One of the few good things about the Curley Hallman era at LSU is that it made you appreciate truly great players, because those players were so rare. It’s easy to play hard and give it all for a great team like the current Tigers, because if you sacrifice your individual goals, you really will likely accomplish those team goals. Not so back in the dark days of this program.
That’s part of what made Gabe Northern so special. He played hard every single down of every single game, giving it all for a program, frankly, that didn’t seem to be going anywhere. We can fawn over the highlights of our current defense, but the measuring stick is still Northern hitting Stephen Davis so hard that Davis’ helmet popped off a rolled down field.
Northern’s name still sits near the top of the LSU record book. He’s in the top ten in most sacks in a season (twice actually) and holds the LSU record for most tackles for a loss in a season with 23. Northern was a vicious player who hit with such force and violence, you thought his victim would never get up.
Yet off the field, Gabe Northern refused to be defined as a man of violence. He made his name by hitting people, and getting cheered for it. He’d later get paid for it. But violence does not make a man. Gabe Northern knew that and used his high profile to redefine masculinity on campus.
Gabe Northern isn’t just a member of the SEC’s 1990’s All-Decade Team. More importantly, he is one of the founding members of LSU’s Men Against Violence club. Men Against Violence sponsors the annual Take Back the Night vigil on LSU’s campus, living on long past Northern left campus.
MAV stands up to speak out against violence perpetrated by men, particularly violence against women. The group’s goals are to (1) promote awareness about the prevalence and causes of violence on campus; (2) engage in community action to reduce violence on campus through policy revision and cultural change; (3) educate others on how to prevent violence; and (4) provide intervention and support for survivors of violence.
He didn’t just leave a football legacy at LSU, Northern left behind an organization devoted to making LSU a better place. He used his celebrity not to see what he could get out of the world, but how he could improve it.
Gabe Northern made his name at LSU through the controlled violence of football. But he refused to let violence define him as a person. He graduated not only as one of the all-time Tiger greats on the field, owning his share of LSU records, but as a man who made LSU a better place.
That, my friends, is a legacy to be proud of.