The LSU Tigers have dominated the 2000s when it comes to college football, so making a list of the best players from this era was a lot of fun.
Usually when I do lists like this it's because I'm trying to kill time until the season starts, but I really enjoyed putting this one together. When the thought first came through my head, I must have written down 50 names that could easily be on this list.
The players that I really wanted to include, but didn't quite make the cut, included Rodney Reed, Craig "Buster" Davis, Herman Johnson, Josh Jasper, Drake Nevis, Craig Steltz, Robert Royal, Kyle Williams, Charles Scott, Stephen Peterman, Matt Mauck, Tyson Jackson, Brandon LaFell, Claude Wroten, Jack Hunt, Lionel Turner, Joseph Addai, Marquise Hill, Rudy Niswanger, Ryan Clark, Travis Daniels and Darry Beckwith.
I can see it now. Some of you are rolling your eyes because I have Justin Vincent on the list and not Addai or Scott, but do you remember his freshman year?
Yes, the rest of his career at LSU doesn't even compare to that season, but the man set a school rushing record as a freshman with over 1,000 yards rushing—and didn't even start until the middle of the year in 2003.
He also had over 200 yards rushing in the SEC Championship against Georgia, who hadn't given up a 100-yard rushing performance prior to that.
When I think of Early Doucet, one huge play comes to mind. Not the winning touchdown catch against Tennessee in 2006 with seconds left on the clock, but the touchdown that tied the game against Alabama in 2007 on the fourth down late in the fourth quarter.
Doucet was always known for his sure hands, but I had no idea he could put moves on players like he did on that game-saving play. Had Doucet not made that play, LSU could very well have lost that game and might not have been the national champions. Doucet was a vital piece in another championship season for the Tigers.
Devery Henderson was always great at stretching the field as a Tiger, and he still is as a Saint.
Henderson was a solid receiver for LSU and will always be remembered for catching the Bluegrass Miracle. No, not Jack Hunt, Jim Hawthorne.
The first defensive player to make the list is Ali Highsmith. Man, was he a great linebacker!
When I think of Highsmith, I always picture that forced fumble sack against Ohio State in the National Championship game in slow motion.
That same play is what many TIger fans have painted on their walls. Highsmith had a career-high 101 tackles his senior season with the Tigers in 2007.
Multi-sport star athlete Chad Jones had a knack for finding the ball on Saturdays.
Not only could Jones strike out a batter, but he was also a head-hunter on the football field. Just ask Arkansas wide receiver Joe Adams about the hit he received while trying to make a catch on the goal line in 2009. Just thinking about that hit sends shivers down my spine.
LSU has always had good tandems at running back, but I don't think anyone would disagree with me when I say that Domanick Davis and LaBrandon Toefield were the best of the 2000s.
Sure, that 2007 team had a great five-man rotation, but Davis and Toefield were thunder and lightning. I'll always remember Davis for his incredible performance in the Sugar Bowl against Illinois in 2001. Davis accounted for four rushing touchdowns en route to the biggest LSU Tiger victory in a long time.
Don't you miss this guy right about now?
Matt Flynn, like Matt Mauck, was great at managing the game and making necessary plays to win the ballgame.
Flynn was more talented than Mauck when it came to pure throwing ability though. He'll always be remembered for the Demetrius Byrd bomb against Auburn with a second remaining on the clock.
The toe is loose! LaBrandon Toefield is personally my all-time favorite LSU running back.
Toefield was plagued by injuries, and that's a real shame because who knows what he would have done had he been healthy.
Toefield's best season with the Tigers came in 2001 when he rushed for a then SEC-tying touchdown rushing record with 19 touchdowns.
The first offensive lineman on the list is Andrew Whitworth, and he was an absolute monster on the field.
His intimidating stature and solid frame helped him in his career at LSU, and is helping him today as an offensive lineman for the Cincinnati Bengals.
I really wanted to put Kelvin Sheppard higher on the list, but this is where he landed.
Sheppard had a phenomenal career with the Tigers and was a tremendous leader. He had over 100 tackles in his last two seasons with LSU and will be very hard to replace for the Tigers this year in the middle.
When I think of Corey Webster, I recall two tremendous plays he had in 2003 at LSU.
The first one was his tap-the-ball-to-himself interception against Georgia to solidify the victory. It was vintage Webster to tap the ball and juggle it to himself for the pick.
The other was the same style interception against Oklahoma in the National Championship game early in the first quarter. LSU had just turned the ball over after Vincent shot out of a cannon with a long run to the Sooner 16-yard line on the first play of the game. Heisman quarterback Jason White dropped back to pass and was picked off by Webster's juggling act, and the momentum went back to the Tigers.
To put it into a few words, Dwayne Bowe was entertaining to watch. He was a big, physical receiver who had the ability to go up and make a big play.
He reminded me a lot of Michael Clayton with his physical play, and finished his career at LSU with the school record for touchdown catches with 26.
My all-time favorite Marcus Spears play had to be his sack in the SEC Championship game on David Greene in 2003. (The pick six in the national title game wasn't that bad either.)
The reason the sack is my favorite is because Greene always had the prettiest play-action fake I have ever seen. He completely sold the play and fooled many teams and players with it—not Spears.
