LSU's Whitworth knows how to handle pain
Tuesday, 09/06, 7:15 p.m.
By Jim Kleinpeter
BATON ROUGE – When it comes to handling pain, LSU’s Andrew Whitworth has few equals.
The 6-foot-7, 325-pound senior offensive tackle is right in the mix when several other 300-pound plus bodies collide, then collapse in a heap, with him often on the bottom. There are blindside hits, players rolling up the back of his legs and a constant steady pounding of bodies. Still, he hasn’t missed a starting assignment or a practice in four years, and once the Tigers' season does start he will be on a quest to become the first Tiger to play in 50 games.
But Whitworth, like all Louisianans, is suffering a different type of pain these days, one shared by people throughout the state, the region and the nation. Dislocated fingers and turf burns the size of bumper stickers are nothing compared to the pain in his gut right now from watching Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath. He will be carrying that pain Saturday when the No. 5-ranked Tigers play Arizona State (1-0) in what has become LSU's season opener.
“(It’s) definitely (a pain like no other), it affects you so closely,” Whitworth said. “All the guys on the team, to hear a guy say he hasn’t been able to talk to his mom in two days or he can’t get ahold of his brothers or sisters, it affects you everywhere.
“It’s a completely different feeling. It’s your homeland that was torn up, something you represent day in day out. Your first reaction is sadness and anger and a lot of guys were worried. It’s hard to watch the TV.”
Just as he pulls on his uniform for every practice and game - 39 consecutively – Whitworth has faced his own pain head on. Like many of the Tigers, he was out volunteering his time last week, visiting with refugees, playing with their children and packing an 18-wheeler full of supplies. With a game looming this week, he feels extremely partial to carrying the banner for the state and its people.
“We’ve got to go out there and put this on our backs and give these people something to be proud of,” he said. “I think there’s no doubt that a lot of people from this area, a lot of people from this state, follow college football and follow LSU most importantly and I think there’s no way we can say that we’re not going out there with this on our minds, and this being an inspiration for us to have a chance to make this state proud of something. From all of the people I’ve talked to that have been through this they can’t wait for some sense of normalcy.”
There’s been nothing normal about Whitworth’s durability, but maybe there is something in the water at West Monroe. That’s where Whitworth and former Tiger teammate Rodney Reed both starred. Reed finished his career with a school record 48 straight starts. Between the competition for playing time, injuries and early entry into the NFL, that’s a stratospheric number, one Whitworth will break if he starts every game this season.
The closest he came to missing a start was at Ole Miss in 2003 in one of the mot important games that national championship season. With the SEC West Division title at stake, Whitworth got food poisoning the night before the game and needed intravenous fluids right before the game and at halftime. But he played every snap of LSU’s 17-14 victory.
Whitworth said he’s not sure what the secret is.
“That’s always been me,” he said. “I want to practice and play and be out there. I’m stubborn, whether it’s good or bad I don’t like to ever admit being defeated. That’s my style. I’ve been blessed with good luck.”
Said defensive tackle Kyle Williams: “I hate to say luck because the guy has been so durable. He’s so tough, he’s been able to play through pain and a lot of things guys wouldn’t be able to. Food poisoning, dislocated fingers, it all mounts up. Everybody gets those over the course of four years. The guys who are able to start 39 games in a row are the guys able to turn away from that and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got a football game to play and we’re not as good when I’m not in there.’ Andrew has done that. His toughness has been unbelievable.”