NEW ORLEANS (AP) -Let's just say ``Big Fav'' is a big fan of the Big Easy.
So delighted is LSU defensive tackle Marlon Favorite to be playing for the national championship in his storm-battered but still vibrant hometown, he's written a rap song about it.
``It's in our home state, my home town,'' said Favorite, who goes by Big Fav when on stage with his rap group, Black Vynm. ``Last year, I was overwhelmed playing in my first Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. So now to play for the BCS national championship in the dome? I can't wait.''
When LSU takes on Ohio State on Jan. 7, Favorite will be one of more than a dozen players on the Tigers' roster from New Orleans or its immediate suburbs. Many more are from south Louisiana.
They grew up with a certain reverence for the Louisiana Superdome, home to the NFL's Saints, the Sugar Bowl and six Super Bowls.
During this decade, the Superdome, which is only about a 90-minute drive from Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, has become a sort of second home for LSU.
The Tigers completed their 2001 season with a Sugar Bowl victory over Illinois. Their 2003 season ended with triumph over Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, which that season also doubled as the BCS national championship game.
LSU returned to the Sugar Bowl last season in a lopsided victory over Notre Dame, then returned again to the Superdome this season for a ``road game'' against Tulane. Most of the fans in the dome wore LSU purple and gold when the Tigers defeated the Green Wave 34-9.
That result gave LSU a 4-0 record in the Superdome this decade. LSU hasn't lost a game in New Orleans since falling to Nebraska in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 1987.
Favorite grew up in the suburb of Harvey, across the Mississippi River from uptown New Orleans. Since Harvey is on the west bank of the river, Favorite has been known at times to form a 'W' with his fingers and blurt out, ``West Bank stand up!'' when he starts talking about where he grew up or performs on stage.
``The support that New Orleans gives to me on a personal note is great,'' said Favorite, a junior who made 16 solo tackles and assisted on 12 others in 10 games. ``I go home and everybody's happy to see me and just cheering me on and just wishing me luck and they show the same love to LSU. It's definitely an emotional feeling. It makes you want to play even harder. Now for LSU to be there for the first BCS national championship in New Orleans post-Katrina, man, it's going to definitely be a show.''
Favorite's part of town was spared flooding from Hurricane Katrina, though that hardly diminished his heartbreak when he saw television images of broken levees allowing massive Lake Pontchartrain to inundate wide swaths of the city.
Like many who call this place home, he worried about how long it would take before he could once again revel in the traditions he grew up with - things like Mardi Gras parades rolling past spectators drinking ``hand grenades'' along St. Charles Avenue, the Essence Music Festival, brass music emanating from second-line parades in old neighborhoods of colorful ``shotgun'' style homes and Saints games in the Superdome.
He recalled a feeling of wholeness upon seeing the Saints' first game back in the rebuilt dome against Atlanta in September 2006. He thought it was only fitting that his Tigers played in the first Sugar Bowl back in the city after Katrina displaced the storied bowl game to Atlanta for a year.
Increasingly, much of what Favorite always loved about New Orleans is blossoming again, and the nation will get a glimpse of that when the national championship game returns in a little more than a week, just as Three Kings Day (Jan. 6) kicks off Mardi Gras season.
``A lot of that came out in the lyrics in my song, the emotion I have for New Orleans,'' Favorite said, before offering the following sample:
Do the NO-LA clap, clap
NO-LA clap, clap
City was vacant
But now we're coming back, back
Second line, popping in the Sixth Ward
Hand grenade, walking down St. Charles on Mardi Gras
It's on
And for Essence
Our women be looking sexy
Be shining like diamond necklaces
You know you're flexing for real
While protecting with my city, my city
Stand up, put your hands up
We're in the city, you heard me?
Clap for my city, New Orleans.
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