October 5, 2006
Baton Rouge, LA (CSTV U-WIRE) -- For six LSU players, Saturday's match-up with the University of Florida will be their version of Homecoming.
LSU redshirt freshman defensive lineman and Miami native Ricky Jean-Francois said he has fans waiting for him in Gainesville, Fla.
"Going back to your home state feels good," Jean-Francois said. "I'm anxious to play a collegiate football game back in the state of Florida. Plus, like half the state of Florida already [knows] me, so they're coming to cheer me on even though LSU and Florida is a rivalry. It's a great feeling to come back home cause that's gonna be like the closest I get to back home before we have to go to a bowl game."
LSU junior running back Jacob Hester said even though LSU already played its homecoming game this season against Tulane University, the natives of Florida will have a little more invested in this weekend's game.
"I'm sure they got a little bit extra excitement just like when we play UL or Tulane," Hester said. "It's like a homecoming game for them."
LSU senior receiver and Miami native Dwayne Bowe said making his second trip to "The Swamp" will be fun but no different from any other contest.
"It's gonna be fun, but you know it's a business trip," Bowe said. "I gotta go out there and take care of business, so that's how I'm looking at it."
Miami and Gainesville are roughly 340 miles, or five hours, from each other, so Bowe and junior linebacker Ali Highsmith are not exactly close to home. But for LSU senior offensive tackle Brian Johnson, returning to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium will be surreal.
"It's gonna be a great experience for me," Johnson said. "It's going to be a pretty emotional game cause all my family's 30 minutes from Gainesville. I gotta find about 20 to 25 tickets. It's gonna be a good experience going down there."
Johnson, who prepped at Godby High School in Tallahassee, Fla., said he has been around the Florida program his entire life.
"Just growing up there in that environment," Johnson said. "My mom being a graduate of the University of Florida. Going to the games as a child, it just brings back a lot of memories. I grew up loving that team."
Johnson said he felt scorned after Florida did not recruit him out of high school.
"That's where I always wanted to go when I was younger," Johnson said. "In high school I was a little disappointed they didn't recruit me, but now I look back on it, [and] it's been a blessing. And I have no regrets being here at LSU."
Johnson said he is not bitter about Florida's decision not to recruit him, but he would still like to stick it to the Gators.
"I'd like to show' em a little of what they missed," Johnson said. "Maybe I can help open up some holes so we can have 250 yards rushing."
Johnson, fifth-year senior, said all the players he knew in high school have since graduated from Florida, but he is familiar with Florida sophomore linebacker Jon Demps. Jon Demps is the brother of former LSU linebacker Willie Demps. Johnson said he cannot wait to "talk" with Jon Demps.
"It'll be good to kind of talk a little trash with him," Johnson said.
LSU sophomore defensive end Tyson Jackson said he can imagine what it will be like for the players to face off against former rivals.
"There's a lot of guys on the Florida team who they know and who they played high school football with," Jackson said. "It'll be a little bit more of a rivalry for them than it is for us. It's a big game, but luckily those guys are on our team - wearing the LSU colors."
Highsmith said he is not too concerned about returning to Florida, but said he would be closer to home.
"I guess I'll get to see more of my family," Highsmith said. "It's closer than Georgia."
(C) 2006 The Daily Reveille via CSTV U-WIRE