Zach Mettenberger was asked if the crush of tape recorders and cameras surrounding him at Tuesday’s LSU Football Media Day was worse than having an SEC-caliber defensive end trying to rip his head off.
“I’d rather have ya’ll,” Mettenberger said with a smile. “There’s guys like Sam Montgomery and (Barkevious) Mingo out there who make their living killing people like me.”
Since his arrival in January, Mettenberger had been the star of his own silent movie. It’s the kind of exile usually reserved for freshman football players at LSU, not third-year sophomores.
But few freshmen come to campus toting Mettenberger’s baggage. He came to LSU via Butler (Kan.) Community College after being banished from Georgia, his hometown college team, in April 2010. This followed his arrest at a Remerton, Ga., bar on March 7, 2010, when the then-18-year-old Mettenberger was charged with underage possession/consumption of alcohol, disorderly conduct, obstruction and two counts of having a fake ID.
The incident has plagued Mettenberger like a scarlet letter. He did little to avoid the subject Tuesday, instead seeming eager to address it in hopes it will not ultimately define his character.
“It was a mistake,” Mettenberger said. “I was a kid. I’m still a kid. I’ve grown up a lot. It’s not something that’s going to happen again.
“I definitely don’t want to be in a position of getting kicked off the team here. There’s a point where I didn’t know if I would make it back to this level of college football. If something happens and I get kicked out here, I’ll have no chance to play for (another) top tier team like LSU. I just can’t see that happening.”
Mettenberger considered Alabama and Texas A&M, had offers from Arizona, Cincinnati and Louisville. He said he wanted to play where he could win a national title and fell in love with LSU on his first visit, silently - fittingly - committing on the spot.
“Being a fan of the SEC, I knew about the rabid LSU fans,” Mettenberger said. “Just to get a chance to play in front of them is something I really wanted to do.”
Some rabid LSU fans have dubbed him the “Mett-siah,” hoping he’ll be LSU’s Cam Newton. Mettenberger claimed he wasn’t previously aware of the nickname. He also said he knows his place, third string (for now) behind seniors Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee.
He does expect some significant playing time since he will likely be the starter in 2012.
“The coaches would be na?ve to just play those two this year,” Mettenberger said. “I definitely think I will get some meaningful snaps this year and that I can help the team win.”
In a way, Tuesday may have been Mettenberger’s first win at LSU.