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John Battle Has Seen it All

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Impression in place, the next few months will soon bring everything into focus for John Battle.

Just learning from different guys such as Jamal Adams, who was my roommate, Tre'Davious White, Rickey Jefferson...the list could go on and on, just taking different tools from those guys and implementing them into my game.
~John Battle

John Battle is everything you look for in a safety. Standing 6'2'', 206 pounds, he is an athletic, instinctive defender with the production to back up his potential. In high school, Battle developed his skills on the legendary fields of south Florida. Those talents, with Battle as a rare three-year starter, have been on display in the professional training grounds of the SEC. Fresh off the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, Battle is one of the next-in-line for an LSU program where defensive back play is its own institution. His snapshot has long been the status quo.

In many ways, Battle is the prototype. There is even more there than meets the eye.

The resume speaks for itself. Battle started 28 games at LSU, finishing his career with 144 total tackles and five interceptions. In Battle's three seasons atop the depth chart, the Tigers ranked fourth, ninth and 14th nationally in opponent passer rating. He finished his career with a Fiesta Bowl triumph over undefeated Central Florida, ending the nation's longest winning streak at 25. Battle leaves Baton Rouge with a notable legacy, a degree in sports administration and a bright future ahead.  

In terms of his bio, the LSU experience is a big part of who Battle is. As he moves forward, Battle will take much of what he learned with the Tigers with him. Battle improved his game from both those he learned under, like coordinator Dave Aranda and defensive backs coach Corey Raymond, and those he competed with. One of Battle's former roommates was named second-team NFL All-Pro and recently awarded the Pro Bowl Defensive MVP award. 

"I enjoyed all of my time at LSU," he reflected. "Just learning from different guys such as Jamal Adams, who was my roommate, Tre'Davious White, Rickey Jefferson...the list could go on and on, just taking different tools from those guys and implementing them into my game."

Even playing in college football's premier conference, sometimes the toughest challenge Battle faced was in practice.

"We always had a competition going on, whether, you know, who had the most picks in a game or who had the most tackles, so there was always a slight competition going on with me and Jamal," Battle recalled. "We always battled who was going to be high and who was going to be low, we kind of had little fights on the field, but it was all love."

The secondary lineage, down on the bayou, is arguably second-to-none. Searching for a path to follow, Battle doesn't have to look far. In addition to aforementioned stars Adams, Jefferson and White, former Tiger greats at the next level include Donte Jackson, All-Pro Tyrann Mathieu, three-time All-Pro Patrick Peterson, Pro Bowler Eric Reid, Rashard Robinson and Kevin Tolliver II. Battle is one of a handful of LSU defensive backs expected to be selected in this spring's NFL Draft, All-American cornerback Greedy Williams included. 

"Oh, absolutely, one hundred percent, absolutely," Battle responded as to if his alma mater was the real "DBU".

Like some of the names before him, versatility is a strength for Battle. Saying he likes to compare himself to Malcolm Jenkins, Battle has excelled at downfield coverage, playing both near the line of scrimmage and defending one-on-one in the slot. Man-to-man situations were a regular part of Battle's college responsibilities. He, playing an important position on LSU's defense, has done and seen it all.    

In Battle's last true college game, the Fiesta Bowl victory over UCF, roster attrition forced him into multiple roles on the fly. Battle promptly lined up all over the field, helping to hold the Golden Knights to 250 total yards and just 120 yards through the air on 12-of-31 passing. It was a potentially-fitting finish for a player whose multi-faceted skill set could prove especially-valuable to professional teams.  

Participating in the NFLPA Bowl, Battle's first steps towards the next level followed in the footsteps of one of the game's all-time greats. 

"Oh man, I had a great time out in L.A., just being out with the group of guys and some legendary coaches. We had Ed Reed as our defensive back coach, it was just awesome getting tools from him," Battle shared. "Watching him growing up as a little kid and just seeing him in person for the first time was pretty cool."

Opportunities, for Battle, are made the most of. A savvy player, Battle doesn't just process what he sees, he saves it. Battle, during his time as a student-athlete at LSU, developed a passion and propensity for photography. It's a correlative interest, given Battle's framing on the field. More than a hobby, the football standout has worked as a member of the media at various Tiger sporting events, with a number of his photos being published on LSUSports.net, the school's official athletics website.          

The full scope of the comprehensive role of being a student-athlete helped foster Battle's other passions. 

"We got a Best Buy gift card at the Citrus Bowl and most of my teammates were walking out with head phones and video games and I was like 'man, I'm going to do something different', so I decided to pick up a camera," he recalled. "I took a couple of shots practicing with some of my teammates and I got with some of our student photographers and they taught me some tools. I took off from there. Pretty much all the sports around campus I shot, so it's something that I enjoy doing off the field, taking my mind away from football, something I can just do to relax and I enjoy it."

For all of the games he covered, Battle will always remember the ones he played in. Those pictures will never fade.

"It's really unexplainable, just running out in front of 102,000 screaming ragin' Cajuns. You see the fireworks happen, then you look up and see the screaming fans, you have the cheerleaders, the coaching staff there, your family in the stands...it's something I'll always remember," Battle reflected. "It's been fun, its been a pleasure, I'm happy that I can say that I represent this university."

Possibilities that await are ones that Battle has planned for and thought about for years. Long before LSU and even the bright lights of high school football, where Battle emerged as a top-level prospect, he imagined himself on the big stage. Battle, while young, used to go over the details of the draft process, a transition he is now set to go through. With that perspective, Battle is ready for his chance.  

Impression in place, the next few months will soon bring everything into focus. As the future clears, this is Battle's Polaroid. 

"It's going to mean the world to me. It's something that I have been dreaming about since I was six years old, when I started first playing football," he concluded. "I kind of did some rehearsals when I was little, just picturing myself getting that phone call, being able to shake Roger Goodell's hand or whoever the commissioner is at the time. It's something I've been dreaming about for forever and to finally be able to work towards it is fulfilling."

Ahead of the upcoming NFL Draft, John Battle's profile is quite impressive. Correspondingly, he probably took it.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports