Former LSU standout and current San Francisco 49ers’ defensive tackle Rickey Jean-Francois. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, January 31, 2013 9:31 AM
NEW ORLEANS — Ricky Jean-Francois, the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive tackle, was alternately reminiscing and cutting up on the Superdome floor when teammate Larry Grant trotted by.
“Hey, Larry! Larry! You should have been over here on this sideline, huh? You remember this sideline?”
Grant waved him off, and kept trotting. He’d heard it all before.
“Yeah, you remember,” Jean-Francois shouted one last time. “Don’t go running away on me now. You remember.”
Grant disappeared into the throng at Tuesday’s Super Bowl media day. Jean-Francois kept right on chuckling.
He was standing roughly on the same sideline that he and his LSU team were assigned to on Jan. 7, 2008, when the Tigers won the BCS national championship.
Grant, a linebacker, probably hadn’t forgotten, but Jean-Francois was reminding him anyway that Grant had the misfortune to be on the other sideline, the Ohio State side, that night when the Tigers tore up the Buckeyes 38-24.
Jean-Francois remembered the afterglow of that BCS victory, how he was halfway up into the stands to celebrate with his family when an LSU official retrieved him and brought him back down to the field.
His presence was needed at the awards presentation — to pick up the game’s defensive MVP trophy.
“I figured Glenn Dorsey had won it,” Jean-Francois said.
No. Jean-Francois had six tackles in that game, including a sack, and his second-quarter blocked field goal was probably the key play in LSU roaring back from an early 10-0 deficit.
“Happy memories here, no question,” he said. “Now, we’ve just got to do it again.”
Until Sunday, however, he’ll keep reminding his four 49er teammates from Ohio State — tackle Alex Boone was also a Buckeye starter that night, while wide receiver Ted Ginn and safety Donte Whitner were already OSU alums — about a previous trip to New Orleans.
Jean-Francois, always a chatty behemoth, pleads guilty to being an insufferable ex-Tiger.
The 49ers also have former Tiger safety Curtis Taylor on their practice squad, but Taylor isn’t as prone to taunting as Jean-Francois.
“Last year, when LSU was making that undefeated run, I wasn’t a very popular guy in the (49ers) locker room. I’m telling them, ‘Watch, now, this is the way you play defense.’ Oh, yeah, I was letting ‘em have it.”
Fortunately for Jean-Francois, the 49ers contain no Alabama players.
But he’s also not shy about reminding the 49ers that the SEC is well represented on the team’s defense — mostly star linebacker Patrick Willis (Ole Miss) but also defensive end Ray McDonald (Florida) and cornerback Chris Culliver (South Carolina).
“The SEC has the best players, you’d figure they’d be in the Super Bowl,” he said. “Look at all the national championships ...”
Jackson and Boone probably didn’t want to hear about it. They — along with Ginn — were also on the Ohio State team that lost to Florida in the BCS Championship the year before.
But Sunday Jean-Francois can make it two-for-two in ultimate championships played in the Superdome.
The similarities are there.
The 49ers are quartered in the same hotel, the Marriott on Canal Street, that LSU used when the Tigers played Ohio State.
In fact, some painfully trivial research has uncovered that the last eight winners of bowl games in the Superdome have all stayed in that same hotel (including Alabama last year for the BCS title game, when LSU was at the Riverfront Hilton, where the Ravens reside this week).
“I don’t know if that means anything,” Jean-Francois said. “But it can’t hurt.
“Same stadium as (the BCS game), same hotel, we’re using the same meeting rooms in the hotel. I like it.”
In fact, Jean-Francois knows little of New Orleans, the city that has been so good to him.
He grew up in Miami, but his family came from Haiti, where many relatives still live.
So, if you subscribe to such chicanery, maybe he’s got the whole Haiti-New Orleans voodoo thing going for him.
Just don’t ask him to be the tour guide for his fellow Niners.
“I almost got lost looking for the French Quarter,” he admitted, even though that familiar team hotel is basically on the edge of it. “Actually, I was looking for Jackson Square. I was walking around lost like a tourist.”
It probably won’t happen again. Jean-Francois, who said he never came to New Orleans while at LSU other than for games, is taking the same approach to Bourbon Street for this week that he took with the LSU BCS trip — don’t even approach it.
“I don’t think I ever left the hotel that room that week,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to stick with this week.
“The only distraction you should have is looking at that Super Bowl trophy.” • • •
• • •Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org