Saturday was a special day on the sidelines.
It was our last home game of a roller coaster season for the Tigers. We saw 19 senior football players play their last game in Tiger Stadium. It was the last game in Death Valley that Ed Orgeron would coach as LSU’s interim head coach. It was the last chance we had in Baton Rouge to show fans, boosters, media and everyone in between why this staff is so important to our football program.
And, we lost.
It was heartbreaking. We were one yard away. We were ready to celebrate. Then we weren’t. We will remember that yard for a long time. But besides everything that made up this day, there is another piece to this Saturday afternoon in Tiger Stadium that LSU fans, especially myself, will also remember for a long time.
His name is Jarrius Robertson.
Jarrius, also known as JJ, is a 14-year-old avid LSU Tigers and New Orleans Saints fan from Lutcher, La. The Saints have basically adopted him as a social media reporter because of his quick wit and natural ability to get along with anyone that he meets. The head coach of the New Orleans Saints, Sean Payton, even signed Jarrius to a contract to travel with the team for a game.
He is one of the funniest, wittiest and most fun people to be around. On Saturday he was quick to start a dance party in the locker room with some of the best and most famous college athletes in the entire country. He walked right out to midfield to meet Coach O and give him a pre-game talk. He gave LSU running back and one of the best college athletes in the game, Leonard Fournette, his own autograph. I have never met a kid like him.
You forget Jarrius is only 14 years old.
You also forget that Jarrius is sick.
Jarrius has a chronic liver disease called biliary atresia that he has battled his entire life. Jarrius is currently waiting for a liver transplant, and while he waits on the list he has formed a new mission when it comes to organ donation – “It takes lives to save lives.” This is the motto that Jarrius and his family are actively spreading through each and every thing they do. After spending a day with Jarrius, I can’t imagine him ever waiting to do anything. He might be waiting for a liver transplant, but there is no way he is sitting still while doing it.
I had the honor of having Jarrius as my “co-reporter” for the LSU game versus Florida. While the original plan was for him to follow me around during my pre-game routine on the sidelines, I was clearly following Jarrius, and he was the one making the plans. At one point, while he was trying to make his way over to get in the background of the SEC Nation set, he yelled back at me, “Come on! You wanted me here today. Pick up your feet!” I knew my “co-reporter” had just taken my job.
He helped in the equipment room in his personalized jersey. He ran onto the field with the team for stretches. He threw balls with the quarterbacks during warmups. He had a dance-off on the field with a soon-to-be future NFL player. He made an appearance on the Spanish radio station that covers LSU. He took a million pictures with fans, legit fans who knew his name and story, all afternoon. He talked with the head coach. He was lifted up by a player to touch the WIN bar before heading out the chute and onto the field in Tiger Stadium. He went to tell the Florida staff that his Tigers were going to run all over the Gators.
He reminded us all how special LSU Football can be to someone and how football itself helps him.
Jarrius brought over 100,000 smiles to the faces of fans in Tiger Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Fans went absolutely crazy when he hyped up the crowd on the jumbotron before the last two plays of the game. Jarrius had to stop every two feet wherever we went to take pictures with people of all ages. He embraces the celebrity, and everyone embraces JJ.
I will remember that yard for a long time. Yes, I will remember that we lost, but I will also remember who was standing next to me as I watched that last play. It was Jarrius. It was JJ who was screaming and cheering for the players and hyping up the fans in the Cathedral of college football. When people knew we lost the game, they kept asking for Jarrius. And, they kept smiling.
We lost the game, but I know I was reminded about what else this game can do. It is so easy to get caught up in winning and losing and everything else that goes along with college football, that we all tend to forget how the game itself and the people that play it can impact others. Our players were just as excited to see Jarrius as Jarrius was to see them. I think that is one of my favorite parts of the day.
My pre-game routine was squashed the moment I met JJ. And, I am so glad it was. I think I have one of the best jobs in the world, and had no idea how it could get better until I met Jarrius. I always have fun on game days, but last Saturday was different.
It was special.
You can read more about Jarrius’ special day in Tiger Stadium and about his medical journey here in a beautifully written article by Jeff Marx on LSUsports.net.
And, most importantly, you can support Jarrius here with all donations going towards JJ’s medical bills and to help make his current fight as strong as possible.