Top 10 Best LSU College Football Players of All Time
Since 1893, Louisiana State University (LSU) has been playing football at their school. In all of that time, they have claimed four national championships (1958, 2003, 2007, 2019). To have all of this success, they have had to have some incredible players. The remainder of this piece will talk about the ten greatest players in LSU history in greater detail.
Who Are the Best Louisiana State University Football Players of All Time?
- Billy Cannon
- Patrick Peterson
- Joe Burrow
- Kevin Faulk
- Leonard Fournette
- Tyrann Mathieu
- Tommy Casanova
- Glenn Dorsey
- Y.A. Tittle
- Justin Jefferson
1. Billy Cannon
- 1959 Heisman Trophy winner
- Two-time SEC Player of the Year Award winner
- Three-time All-SEC Team selection
One of the first great stars at LSU was running back Billy Cannon. Cannon played for the Tigers in the late 1950s, from 1957-1959. In his three years, he won two SEC Player of the Year awards (1958, 1959), was selected to three All-SEC team selections (1957-1959), made two All-American teams (1958, 1959), and won the 1959 Heisman Trophy. Cannon is one of two just Tigers to take home the Heisman.
As for his numbers at LSU, Cannon was only able to play three years of football due to freshman being ineligible to play at the time. Despite this, Cannon still has the eighteenth most rushing yards (1,867) and the nineteenth most rushing touchdowns (19) in team history. While he was leading the backfield, LSU went 25-7, including a perfect 11-0 1958 season that was capped off with a Sugar Bowl victory and a National Championship. Cannon went on to be the number one overall pick in the 1960 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. His number 20 has since been retired by LSU.
2. Patrick Peterson
- Two-time All-SEC Team selection
- Two-time All-American selection
- 2010 Jim Thorpe Award winner
The best defensive/special teams combo player in LSU history is certainly Patrick Peterson. A defensive back, Peterson played in Baton Rouge from 2008-2010 before forgoing his senior season to head to the NFL. In three years, he made two All-SEC teams, two All-American teams, won the 2010 Jim Thorpe Award, and won the 2010 SEC Special Teams Player of the Year Award.
Throughout his career, Peterson compiled 135 tackles, 22 pass breakups, seven interceptions, and recovered one fumble for a touchdown. On special teams, he had 1,350 return yards and 2 kickoff returns for touchdowns. In his three years on the team, LSU went 28-11 and picked up two Bowl game victories (2008 Chick-fil-A Bowl, 2010 Cotton Bowl). Peterson went on to be picked high in the 2011 NFL Draft, going fifth overall to the Arizona Cardinals. Peterson still plays in the NFL today.
3. Joe Burrow
- 2019 Heisman Trophy winner
- 2019 Maxwell Award winner
- 2019 SEC Offensive Player of the Year
The other Heisman Trophy winner in LSU history along with Billy Cannon is Joe Burrow. After playing sparingly for three years at Ohio State from 2015-2017, Burrow came to LSU in 2018. He played two years with the Tigers in 2018 and 2019. In his second season with the team in 2019, he won a ton of awards, including the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award, the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, the Johnny Unitas Award, and the Lombardi Award.
Despite only playing two seasons with LSU, Burrow amazingly ranks second in passing yards with 8,656 and first in passing touchdowns with 76. Between his two seasons, LSU went a combined 25-3, the latter of which the team went a perfect 15-0 and won their fourth National Championship. After leading LSU to the championship, Burrow was drafted number one overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2020 NFL Draft. Burrow has already had a great start to his NFL career, leading the Bengals to a Super Bowl appearance in 2022.
4. Kevin Faulk
- Three-time All-SEC First Team selection
- 1996 All-American selection
- 1995 SEC Freshman of the Year
The best running back in LSU team history as far as statistics go is Kevin Faulk. Faulk was a four year starter for the Tigers from 1995-1998. He was the 1995 SEC Freshman of the Year, was selected to three straight All-SEC First teams (1996-1998), made the 1996 All-American team, and is a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
As was mentioned above, Faulk is the best statistical running back ever at LSU. He ranks first in both rushing yards (4,556) and rushing touchdowns (46) in Tiger history. LSU won three Bowl games while Faulk was in the backfield in the 1995 and 1997 Independence Bowls, along with the 1996 Peach Bowl. Overall, the team was 30-16-1 during that time. Faulk then went on to be a second round pick by the New England Patriots in the 1999 NFL Draft. He was a key player on some great early 2000s Patriots teams.
5. Leonard Fournette
- 2015 All-American selection
- 2015 SEC First Team member
- 2016 SEC Second Team member
Yet another great running back in LSU history is Leonard Fournette. Fournette was a three-year player for LSU from 2014-2016 before heading off to the pros. In his tenure with the team, he made two All-SEC teams (2015, 2016) and was a 2015 All-American. In his three years, LSU went 25-12 and won two Bowl games in the 2015 Texas Bowl and the 2016 Citrus Bowl.
On the LSU all-time rushing leaderboards, Fournette comes in at number four in rushing yards (3,830) and is tied for third rushing touchdowns (40). After he decided to forgo his senior season, the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Fournette with the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. His NFL career has not always been smooth, and he’s changed teams a few times, but Fournette has had some nice moments, and he was a part of a Super Bowl winning team in 2021 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
6. Tyrann Mathieu
- 2011 SEC Defensive Player of the Year
- 2011 All-SEC First Team selection
- 2011 All-American selection
Like Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu was a great defensive back for LSU. Mathieu played two years at LSU in 2010 and 2012 before being dismissed due to violating team rules. As a sophomore in 2011, he was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, was named to the All-SEC First team, was named an All-American and won the Chuck Bednarik Award.
