Christian Lacouture

Christian LaCouture signs a helmet for a fan after one Senior Bowl practice earlier this week. 

MOBILE, Ala. — Of all the voices Amy LaCouture expected to hear while visiting her son in Florida, Greg Gilmore was not among them.

After all, while Christian LaCouture trains for the NFL in the Sunshine State, Gilmore trains 2,000 miles away in Arizona. But each night the former LSU teammates reconnect through an internet-based video game — something Amy learned as Greg’s voice echoed down the hall to the guest room of Christian’s Orlando apartment.

“They have this thing where they talk to each other on the video game,” Amy LaCouture said. “Christian (says), ‘This unwinds us at the end of the day.’ Even though they’re in Arizona and Florida, they still end the night together.”

The inseparable duo — that’s what Amy LaCouture calls ’em — was back together this week, both late additions to the premier college all-star game, the Senior Bowl here. They competed at practices together, mostly side by side — LaCouture at defensive end and Gilmore at nose tackle — just like their college days. They even rotated with one another at the same position at one practice, as LaCouture tested his skills in the middle.

Before each practice, they stretched together, too, both in their orange Senior Bowl jerseys and yellow LSU helmets. They were one in front of the other — No. 90, LaCouture, behind No. 94, Gilmore — kicking up their legs to stretch their hamstrings and twisting their upper bodies to work their hips.

They even ate together at Tuesday’s media day, seated across from one another as if they were at the Five student dining hall on LSU’s campus.

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Christian LaCouture

Christian LaCouture, left, and Greg Gilmore, right, sit across from one another at a luncheon Tuesday at the Senior Bowl in Mobile. 

“We made one of them linebackers get up and move because he was sitting in Christian’s spot at the table,” Gilmore laughed. “We don’t play that.”

They were together, too, during Saturday’s game at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, side by side while showcasing their skills for NFL executives and scouts — and everyone else watching on NFL Network.

And — wouldn't you know it? — they combined for a sack in the second quarter, gobbling up former Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen on a third down in the South team's 45-16 rout of the North. They combined for nine tackles, too, spending at least seven series on the field at the same time.

For their five years together to end at the Senior Bowl is “crazy,” says one, and “unbelievable,” says another.

“It’s kind of the cherry on the top to finish it here,” LaCouture said.

How much they improved their draft value during this week here is unknown, but the exposure can only be a positive for a pair many believe is among the hundreds of prospects floating between a mid-round pick to an undrafted free agent. The draft is still three months away, so there’s plenty of time and events — the combine in late February, pro days in March and April and individual workouts — to improve their stock.

In Mobile they’ve assembled a week’s worth of tape against some of the nation’s best offensive linemen, and they got acquainted with NFL personnel. Each estimates he met with officials from all 32 clubs.

And, no, they did not meet with the teams together — like they’ve done so many other things over the past five years.

Step by step, they’ve walked this journey at LSU and beyond. They did it as non-Louisiana guys, too, two kids from distant places — one from the Boston area who roots for the Patriots (LaCouture) and the other from North Carolina who pulls for the Panthers (Gilmore).

They are similar in most other ways. They’ve got like body structures (Gilmore is 1 inch shorter and, at 315, about 20 pounds heavier) and off-the-field personalities (bubbly, talkative jokesters).

“They’re like the old married couple. They stay on each other’s a**,” said Pete Jenkins, the recently retired LSU defensive line coach who tutored the players in 2016 and 2017.

They may be most similar on the field, Jenkins said. Their best assets are their technique and “hand play,” he said. They both bring a hard-working, can-do attitude that has helped overcome the area in which, Jenkins said, they lack: athleticism.

“That’s their shortcoming. Neither are real athletic,” Jenkins said. “They’re good boys, and they will bust their a** for you.

“There’s not a hell of a lot of different in their approach. They're both cut out of the same mold,” he continued. “Hard-working coachable kids who do it exactly like you ask them to do it.”

For both, achieving success at the next level likely means surpassing more talented guys — something they did at LSU to combine for five seasons as starters. They finished as Tigers with quite the combo line: 62 starts, 256 tackles and 20½ sacks.

