published Saturday, January 7th, 2012

Kragthorpe keeps working despite illness

NEW ORLEANS -- Monday night's outcome between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama will have no bearing on Steve Kragthorpe's admirable season.

Kragthorpe was hired last January by Tigers coach Les Miles as the offensive coordinator but never got to call a play. The 46-year-old announced in August that he had Parkinson's disease, which resulted in him remaining on staff as quarterbacks coach but shifting the play-calling chores to line coach Greg Studrawa.

Five months later, Kragthorpe has yet to miss a day on the job.

"It's the way I'm programmed," he said Friday. "You just fight through it. What helps me is that I'm used to being tired and I'm used to working a lot of hours, and I'm used to being in the position where I don't feel good. Some days I feel a little worse, but you just get up and go.

"When I get to work, I start feeling better as the day progresses because I'm stimulated. If I just laid in bed, it wouldn't be a good situation."

The medicine Kragthorpe has taken so far has worked pretty well, but he admits he's had very little time to study up on the brain disorder that leads to tremors and coordination problems. He could have tried some other medicines late in the regular season but didn't want to alter his routine in any way, and the same goes through Monday night.

His life is a week-to-week process, which is the same message he and the other LSU's coaches stress to their players.

"There are a lot of encouraging things out there with stem-cell research," said Kragthorpe, whose wife has multiple sclerosis. "There is a lot of cool stuff. It's interesting, though, because the three worst days I've had this season were when we got time off for Christmas, because I wasn't active and my mind wasn't active."

Said Studrawa: "It's late at night and you're wanting to go home, and then you look over and he's still studying film. He's amazing."

Kragthorpe became a head coach at 38 when he was hired by Tulsa, where he went 29-22 from 2003 to '06. He led the Golden Hurricane to three bowls but could not duplicate that success in 2007-09 at Louisville, going 15-21.

Studrawa had called plays for Bowling Green before coming to LSU as line coach in '07, but that didn't lessen the blow of Kragthorpe's announcement.

"The key piece was that Steve said he wanted to coach," Miles said. "He said, 'I want to do this. I want to coach for the next 10 years and get after it.' And I was like, 'Are you kidding me?'

"He was not certain he would be able to handle the responsibility of coordinating, but he still wanted to coach."

When Studrawa became the play-caller, he moved from the field to the coaching booth. His game-day responsibilities with the line were shared by tight ends coach Steve Ensminger and senior guard Josh Dworaczyk, who had suffered a season-ending knee injury.

The Tigers have made it all work, going 13-0 with 12 victories by double digits, and each win has been medicine for Kragthorpe.

"It's been a lot of fun," he said. "I woke up after the Georgia game at about 3 in the morning and was like, 'I'm either dreaming, or we just won 13 straight games.' It's a pretty neat deal being a part of this program."

Kragthorpe does not know what the next few months will hold regarding his condition, but he is not planning on this being his one and only year with the Tigers.

"I'm definitely coming back, no doubt about it," he said. "I think we've got a great team coming back, and I can see myself doing this for another eight to 10 years. I'm not going to be Bobby Bowden, I can promise you that, but I enjoy working for Les. We have a great staff, and my family really likes living in Louisiana."

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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