By GLENN GUILBEAU
Tiger Rag Featured Columnist
During LSU’s 1987 football season, Warner Bros. filmed a movie called "Everybody’s All-American” on the LSU campus and throughout Baton Rouge starring Dennis Quaid as star tailback Gavin Grey at the fictional University of Louisiana.
When Quaid broke his collarbone on a tackle by former New England safety Tim Fox, filming had to be stopped for weeks.
Little did director Taylor Hackford know that there was another matinée idol in his midst – LSU quarterback Tommy Hodson, who probably would have tried to snap the collarbone back in. He played with a concussion at Georgia, a sprained knee against Alabama and with three stitches in his lip and a concussion at Kentucky.
"Tommy had movie star looks, and he was one of the toughest guys playing the game,” said former LSU left guard Ruffin Rodrigue, who roomed with Hodson from 1985 through 1989. "So many girls would call him – girls from all over the SEC. I was basically his answering machine. Then he met Andree, and that was it.”
Andree "Andy” Verzwyvelt, a former track star at Slidell High, was an LSU student and would become LSU’s homecoming queen in 1987 and later Mrs. Tommy Hodson. They have twin daughters at LSU now.
"There were always a lot of people wanting to hang around with Tommy,” said Rodrigue, who runs Ruffino’s Restaurant in Baton Rouge. Hodson always stuck with his bayou buddies – Rodrigue and the late Eric Andolsek, both of Thibodaux.
"He was always such a humble guy,” Rodrigue said. "He started as a redshirt freshman, but there was never any arrogance. Just a natural leader with a great understanding of the game. He just put us on his back so many times.”
As a redshirt out of Central Lafourche High in Mathews, Hodson was named first team All-Southeastern Conference in 1986 and again in ‘87. A Hodson Heisman poster and campaign opened the 1988 season.
"I got a full understanding of his popularity at LSU Fan Day that year,” former LSU sports information director Herb Vincent said. "He stayed and signed autographs long after the other players and coaches left Tiger Stadium. He was always such an unassuming person.”
The Tigers finished as one of the best teams in LSU history in 1987 at 10-1-1. The only loss happened when Hodson could not put the team on his back. A sprained knee kept him sidelined when No. 5 LSU (7-0-1, 4-0 SEC) hosted No. 13 Alabama (6-2, 3-1 SEC).
Hodson limped on for an unscheduled, Hollywood entrance in the final minutes with LSU trailing 16-10, but he threw an interception and the Tide won 22-10.
A healthier Hodson had one of his best games against the so-called "Black Death” defense of South Carolina in the Gator Bowl that season. He completed 20-of-32 for 224 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-13 win.
"Wendell Davis just kept getting open,” Hodson said. "The line did a great job. If not for that other game, I’d most remember the Gator Bowl.”
That "other game” featured an Earthquake on Oct. 8, 1988.
"It was such a terrible game until the fourth quarter,” Hodson said. "Just miserable. I wasn’t having my best game or season.”
But he finished. No. 4 Auburn (4-0, 2-0 SEC) led LSU (2-2, 1-1 SEC), 6-0, with6:07to play and LSU on its 25.
"I remember Tommy just absolutely being gassed because he was running for his life all night,” Rodrigue said. "Auburn had one of the best defenses ever, and it was so humid that night. But Tommy had so much confidence.”
On fourth and nine from Auburn’s 20, Hodson found tight end Willie Williams for nine. Then it was fourth and 10 from the Auburn 11 with1:47to play. Hodson hit tailback Eddie Fuller over the middle deep in the end zone for the touchdown. At1:41, an earthquake registered on a seismograph in the LSU Geology department caused by the crowd noise. LSU won 7-6.
LSU went on to finish 8-4, winning its second SEC championship in three seasons behind Hodson. No LSU quarterback has done that since.
Statistically, Hodson had his best season in 1989 (183-of-317, 2,655 yards, 22 TDs, 12 INTs, 143.4 efficiency), but LSU fell to 4-7. Hodson was drafted in the third round by New England, but never kept the starting job. He moved on to backup roles with Miami, Dallas and New Orleans.
His NFL career did not register on any seismograph, but he proved he still had some magic.
In his last season in 1995, Hodson was holding on kicks for the Saints. After a touchdown put the Saints up 9-7 at San Francisco, a snap went over his head. He fielded it and calmly tossed a two-point conversion score for the 11-7 final.
"It wasn’t how I imagined throwing a touchdown for the Saints as a kid,” he said. "But it was good.”
Hodson settled in Baton Rouge, site of his greatest victories. He has worked as a stock broker and insurance agent and now represents a utility manufacturer.
"I always thought about being a coach,” Hodson said. "I probably should’ve gotten into it. But I decided I wanted a normal life.”
And he wanted that in Louisiana.
"I’m just like you and you and you,” Hodson said at a press conference prior to his induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame last summer. "I’m just as average, as plain as you can get. I’m just a regular Joe, and I’m here, so it’s kind of shocking.
"This is great. I was born and raised here. I was a Lockport Junior High Pirate. I played at Central Lafourche. I played at LSU. I played for the Saints. And I live in Baton Rouge. So I’m Louisiana through and through. I belong in Louisiana.”