there's going to be consequences. And, I knew I had to deal with that. But, what made it tough was having family and three younger sisters in the stands. And, having them wonder, 'Should I wear brother's No. 12 jersey around?' or 'what are they going to say?' That was tough that year, having three younger sisters and grandparents coming to the game, having to sit through that. But, that's part of it. When you come to a program like this and make those kind of mistakes, you know what the consequences are," Lee explained.
What about going to school? Did your peers give you a hard time on campus?
"I was always worried they would, that Sunday. Going into the week, going to class and stuff, I really never had any problem with that. No students really said anything. But, you know, it's a lot easier sitting in that student section on a Saturday night, when you've had a little fun tailgating, to boo and yell," Lee answered.
This past week, many fans said they were booing Coach Miles, not Jennings, for leaving Jennings in the game. What's your take on that?
"I think that's probably true. I think that is the case. But as a player, you don't know that. You're coming off the field, you just made a mistake and it seems like they're booing you. Like I said, it takes a toll on you," Lee said.
How does booing affect your performance?
"As you mature as a player, you get thick-skinned. You learn how to take it. As a young player, once you hear those boos, you start to make mistakes. You start to press. And, that just causes more problems," Lee added.
Did that happen to Anthony Jennings?
"I think from experience, he kind of felt the pressure. He kind of felt like he needed to press and make some throws he's not used to doing. When you start to do that, you start to press and I feel that's what happened to him," Lee replied.
You guys devote so much time and work. To get booed has to be frustrating from that angle alone?
"You prepare for these moments your whole life. That's why you come to this school. You're proud. You don't go out and throw interceptions on purpose or are trying to fumble. They happen and you learn from that," Lee explained.
Is there any humor, that for Senior Day, you take the field and get perhaps the loudest ovation?
"Yeah, it is kind of funny. In 2008, having all those interceptions and struggles, getting booed. That's part of it. You're going to make mistakes and those kind of things are going to happen. You have to have thick skin and come back and realize you're going to have another opportunity. You never know when that may be. That may be two years down the road. You just have to make the most of it and make plays when your number is called. And, put those things in the past," Lee answered.
By the time his LSU career was done, Lee had indeed transformed many of those boos into cheers. In 2010, he came off the bench to throw two touchdowns, including one with just six seconds left, to lead LSU to a 33-29 win over No. 14 Florida in "The Swamp." And in 2011, he played the best football of his LSU career, quarterbacking the Tigers to an 8-0 start and a No. 1 national ranking.
Lee entered "The Game of the Century" against Alabama as the SEC's top-ranked passer, with 14 touchdown passes against only one interception. Unfortunately for Lee, the Crimson Tide intercepted him twice and he was sent to the bench for basically the remainder of the season. Lee never saw a snap in LSU's 21-0 loss to Alabama in the BCS National Championship, easily one of the more controversial subjects in LSU football history.
Jarrett Lee has also been praised by many in the Baton Rouge media for always appearing for post-game interviews and facing the music during his LSU career, no matter how rough the performance had been.
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