In his career, Mathieu registered 133 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 4 interceptions, forced 11 fumbles, and recovered 8 of them, showing that he was all over the field all of the time. In his two seasons, LSU went 24-4, including a 2010 Cotton Bowl victory. While his LSU career came to an unceremonious end, Mathieu was still great while he was on the field. He went on to be a third round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft after having not played in 2012. He still is going strong in the NFL today.
7. Tommy Casanova
- Three-time All-American selection
- Three-time All-SEC First Team selection
- Number 37 retired by LSU
A star in the late 1960s for LSU was running back/utility player Tommy Casanova. Casanova played three years at LSU from 1969-1971, during which he made three All-American teams and three All-SEC First teams. Additionally, he led the Tigers to an overall record of 27-7 and a victory in the 1971 Sun Bowl.
While Casanova’s numbers do not quite stand out, it is his all-around impact on the field that earns him a spot amongst the LSU greats. Casanova played running back, defensive back, and was a punt returner during his time in Baton Rouge. Recognized for his all-around talents, he was dubbed “The Greatest Player in the Nation” when he was pictured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1971. After his college days, Casanova was taken with a second round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1972 NFL Draft. Years after he had retired, LSU retired his number 37.
8. Glenn Dorsey
- 2007 SEC Defensive Player of the Year
- 2007 All-American selection
- Two-time First Team All-SEC selection
Yet another terrific defensive player in LSU history is Glenn Dorsey. Dorsey was a member of the LSU football team for three seasons from 2005 to 2007. A two-time All-SEC First Team member (2006, 2007), Dorsey also was a 2007 All-American, won the 207 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and won the Lombardi, Outland, and Lott trophies in 2007.
Some of Dorsey’s notable numbers include having 154 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. While he was anchoring the defense, LSU managed a 35-6 record, won the 2005 Peach Bowl, the 2006 Sugar Bowl, and capped off his run with the 2007 National Championship. A few months after winning the championship, the Kansas City Chiefs took Dorsey with the fifth overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Dorsey has since been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, and may one day find his number retired at LSU.
9. Y.A. Tittle
- Two-time First Team All-SEC selection
- 1958 LSU Athletic Hall of Fame inductee
- Led Team to Cotton Bowl Appearance in 1946
The oldest player to make this list is Y.A. Tittle. Even though freshmen were not usually eligible to play varsity sports in college prior to the 1970s, an exception had been made during World War II, so Tittle was able to play four years at LSU from 1944-1947. He went on to be a two-time All-SEC selection at quarterback (1946, 1947) and lead the team to an overall record of 23-11-3 in his four years on the team.
Tittle played both quarterback and running back his first couple of seasons, but he moved to quarterback full-time midway through his sophomore season. His shining moment was in a 1946 victory over Tulane 41-27, when he threw three touchdowns to help LSU clinch a spot in the Cotton Bowl. They went on to tie Arkansas 0-0 in that game, as below freezing temperatures made it challenging for teams to move the ball that day. After his four years with the Tigers, the Detroit Lions took Tittle with the sixth overall selection in the 1948 NFL Draft. In 1958, Tittle was inducted into the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame.
10. Justin Jefferson
- 2019 National Champion
- 2019 All-SEC Second Team member
- Finished Second in Nation in Receiving Touchdowns in 2019
The first and only wide receiver rounds out this list in Justin Jefferson. Jefferson played with the aforementioned Joe Burrow on the 2019 National championship team, and he played three years total in Baton Rouge from 2017-2019. In 2019, he was named an All-SEC Second team member and finished second in the country in reciting touchdowns with 18.
In all, Jefferson racked up the sixth most receiving yards (2,415) and third most receiving touchdowns (24) in LSU history. Along with the National Championship, LSU went 34-7 while Jefferson was on the team, winning the Fiesta Bowl in 2018. After choosing to head to the NFL instead of playing his senior season, Jefferson was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings with the twenty-second overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. That pick has paid great dividends for the Vikings, as Jefferson has had an outstanding first few years of his NFL career.
- Dwayne Boye
- Ja’Marr Chase
- Dalton Hilliard
- Tommy Hodson
- Bert Jones
- Odell Beckham Jr.
- Josh Reed
- Johnny Robinson
- Gaynell Tinsley
- Devin White
Who is the best LSU quarterback of all time?
Although he only spent two seasons with LSU, the best quarterback in team history is Joe Burrow. Burrow was at LSU in 2018 and 2019 after transferring from Ohio State. His second season in 2019 was his best, as he won several awards, including the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award, the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, the Johnny Unitas Award, and the Lombardi Award. He also led LSU to a 15-0 record and a national championship.
Who is the best LSU wide receiver of all time?
While they have had a few good ones, the best all-around wide receiver in LSU history is Justin Jefferson. Jefferson was a three year member of the Tigers from 2017-2019. In 2019 in particular, he was one of the best in the country, as he was named an All-SEC Second team member and finished second in the country in reciting touchdowns with 18. He also played a key role in helping the team win the national title in 2019.
Who is the best LSU running back of all time?
Doubling as the best player in franchise history, the greatest running back ever at LSU is Billy Cannon. Cannon led the Tiger backfield in the late 1950s from 1957-1959. In his three years, he won two SEC Player of the Year awards (1958, 1959), was selected to three All-SEC team selections (1957-1959), made two All-American teams (1958, 1959), and won the 1959 Heisman Trophy. He also helped the team win the National Title in 1958.