LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) hugs LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) LSU quarterback Joe Burrow hugs LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. Syndication: Montgomery

The LSU Tigers are one of the most successful programs in college football history. The program’s success goes back to the early days of college football when the SEC and its teams were still trying to make a name for themselves. Boy, did they.

The Tigers have produced some of the biggest names in college football ever and they made Baton Rouge one of the toughest places in the nation to win. SEC champions, National champions, and Heisman Trophy winners have all played under the bright lights of Death Valley and won a lot of football games while there.

It was hard to narrow it down, but here is our list of the 10 greatest LSU Tigers players of all time.

Louisiana State Tigers quarterback (2) JaMarcus Russell
Louisiana State Tigers quarterback (2) JaMarcus Russell runs the ball upfield. Credit: Photo by Dale Zanine USA TODAY Sports Copyright (c) 2006 Dale Zanine

10. JaMarcus Russell, quarterback

It might be a shocker to some to have JaMarcus Russell on this list because of how his NFL career turned out, but he played a huge part in the history of the program. Russell was on Nick Saban’s 2003 LSU squad that won his first national championship. He was All-SEC in 2006 when he threw for 3,129 yards and 28 touchdowns, which elevated him to becoming a top draft pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. He may have failed as an NFL quarterback, but he had a pretty good college career and helped establish LSU as a powerhouse in the modern SEC along with his then-head coach.

9. Gaynell Tinsley, tight end

When LSU announced its all-time team to celebrate the centennial of LSU football in 1993, Gaynell Tinsley was “the only unanimous choice” for LSU’s “Early Years Team of the Century.” He was an All-American and All-SEC player in 1935 and 1936 and helped the Tigers make it to three Sugar Bowls. Tinsley played tight end for LSU which, back in those days, wasn’t known to produce many college football stars. Tinsley was the exception to the rule. After a brief but successful NFL career, Tinsley went into coaching and oversaw LSU from 1948 to 1954.

8. Kevin Faulk, running back

Kevin Faulk is still the school’s all-time leading rusher and, quite frankly, has a case to be higher on this list. In his four-year career at LSU, Faulk garnered 4,557 rushing yards, second in SEC history only to Herschel Walker. He also collected 6,833 all-purpose yards and 53 total touchdowns, the latter of which was first in SEC history until Tim Tebow surpassed him. The SEC Freshman of the Year in 1995, he was named first-team All-SEC three times and first-team All-American in 1996. A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, he went on to win three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots in the NFL.

Ja'Marr Chase scores a touchdown
Ja’Marr Chase scores a touchdown. Syndication: The Daily Advertiser

7. Ja’Marr Chase, wide receiver

The combination of Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Burrow was deadly in 2019. Chase became Burrow’s go-to weapon during the Tigers’ run to the national championship and they became almost nearly impossible to stop. In 2019, Chase had over 1,700 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns. He was a unanimous All-American and All-SEC team member. If it wasn’t for Burrow, he probably would have won the Heisman that season. Chase made the decision to opt out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19 but had he stayed in school, he probably would have broken several LSU and SEC receiving records.

6. Bert Jones, quarterback

Bert Jones was probably the best quarterback in LSU history until Joe Burrow came along. He was an All-American and All-SEC quarterback in 1972. That season, he threw for over 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. In his 17 games at LSU, Jones completed 52.6 percent of his passes for 3,225 yards and 28 touchdowns. He was also the first LSU quarterback to be named a consensus All-American and he finished fourth in the Heisman that year, too. Jones would go on and have a stellar NFL career with the Baltimore Colts and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

5. Glenn Dorsey, linebacker

LSU is probably more known for its offensive stars than defensive stars, but Gleen Dorsey was a star at LSU. He led that LSU defense to the 2007 national championship. During that time Dorsey won the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski, and Lott awards, a complete sweep of the major defensive honors. The year before he was an All-American and eventually was a top-five draft choice in the NFL Draft in 2008.

LSU Tigers wide receiver Odell Beckham jr
LSU Tigers wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

4. Odell Beckham Jr., wide receiver

Before Odell Beckham Jr. became one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, he was a star at LSU. In 2013, he had over 1,152 yards receiving and led the SEC with 32 kickoff returns for 845 net yards, which garnered him All-SEC and All-American honors. He also won the Paul Hornung Award that season. He finished his three-year college career with 2,340 receiving yards and 14 total touchdowns. Beckham was a first-round NFL Draft selection by the New York Giants and has since put together a stellar pro career with the Giants, Browns, Rams, and now Ravens.

3. Patrick Peterson, defensive back

LSU has sometimes been referred to as “DBU” and that primarily started with cornerback Patrick Peterson. In 2o10, Peterson was a first-team All-SEC selection and unanimous first-team All-American thanks to his work as a shutdown corner and special teams master. His 934 kickoff return yards and 29.1 yards per return average were good for second in the SEC while his 418 punt return yards and 16.1 yards per return average came in first. In his college career, he had 31 pass breakups, 135 tackles, and 7 interceptions. In his junior year, he also racked up honors like the Jack Tatum Trophy, Jim Thorpe Award, Chuck Bednarik Award, and SEC Special Teams Player of the Year. He’s since cemented his status as one of the best defensive backs in the NFL with three first-team All-Pro nods and eight Pro Bowls.

2. Billy Cannon, running back

You could probably argue that, before Joe Burrow, Cannon was the greatest player to put on the purple and gold. Twice named a unanimous All-American, he led the 1958 LSU Tigers to the national championship before winning the Heisman Trophy a year later. His punt return against Ole Miss, dubbed “Billy Cannon’s Halloween run,” remains one of the most iconic plays in LSU history. Along with his national accolades, Cannon was also named SEC Player of the Year twice and First-team All-SEC twice. His No. 20 was retired by LSU and he was inducted into the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, and College Football Hall of Fame. He ended up playing professional football for a decade, winning three AFL championships and leading the league in rushing in 1961. Unfortunately, some legal issues that landed him in prison later in life marred his reputation, but his status as an LSU football icon remains intact. 

LSU Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow (9)
LSU Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow. Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

1. Joe Burrow, quarterback

When Joe Burrow transferred from Ohio State to LSU, no one knew he would become the best player in the school’s history. In fact, Burrow didn’t show much when started for the Tigers his junior season, but that all changed in 2019. Burrow became one of the most prolific passers in NCAA history. He finished that season with 60 passion touchdowns, which broke Colt Brennan’s single-season FBS record. He also set the FBS record with 65 total touchdowns while his 5,671 passing yards are tied for fourth-most in an FBS season. His passer rating of 202 was a record at the time as well.

Along with stunning stats, Burrow also racked up the hardware. The SEC Offensive Player of the Year and unanimous All-American took home the Manning Award, Unitas Award, Maxwell Award, and the Heisman Trophy. He also led LSU to a national championship and was named National Championship Offensive MVP for his efforts in the victory. His time at LSU might have been brief but his accomplishments will go down in history in Baton Rouge.

About Stacey Mickles

Stacey is a 1995 graduate of the University of Alabama who has previously worked for other publications such as Sportskeeda and Saturday Down South.