Greene faked the hand off to the running back and was standing back there as if he didn't have the ball when 280 pounds, give or take (more likely give), came crashing down on his head.
Spears was a fantastic defensive end for the Tigers and just signed an extension with the Cowboys for six more years of football.
I remember the day my dad told me that Trev Faulk was leaving early to go pro. I thought to myself, "Well, there goes the season."
That's what kind of player Faulk was.
Faulk, Bradie James and Jeremy Lawrence made for a fearsome trio in the middle. When he arrived at LSU he was known as Kevin Faulk's cousin, but when he left, he was known as a great outside linebacker.
Ben Wilkerson was about as reliable as they come when it comes to centers in college football. Wilkerson won the Remington Trophy (nation's top center) in 2004 and was a first-team All-American.
Wilkerson had a storied career at LSU and is one of a few LSU players to receive a national award. I feel that he is the greatest center in LSU history.
That 2003 LSU defense had so many great players on it, but Chad Lavalais was known as the leader of the bunch.
My favorite play from Lavalais was the play he made on Carnell "Cadillac" Williams on the fourth down and short yardage play early in the Auburn/LSU game in 2003.
Tommy Tuberville decided to go for it early and Lavalais shut it down and set the pace for the rest of the game.
Lavalais was Sporting News' National Defensive Player of the Year, SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-American.
Michael Clayton is my all-time favorite LSU Tiger.
Most of the kids my age liked those graceful receivers that could juke you out of your shoes, but I like the guy that played with physicality and passion. Clayton was that guy.
Just as Clayton was known for catching passes and making big plays, he was known for throwing great blocks downfield. He was LSU's version of Hines Ward.
In three seasons, Clayton had 21 receiving touchdowns and was an All-American, All-SEC and Biletnikoff Award semifinalist.
Rohan Davey was a big quarterback with mobility that had a cannon for an arm. I remember it like it was yesterday.
LSU was playing Georgia Tech in the 2000 Peach Bowl and they were down 14-0 at the half. Nick Saban benched Josh Booty and put in Davey, and the rest was history. Davey led the Tigers to a 28-14 victory, and had a great senior season in 2001.
Davey holds the school record for most yards passed during a season and is one of only two quarterbacks in LSU history to throw for over 3,000 yards during the regular season (Jamarcus Russell is the other).
Jacob Hester was born to play football. He plays the game the way it should be played by going 110 percent on every single down.
He could do everything as a back. He could run, block and catch the ball very well coming out of the backfield. The only thing Hester really lacked was breakaway speed, but that wasn't his style.
Hester will always be remembered for the 2007 Florida game when he repeatedly pounded the ball on fourth down and got it in the end zone from three yards out on third down to give the Tigers the victory.
Was there ever a more intimidating player at LSU than LaRon Landry?
Landry will forever be remembered for his vicious hits on Alabama quarterbacks Brodie Croyle and John Parker Wilson. I watch those plays on YouTube every now and then just to hear Mike Patrick say, "That's just evil."
Landry was a first-team All-American in 2006 and is one of the best safeties the NFL has to offer today.
How far has this guy fallen? Even though his life has taken a turn for the absolute worst, he was still a gaudy stat-maker at LSU.
He didn't take care of the ball and manage the game as well as Flynn and Mauck did, but the talent he possessed was unparalleled. Every LSU fan has at least heard this once, but I'll be a broken record player for a minute and say the man could throw a 60-yard pass on one knee!
He led the Tigers to a Sugar Bowl beat-down over Notre Dame in 2006, and to not acknowledge the talent he possessed because of his NFL downfall would be a crime.
I'm going to miss this guy.
Patrick Peterson was the nation's top defensive back a year ago and is expected to make an immediate splash in the NFL in his rookie season.
PP7 won the Bednarick Award (nation's top defender), Thorpe Award (top defensive back) and was named a first-team All-American last year. Oh, and he wasn't that bad of a return man either.
When the defense names itself after you, you must be pretty good. Bradie James led the "James Gang" at middle linebacker for years and is the epitome of an LSU football player.
James never had the most talent or the most size, but he outworked everyone and was as fierce as they come. James set the most tackles in a regular season school record in 2003 with 154 and was a first-team All-American that year.
If asked to define Josh Reed's career in a couple of words, I would say: fun to watch.
Reed would be making plays all over the field each and every week, and that's why he was a first-team All-American and Biletnikoff (nation's top receiver) Award winner.
Reed averaged an SEC record 145-yards receiving per game in 2001. Reed set other SEC records that year as well, including receiving yards in a game (293) and receiving yards in a season (1,740).
Is there any other choice? Glenn Dorsey was as dominant as they come at defensive tackle.
If you didn't double team this guy, you would see Dorsey getting off of your running back and doing his signature dance.
I'd have to write an essay to list every award this man has grabbed, but I'll leave it with the Nagurski Award (best defensive player), Lombardi Award (nation's top interior lineman), Outland Trophy Award (nation's top interior lineman), Lott Award (defense IMPACT player of the year) and first-team All-American.
Over the past 11 years, Dorsey has been the most dominant force LSU fans have seen.