Hodson's favorite athlete of all time is the late LSU basketball legend Pete Maravich, though it was Billy Cannon's game-winning punt return on Halloween night of his Heisman Trophy season of 1959 that made LSU football a religion, of which Tommy is currently the high priest. The people of Louisiana like to worship. There are Catholic churches all along the bayous, and they still show Cannon's run on TV every Halloween. "He came into the locker room before the Ole Miss game," Tommy says of Cannon. "He said they were always tougher against LSU than against anybody else." Tommy has never lost to Ole Miss. He probably never will.
Though Hodson is only a junior, it seems as though he has been at the helm longer than Huey Long. Still, it's not the kind of position that comes without a price. Against Kentucky in the fifth game of the '86 season, Tommy took a shot under the chin and nearly bit his tongue in half. He was stitched up in the locker room and came back to the huddle. His teammates could hardly understand him. Hodson glared and said, "Lis-then clos-ther!" LSU won 25-16. Hodson was 16 of 24 for 255 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
By the time the Miami game rolls around on Nov. 19, Hodson's name will be on just about everyone's lips in Louisiana, and by the Tulane game the week after, the Tigers will know whether they'll be spending New Year's at the Sugar Bowl or settling, as they did last season, for one of the lesser holiday matchups. "It's going to depend on how the state does as a whole, if Louisiana can come back," says Raymond Jr. " Louisiana has been losing youth and brainpower to other places. We have to do something to keep them here, and the politicians have to bite the bullet."
The LSU quarterback has to bite the bullet too. If the Tigers make it to the Sugar Bowl despite that schedule, then anything could happen. Louisiana might even come back one day.
"Where's it been?" asks Tommy Hodson. Then he laughs. Nice touch.