Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Anthony “Booger” McFarland personified big when he was at LSU.
Big man. Big performances. Big personality.
An All-America nose guard for the Tigers in 1998, McFarland went on to play nine seasons in the NFL, winning Super Bowl rings with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts.
He’s now retired and living in Odessa, Fla., just north of Tampa. He has a couple of business ventures going, plays a little golf and watches plenty of football on television.
“Mostly I’m just taking it easy,” McFarland said. “I’ve played football every year since I was 13. It’s time to take a break before deciding what my next move’s going to be.”
McFarland, 31, and his wife, Tammie, have a 1-year-old daughter, Alexis, and she keeps him on his toes.
“That’s part of it,” he said.
Plus, he knows all about keeping a parent on her toes. He got his famous nickname when he wasn’t much older than his daughter.
“I’ve had it since I was 2,” McFarland said. “My mom gave it to me. Just a bad kid, man … a bad kid.”
He was a bad man on the football field and really ahead of his time in college as a 300-pounder in the middle of the defensive line who was more than just a run-stuffer. McFarland finished his career ranked sixth in LSU history with 17 quarterback sacks.
“We didn’t have many 300-pounders when I came to LSU. Now, that’s all they got,” said McFarland, who was the SEC Freshman Co-Defensive Player of the year in 1995.
His fondest memories at LSU revolve around the group of players he came in with in 1995 and the way they were able to turn around things on the Bayou.
The Tigers had suffered through six straight losing seasons, but won seven games during McFarland’s freshman season, 10 his sophomore season and then nine his junior season before seeing it tail off that final season, which ended in a disappointing 4-7 record.
“I like to think we helped change the culture there,” McFarland said. “We just really bonded, guys like Kevin Faulk, Todd McClure, Herb Tyler and Larry Foster. LSU had lost more games than they’d won when we got there, but we turned it around.
“From 1995 until now, these last 15 years, I’d put our numbers up against anybody. When some guys look back on what they did in college, they think about plays and games. For me, it’s a little bigger than that.”
Still, it’s hard for McFarland not to remember the 28-21 win over No. 1-ranked Florida in 1997. He says that he can still hear that crowd.
“That was the first time in a couple of years that you’d seen Tiger Stadium come alive,” McFarland said. “I mean, it was rocking that night and has been ever since.”
McFarland said the best player he played against in college was a teammate.
“Nobody was better than (offensive guard) Alan Faneca,” McFarland said. “I know, too, because I had to go up against him every day in practice.”
As far as opposing players, McFarland said the late Brandon Burlsworth of Arkansas was one of his toughest matchups.
McFarland, inducted last year into the LSU Athletics Hall of Fame, still watches the Tigers every weekend on television. Having spent much of the last decade in the pros, he’s only been to three LSU games since he left college. He does plan to be in Tiger Stadium next weekend for the Florida game.
One of the reasons McFarland remains so popular with the fans is his radiant personality. He’s as approachable now as he was as a college freshman 15 years ago.
And, yes, he’s still the life of the party.
“Good players come a dime a dozen,” McFarland said. “Great players don’t come around all that often. But what differentiates you is how you treat people and how you associate with people. You tend to remember the people you can relate to, and I’ve always been an outgoing person.
“It’s not the destination that’s the most important thing. You’ve got to enjoy the journey.”