LSU safety Eric Reid has seen plenty of Alabama in his lifetime. Growing up in Baton Rouge, La., he couldn't escape all that crimson every other year, and now as one of the veterans on the Tigers' football team, Saturday will mark his fourth game against Alabama in three years.
A ton is at stake for an LSU team that was once a national championship favorite. A win will put LSU back on that path. The LSU All-American safety took some time to chat with ESPN.com about this weekend, among other things.
Edward Aschoff: Last year, you guys split 1-1, but lost in the national championship to Alabama. Saturday, you have a chance to not only get back in the title hunt but you could ruin Alabama's run. Is that more motivation for you guys?
Eric Reid: Oh, yeah. We still control our own destiny so we have to go out there and fight hard. If we can come out with a win, then we'll put ourselves in great position to get to where we want to be in January. It's always great to be in a position to control your own destiny. We know that as long as we handle our business and do the things that we're capable of doing we'll still have a shot at the big one.
What's one moment that really sticks out to you in your mind about this game? Is it your interception in the first game last year?
ER: The moment for me was just coming out with the victory the first time we played them [last year]. That was a huge victory for us at that point in the season. It set the tone for the rest of our season last year. It's just unfortunate that we didn't win the one that counted at the end, but we get a new, fresh opportunity this year and we need to take advantage of that.
You guys have been the poster child for teams dealing through distractions, and now you enter the weekend as underdogs in your own stadium. Are you guys fine with mostly being counted out this weekend?
ER: We're fine with what people say, but you can't let that get in your head. You can't let the hype of the game distract you from your ultimate goal, and that's just playing football. At the end of the day, this is what we do and this is what we came to LSU to do -- play ball.
To do what you're doing on defense, considering the players you've lost from this unit, what does it say about both the talent and the character of this unit?
ER: We're obviously young in the secondary, and everybody knows that. Those guys have done a wonderful job of handling their business and learning fast. They've developed a lot and we're counting on those guys. We've definitely grown since the beginning of the season and we're definitely getting better. We try to get better every week and we need that to happen again for us.
When you realized you were going to have to be more of a leader for this team, did you change anything about the way you prepare or play?
ER: I didn't really have to change too much. I just lead by example and show the guys the right way to do things and hope that they follow. The only real major thing is I've become a little bit more vocal, as far as getting guys together when things are going the wrong way and trying to get people refocused. Other than that, I haven't changed too much. I'm honored to be a leader for these guys and I'll do anything to lead them in the right direction.
You get that interception against Auburn and then immediately fall to the grown afterward. Everyone thought it was a serious injury but then you got right back out there. Was that your Paul Pierce moment? Where was the wheelchair?
ER: I don't know. I couldn't breathe and when I got up I was so excited and realized I couldn't get a breath of air. It wasn't too serious, but it was a enough to put a guy down for a little bit. The guys made fun of me a little bit because the way I got up I was so excited and celebrating and then I went right down when I realized I couldn't breathe. I took a little bit of flack for that, but it's all good.
You've seen basically everything during your time at LSU and you've collected a handful of accolades. What has your ride at LSU been like for you?
ER: It's one I'll never forget. Growing up, you never forget the people that you've grown close to. These guys are really my family; I'll always remember them. I have memories that I'll have for the rest of my life. It's been an honor to be a part of this team. I don't take anything for granted. I've been blessed every day of my life and I live every day with that attitude.
And what do you think the atmosphere will be like Saturday?
ER: It's going to be crazy. It was crazy in Alabama last year and I expect it to be better in Death Valley. Our fans always come and get up for it and get loud when we need them to be. I imagine it'll be one like I've never seen before. This team responds to big games. Whenever the game is big, we play big.