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LSU assistant Steve Kragthorpe gets boost from family ties

Wednesday August 08, 2012

Jim Kleinpeter

The Times Picayune - aton Rouge - A Parkinson's disease diagnosis rocked LSU quarterback coach Steve Kragthorpe's world a year ago. He reached out and steadied himself by staying immersed in the profession he loves. The support has grown stronger since and Kragthorpe says he feels fine moving into his second year of his battle with the condition.

"It's going well; I feel good," said Kragthorpe, still young-looking at 47. "Training camp has long days, so everybody's a little bit tired right now but for me the most refreshing part of my life is getting to go out on the football field and escape what would be a monotonous day that some people might have.

"To get out there with the players and have fun with those guys, coach them, be in the meeting room. . . it stimulates me. It's my best medicine."

Kragthorpe and his wife Cynthia, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, got a big jolt of another kind of medicine when two of their three sons rejoined the family. First, oldest son Chris applied for and accepted a graduate assistant coaching job with the LSU defense, and second son Brad transferred in from Idaho State.

The two brothers reunited with the youngest Kragthorpe, Nick, a quarterback for University High, bringing the family together for the first time in six years.

"It's not something I'm used to yet, having my dad as my position coach, but I like it a lot having him in the meeting room," said Brad Kragthorpe, a redshirt freshman.

"We came back because of Mom and Dad's illnesses. It was tough being so far away. My mom came to see me but I only got to see my dad one time last year. I felt I could come back here and help both of them out."

Brad Kragthorpe gave up a chance to be the No. 2 quarterback at Idaho State for having little chance to play as a walk-on with four scholarship players ahead of him. But now the elder Kragthorpe can walk into the LSU football operations building and see two of his children. The third is five minutes away at high school.

On Saturday night Cynthia can attend the game for three of them at one location. They can all get together for Nick's games on Friday night.

Only a few months after being hired as offensive coordinator last year, Kragthorpe began to notice unusual fatigue, body aches, and then tremors that started in his left ring finger and moved on to his hand and arm. This came after he had sat out the previous season from coaching to support Cynthia's battle with MS.

When he was diagnosed with Parkinson's, he went to LSU Coach Les Miles. The decision was made to relieve Kragthorpe of play-calling duties and promote offensive line coach Greg Studrawa to offensive coordinator. The Tigers went on to field a dominating team with an efficient offense as Kragthorpe helped Jarrett Lee to his best season and helped Jordan Jefferson improve.

Studrawa said Kragthorpe has made similar progress with all of the quarterbacks on the roster because of his emphasis on fundamentals.

"As far as I'm concerned, that's what football is all about," Studrawa said. "Teaching technique so when they go out there they've got the tool belt and they use the tools to do their job. Fundamental drops, arm angle when they throw it deep, arm angle when it's a quick throw. . . all those little things.

"I've never been around a more fundamental teacher. When you pay that kind of attention to a quarterback it lifts their game to another level. It's a joy to work with him."

Kragthorpe said the success couldn't have been possible without a collegial atmosphere within the coaching staff. Although he doesn't call the plays, Kragthorpe sits next to Studrawa in the press box and has his ear with suggestions.

"I feel very comfortable in the situation I'm in," he said. "I really enjoy coaching the quarterbacks. We got a great offensive staff with no egos in the room. It's a fun place to work. Fun part about it is we've got great guys to work with every day.

Kragthorpe said his prognosis for the future continues to be positive because of the frequent advances in the medical field and the fact he's gone public keeps him in the know. He said he and his doctors have done some tweaking with the medication and trying some different combinations.

His move to Baton Rouge has been a blessing he said because of the reception his family has gotten. That's part of the source of strength as he has to work the long hours required of college football coaches.

"We're very happy here," he said. "It's been a great place to live, a very welcoming community. We have great neighbors and great friends. It's been a really good transition.

"I want to keep doing this, I enjoy doing it. As long as the good Lord allows me to do this I'll continue to do it."

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