LSU, Steve Franz, Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS — Steve Kragthorpe pondered the worst-case scenarios of continuing to coach at LSU after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
"What if I wake up the day of the SEC championship game and I can't coach?" he said Friday at BCS championship game media day.
That didn't happen and Kragthorpe has remained a vital part of the coaching staff for top-ranked LSU, which plays No. 2 Alabama on Monday in the BCS championship game at the Superdome.
It hasn't been easy for the 46-year-old Kragthorpe. He takes medication to treat the symptoms of his disease. He says the meds help him get through the day just fine, but when they start wearing off the stiffness and shaking in his left arm and leg come back.
Still, not only did the worst-case scenario never arise, Kragthorpe didn't miss a game. He had to give up his duties as offensive coordinator just weeks before the season started, but he remained on as the quarterbacks coach — and as an inspiration to the team.
"He's still heavily involved in the offense and he's a great coach," LSU offensive lineman T-Bob Hebert said. "Having coach Kragthorpe here has been one of the biggest blessings and additions to this season."
Kragthorpe was hired by coach Les Miles as offensive coordinator after last season, but after spring practice he started to feel that something was not quite right.
During a summer vacation, the fatigue and cramps in his extremities got worse.
"I figured something was going on neurological," he said. "I went online and came up with about 500 possibilities."
Kragthorpe went for testing in Dallas right before the start of preseason practice in August and was diagnosed with Parkinson's, a debilitating neurological disorder with no cure.
It was yet another blow to Kragthorpe and his family.
Not that long ago, Kragthorpe was thought of as a rising star in coaching. He was the head coach at Tulsa from 2003-06 and went 17-9 with three seasons of at least eight victories. In 2007, he was hired by Louisville to replace Bobby Petrino, but it just didn't work out. He went 15-21 and was fired after three seasons.
He was hired by Texas A&M as an assistant, but had to give up that position when his wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2010.
He decided to get back into coaching when LSU hired him last January, but he never got to do the job he was hired to do during the season.
Instead, just a few weeks before the season started with a huge game against Oregon, Miles had to shuffle his staff.
Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa, who had experience calling plays at Bowling Green, became the offensive coordinator.
"It was unbelievable the emotions that ran through me," he said about learning of Kragthorpe's diagnosis from Miles.
The transition could not have gone much better. Studrawa said all the offensive assistants helped pick up the slack.
"We have such a great offensive staff and such camaraderie as well," Kragthorpe said. "With our operation offensively, nothing really has changed."
As for Kragthorpe, he said he wouldn't rule out being a coordinator again. Or maybe even a head coach.
"Maybe. If that's what the good Lord wants us to do, we'll do that."
Being out of the spotlight and learning to manage his disease, he's found some peace — and hasn't lost his sense of humor.
"I'm happy right now. When the academic guy walks down the hall or the security guy walks down the hall, the AD walks down the hall, he goes by my door," he said. "I wave to them.
"I've got a good deal. I've got a great bunch of quarterbacks to coach and I don't have to deal with all that junk every day."
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
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