For Bennie Logan, getting to wear the No. 18 for his junior season at LSU amounts to an affirmation.
Not that he needed much more positive feedback for his play at defensive tackle. He is a pre-season All-SEC pick and many project him to be a first-round NFL draft pick after this season.
But getting to wear the No. 18 represents something more for Logan, a country kid from the small town of Coushatta, La., who was raised with a down-home work ethic.
"To me, it's the coaches, faculty, my teammates all recognizing the hard work I do," Logan said. "It feels good that the hard work pays off."
The No. 18 has become a quirky tradition at LSU. It started when quarterback Matt Mauck wore No. 18 in LSU's 2003 national championship season. After his departure, he passed it to fullback Jacob Hester. It then went to tight end Richard Dickson, running back Richard Murphy, then last year, to safety Brandon Taylor.
The symbolic passing down of the number to a player deemed "deserving" has turned into a tradition. Head coach Les Miles said the honoree is picked through a process with feedback from players, coaches and support staff.
The number is worn almost like a captain's "C" on the jersey of a hockey uniform. Although not technically a captain, LSU's No. 18 earns the right to wear the number because of work ethic and leadership skills he exhibits.
"He's really defined himself by effort, and energy and want, and constantly done things the right way," Miles said. "He improved annually and daily."
Logan became the first defensive lineman to get to wear the number after the previous No. 18s were all backs or receivers.
"I was a little surprised for 18 to go to a big linemen," said Logan, No. 93 last season.
Given the qualities needed to get the honor, his teammates were not surprised.
"He's a hard-working guy," defensive end Barkevious Mingo said. "He showed all last year that he has that motor. He motivates his team. He's a leader. He does everything right that needs to be done. He's just a good player, a good guy."
Mingo said Logan won't have to change a bit to live up to the standards of No. 18.
"Keep being the same Bennie and he's fine," Mingo said. "The only thing that comes with that number is more of a leadership role. He's shown that since he's been here. So it's nothing different that he needs to do."
Logan's leadership is not something that is obvious externally. On a team with a lot of strong personalities, Logan can come across to the public as quiet and unassuming. While he is one of four Tigers defenders who are on many pre-season All-American teams, he's probably the one least talked about.
His play is similarly lost in the shuffle. At tackle, he lined up next to Michael Brockers, who became a first-round NFL draft pick after the season. His 57 tackles, 6.5 for loss, did not necessarily reflect the way he could control the middle of the line while Montgomery or Tyrann Mathieu were making the plays.
"I think Bennie was overshadowed a little bit last year," defensive coordinator John Chavis said. "But Bennie played outstanding football for us last year."
In that regard, he's similar to last year's No. 18, Taylor, who was a somewhat unheralded member of the secondary, but eventually wound up as a third-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers. Similarly, Logan could be headed toward an NFL future with relatively little fanfare.
Even on his own defensive line, he is surrounded by stars more likely to gain media attention. Montgomery and Mingo will likely pile up sacks and attention at defensive end. Next to him, all eyes will be on the development of sophomore Anthony Johnson, one of the most coveted players coming out of the Class of 2011.
While fans will watch them, all three said they will look to Logan for leadership. And Logan will deliver because it's who he is.
A week after camp started, Miles was asked how Logan was handling being No. 18. Doing great, Miles said.
Has anything changed about him?
No, Miles said, "he's just being the same Bennie."