The Louisiana State University Tigers are fresh off their dominating performance during 2019 and their thrashing of the Clemson Tigers 42-25 in the championship game last Monday evening.
But, here is a trivial fact many do not realize or know. Every one of LSU's national championship football seasons have had at least one area player on the roster.
Yes, you read that correctly. The national championship seasons of 1958, 2003, 2007 and 2019 all had at least one player from Bay High, Hancock or Saint Stanislaus College competing on the football team.
The last player from Pass Christian on a LSU roster was Gene Lang who played for the Tigers from 1980-83. He later played seven years in the NFL for the Denver Broncos and the Atlanta Falcons after being drafted in the 11th round in the 1984 Draft with pick #299.
Now, did every one of the area's players play an integral role in the championship season? The answer to that question is an obvious 'No'! But, each and every player on the roster contributes something to the team whether it be as a starter, backup or squad player.
Every starter has to have a backup in case of equipment failure, injury, or simply poor performance. And, every team has to have 'squad' players to help the team prepare for their opponents each week.
In the school's first national championship season of 1958, Paul Dietzel lead the Tigers as head coach. He guided LSU to a 7-0 victory over the #12-Clemson Tigers in the 1959 Sugar Bowl implementing a three-platoon system instead of replacing individual players throughout the game. He had the White team (first-string offense and defense), the Go team (second-string offense) and the Chinese Bandits (second-string defense). The Tigers ended the season 11-0 with a 6-0 record in the Southeastern Conference.
On this team was a center who stood 5'11" and weighed 190lbs named Ken Wittmann from Pass Christian.
Wittmann, a four-year letter winner on the gridiron at Saint Stanislaus College, graduated from SSC in 1957. He was the proud father of three sons who attended SSC and played football like their father - Casey, Kerry and Kyle. The eldest brother, Casey, later became head coach at SSC and brought the school it's first division championship in football under the current format in 2004. He currently coaches the offensive line at Harrison Central High School. Ken Wittmann passed away a few years ago after watching all three of his sons play football and relish watching the LSU Tigers play on Saturdays with him.
During the national championship season of 2003, LSU was lead by former head coach Nick Saban. It was Saban's fourth season as head coach and the Tigers finished the year 13-1 overall and 7-1 in the SEC. The Tigers shared the SEC West title with the Ole Miss Rebels. The Tigers beat the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC championship game 34-13 before beating the #3-ranked Okahoma Sooners 21-14 in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship. The Tigers finished the season ranked #1 in the Coaches poll and #2 in the AP poll. Saban is currently the head football coach at the University of Alabama.
There were two area players on this squad including former Bay High quarterback Ty Barrett and former SSC TE Stephen Peterman.
Barrett was a walk-on for the Tigers in the spring of 2000 after Saban was hired to replace Gerry DiNardo.
Barrett, a 6' 186-lb quarterback, was a two-time All-Division 8-4A quarterback at Bay High and earned varsity letters in both basketball and baseball. He was Salutatorian of his graduating class at Bay High and President of the National Honor Society.
Peterman, a 6'5" 321-lb offensive guard, was in Saban's first signing class in 2000.
Peterman was a first-team All-State tight end at SSC but converted to the offensive line prior to his sophomore year at LSU.
At SSC, Peterman was selected for the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Classic, the Clarion Ledger's Dandy Dozen and was Blue-Chip recruit at SSC having earned scholarships from all SEC schools and Notre Dame. He also earned varsity letters for basketball and was a state finalist in track and field (discus) while at SSC.
At LSU, Peterman began his career as a defensive end before converting to the offensive line prior to his sophomore season. He went on to become a three-time All-SEC selection at guard and was a first-team All-American in 2003 while earning four letters at LSU.
Peterman was drafted in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys and played two seasons before being traded to the Detroit Lion where he played eight seasons before finishing his career with the New York Jets.
Peterman spent 10 years in the NFL. He and his wife, the former Colleen Scheyd, currently live in New Orleans with their three sons.
The National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame Gulf Coast Chapter recently named their Offensive Lineman of the Year award after Peterman.
The national championship season of 2007 was led by former head coach Les Miles who is now the head coach at Kansas.
The Tigers finished 2007 with a 12-2 overall record and 6-2 mark in the SEC. The team ended the year ranked #1 by both the AP and Coaches polls.
LSU was the SEC Western Division champion and the SEC champion having defeated Tennessee 21-14 in the title game.
The Tigers beat Ohio State 38-24 in the national championship game.
On the roster for the Tigers was former Hancock Hawks standout defensive lineman Donald Hains.
He was a two-time All-Region performer for Hancock and played the same position for the Tigers for four seasons in Baton Rouge as a squad player.
The national championship season of 2019 was led by head coach Ed Orgeron. His squad was paced by Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, an Ohio State University graduate transfer.
The Tigers finished a perfect season 15-0 with a SEC Western Division title and a 8-0 conference mark.
The Tigers beat Georgia 37-10 in the SEC championship game. Since their last title run, the NCAA had implemented a playoff system which pitted Louisiana State University against Oklahoma in the national semifinals. The Tigers crushed the Sooners 63-28 in the Peach Bowl before taking on Clemson in the title game.
LSU dismantled Clemson 42-25 with many calling the 2019 LSU Tigers the best team in history.
Myles Brennan, a former Under Armour All-American at St. Stanislaus, was the backup quarterback to the Heisman Trophy winning Joe Burrow.
In the 2019 season, Brennan threw for 600 yards and two touchdowns on 42-of-70 passing.
Brennan, a 2017 graduate of SSC, set state records for single-season passing yards (5,797), career passing yards (15,138) single-season touchdown passes (64), career touchdown passes (166) and career total offense (16,280). He became the only Mississippi prep quarterback to ever compete in the Elite 11 competition at Nike's The Opening where he finished ranked #2 out of the top 12 signal callers in the nation behind top-ranked and future Alabama quarterback Tua Tagavailoa.
Brennan, a consensus four-star recruit, was highest rated player to ever come out of the area and was selected to play in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Classic and Under Armour National Classic. He was also a three-time All-American by MaxPreps and was the fifth ranked quarterback in the nation by MaxPreps over the last decade.
Brennan is the heir-apparent at quarterback for the Tigers in 2020.
So, despite what position these guys played and how often or not they touched the playing field on Saturdays, they still made a lasting impression on the national championship tradition of the LSU Tigers. No matter how you look at it, every road to college football's national title in 1958, 2003, 2007 and 2019 had to pass through Hancock County, first.