Belton

Jon Randall Belton sits in the locker room with the LSU football team before the Tigers take the field. (Photo by Chris Parent)

Jon Randall Belton remembers getting his first letter from LSU when he was a coveted prospect at West Monroe High School. Now he’s directing a recruiting department that connects recruits with the university. Funny how life works sometimes, eh?

It’s no laughing matter for Belton, though. This wasn’t an easy promotion to go from injured high school football player to spending Saturday nights in the fall in Death Valley. He grinded his way onto LSU’s football staff as the new Director of Recruiting, and the early parts of his journey featured far more lows than highs.

“I’ll say this — everything that happened and does happen is always for a reason,” Belton said. “My mom pointed out to me that I used to get these letters for LSU and now I’m giving them out. That made me realize even more that God knew what he was doing. I tell my story to a lot of recruits. ‘What’s for you after football?’ My career was limited, but now I’m still in football and able to further my career just in a different way.”

Any recruit willing to listen to Belton’s story should be inspired about a former 3-star quarterback experiencing the lows of three season-ending injuries. While at West Monroe, Belton rehabbed and rebounded from two ACL surgeries before suffering a gruesome broken fibula his senior year. The 6’3”, 230-pound quarterback was assisted to the locker room after suffering a third-consecutive season-ending injury.

“That was just as bad mentally as it was physically,” Belton said. “You had surgery and you’re just in your bed by yourself for multiple weeks, taking wash-off baths. It’s just a lot of time to think for yourself, which isn’t always good after an injury like that. I had my family around me, and some of my friends and position coach at the time, Coach (Todd) Garvin. I think I got even closer to God in that moment. I still think about that to this day. That’s also why I like recruiting so much. I like helping high school kids.”

Garvin, who is now the head coach for Ouachita, still talks with Belton roughly once a month. They even bounce ideas off of each other, and Belton got to host Garvin and some Lions on a tour through the facility not too long ago. Garvin recently started a tradition where incoming ninth graders and parents sign waivers/letters of intent to enroll at Ouachita to celebrate the arrival of the next class. It’s an idea he actually crafted with the help of Belton. The former player and position coach bonded over a unique circumstance years ago and have been tight ever since.

“I haven’t had another player in my 15-year coaching career experience injuries like that,” Garvin said. “We always knew he had the talent to be a premier athlete in Louisiana, but being in his corner during those tough times, that’s where our relationship grew.”

After all of Belton’s misfortune, Louisiana Tech honored the former Rebel’s commitment in 2016, and that’s where Belton’s post football career actually began. Former Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz and former offensive coordinator Joe Sloan, who is now with Belton at LSU as the Tigers quarterbacks coach, approached Belton about helping with the Bulldogs recruiting as an intern in 2019.

“I just kind of put my flavor on it, and helped expand what Louisiana Tech looks like,” Belton said. “And it just kind of went from there. I think it was because I wasn’t a star player… I played special teams, but I was able to bring the locker room together. I think because I brought it together, not as an impact player, stood out. (Holtz and Sloan) helped pushed me to think and how to do things in this industry. It has to be better than OK. If that wasn’t the case, we’d be just like every other school.”

It took Belton, 24, just one year before he was hired as a regional scout for the University of Virginia. And he was quickly on LSU’s radar. Ed Orgeron and LSU general manager Austin Thomas called after the 2020 football season and asked if he wanted to come back home.

“It was a no-brainer for me,” Belton said. “Having the ability to come back home and be at LSU, that was where I wanted to be my entire life.”

Belton said he still has loyalty to Louisiana Tech too, so don’t worry, Bulldog fans. Of course, the loyalty Belton has for LSU was amplified when head coach Brian Kelly offered him a chance to stay on staff. Before Kelly broke the news to Belton, the former Rebel grinded away to establish himself as a valuable member of the staff.

“It was a blessing Coach Kelly retained me and also promoted me to director of recruiting,” Belton said. “Whenever he told me, it was honestly a surprise. I’m very thankful.”

Communication and managing the experience of prospects on campus is the name of the game for Belton. A lot of strategy is involved in the recruitment of each player, from something as simple as having that player’s favorite snack on campus to knowing the closest people in that player’s life. Establishing relationships is what has given Belton many opportunities to be on college football coaching staffs, and it’s also what allows Belton to excel at his current gig. And one might say Belton is on a fast track to one day lead an entire athletic department, which Belton would love to do. But his current gig at LSU has his full attention for the time being.

When asked what makes LSU a dream job, the former West Monroe Rebel found himself delivering a pitch just like he would to an LSU prospect. You see, LSU is an easy sell for Belton because he’d dreamed about running through that tunnel in front of thousands of screaming fans long before this career was ever made possible. So it comes straight from the heart when he describes the experience.

“When you step through that door and you see the fireworks and hear the footsteps on the bleachers, everybody is family in that moment,” Belton said. “Nothing else is going on but LSU football in that moment. Walking out of the tunnel and running on the sidelines and hearing that roar is one of the most impressive things you could ever hear. Even when the stadium is empty and I walk out there on a random Tuesday, I still get emotional because it’s just a beautiful sight to see. You can feel some of the victories just standing there.”

Award-winning sports writer for columns and features since joining the field in 2013. As the first-ever featured columnist of the month at Bleacher Report, Martin cut his teeth with online media before joining the newspaper business in 2014.

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