The primary role of a typical running back is simple: Move the ball forward.
Whether the offense is poised to score one yard away from its opponent’s end zone or in danger of a safety one yard away from its own, a typical running back is tasked with taking the ball as far past the line of scrimmage as possible.
Terrence Magee is not a typical running back. He’s more than that. The No. 18 on his jersey says so.
“If none of us could play quarterback, he could go in and play quarterback,” said freshman quarterback Brandon Harris. “He’s the most intelligent, has the highest football IQ I’ve ever been around as a running back. He knows where everybody is supposed to go.”
Magee has not only the intelligence of a quarterback, but also the quiet leadership qualities of one, a sentiment echoed by his teammates when they chose him to wear No. 18 this season. The jersey is awarded to the player who best exemplifies how an LSU football player should conduct himself both on and off the field.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be chosen to wear No. 18,” Magee said. “I had a lot of guys in front of me that I’ve seen wear it and represent the number right, and they set a good foundation for me and showed me how to wear the No. 18.”
Among these former Tigers to don the revered number are linebacker Lamin Barrow; Magee’s fellow Franklinton, La., native, safety Brandon Taylor; and quarterback Matt Mauck, who began the tradition when he handed the jersey down to fullback Jacob Hester.
A year ago, Magee probably never would have dreamed of receiving the honor.
His LSU career started with promise as he carried the ball 27 times for 133 yards and scored a touchdown in five games in his freshman campaign. But he virtually disappeared a year later because of a failed experiment that placed the then 5-foot-9, 212-pound sophomore at wide receiver, where he caught one pass for seven yards.
Magee finally had his coming out party in the third quarter of LSU’s 2013 season opener against TCU, when he used his speed to break off a 52-yard touchdown run to give the Tigers a 13-point lead.
After TCU responded with a touchdown of their own, he then staked his claim as a primary threat on the ground next drive when he received five touches and eventually carried the ball into the end zone once again to give LSU a 30-17 lead it would not relinquish.
“I was just happy that I finally got a chance to contribute to the team,” Magee said. “It was a good feeling, but at the same time, I still had some work to do after the TCU game.”
And work he did. As running back Jeremy Hill returned from suspension, Magee could have easily faded away, but he continued to make improvements, and it paid off both for him and the Tigers as he reemerged with big performances in LSU’s last two Southeastern Conference games of the season.
On a rainy day against Texas A&M, he single-handedly put together a five-play, 71-yard drive for the first touchdown of the game. He would finish the day with 149 yards on 13 attempts for an average of 11.5 yards per carry.
A week later, he allowed LSU’s passing game to warm up as he posted a 29-yard touchdown run on LSU’s first drive of the game and another from 23 yards out on its second.
Magee would finish the season with 626 yards, eight touchdowns and a team-leading 7.28 yards per carry.
A typical running back would be happy with these numbers, especially considering the only running back to outperform him last season has moved on to the NFL.
But again, Magee is not a typical running back, and the No. 18 on his jersey means he prides himself not just on his performance on the field, but off it as well.
“No. 18 is a leader on the team,” Magee said. “He has to be a guy who leads by example as well as a vocal leader on and off the field. You have to do everything in right in the classroom and be accountable for everything and everybody else on the team.”