LaCouture won the career sack race (10½). Gilmore claimed the 2017 sack title (7½).

“I was upset,” a smiling LaCouture said. “He jumped me (in sacks) the last game of the year.”

Their combined 13½ sacks as seniors is proof of their most significant improvement in their final year in Baton Rouge — pass rush — and part of the reason they mutually agreed to return for their fifth season. LaCouture was so close to leaving in 2016 that he participated in Senior Day ceremonies before changing his mind, and Gilmore gave it serious thought, too.

They made the decision with the same goal in mind, yes, but for different reasons. LaCouture missed his would-be senior season in 2016 after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in camp. Gilmore would have left as a redshirt junior having just started one full season.

“It was basic: If you can come back and get better and you can help your team more and draft stock, come back,” Gilmore said. “I knew I could get better.”

LaCouture knew he needed to get healthier or at least show he was healthy. His ACL was so completely torn that Brent Bankston, LSU’s team physician, needed to use a portion of LaCouture’s hamstring to reconnect the knee ligament.

He played pain-free as a senior, but he only realized the success of the surgery at his medical examination this week in Mobile. Doctors here were “shocked” at the precision of the ACL. LaCouture’s strength in both legs was nearly equal.

“They were telling me it was the best knee they’ve seen of post-torn ACL,” LaCouture said. “They couldn’t tell which one I injured.”

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Christian LaCouture

Christian LaCouture is interviewed by an NFL scout after on Senior Bowl practice earlier this week.

These are the happy times for LaCouture and Gilmore.

There were sad ones.

“We helped each other through the lows,” LaCouture said.

One of those lows came in August 2016.

Three days after rupturing his ACL ahead of an anticipated senior season, the LaCoutures’ home in the Centurion subdivision of Baton Rouge was one of thousands in the area that flooded. The LaCoutures moved to Baton Rouge about a year after their son enrolled at LSU. They bought the house with the understanding it wasn’t in a flood zone and so they did not purchase flood insurance. The family paid more than $200,000 in restorations for the damaged first floor. They took out loans and drained their savings. Christian got $20,000 from a GoFundMe account he started, and FEMA chipped in $30,000.

Through all this, LaCouture could barely walk, holed up on the second floor of the family's home, his right leg in a full cast after surgery. His chauffeur for much of that time: Gilmore in his Chrysler 300.

"When I had rehab and couldn’t drive, he drove all the way to come get me. My family's house is 20 minutes from (LSU's football operations building). He came all the way to do that," LaCouture said. "It’s a friendship bond you have. It’s a brotherhood."

The low for Gilmore came in the fall of 2014 and 2015, his second and third years of playing as a reserve.

“They both competed for similar positions. And Christian and Greg were rooming on the road, too,” Amy LaCouture said. “Greg would get frustrated. Christian would tell him, ‘Fight through it. Stay the course.’ ”

Gilmore is tight with the LaCouture family: Amy, her husband David and their daughter Taylor, a junior at LSU.

How tight? He was a weekly guest for dinner for nearly five years — a noted admirer of Amy’s chili.

“He’s like a son to me,” she said.

Said Tina Gilmore, Greg’s mother: “When I say they took care of my boy, they took care of him. If there’s a time I couldn’t get to a game, she was there. They’ve gone on family vacations with him.”

The Gilmore-and-LaCouture relationship predates their rooming together as freshmen. They met at one of the program’s most heralded wins: the 9-6 overtime victory at Alabama in 2011. Both players were visiting the Crimson Tide as part of the recruiting process.

“Can’t get rid of him,” Gilmore joked after a Senior Bowl practice this week, a gesture toward a nearby LaCouture.

The all-important one-on-ones at practices this week were hit-or-miss for the two.

Encircled by scouts, television cameras and coaches, each defensive lineman rushed against an offensive lineman, their goal to reach a dummy in place of a quarterback. Sometimes LaCouture and Gilmore succeeded. Other times, they did not.

“It was just like being in a game,” Gilmore said after one practice.

At nights, they met with NFL personnel, many of them giving each player the same message individually: We like that you have zero off-the-field problems, were a good student, practice hard and are versatile.

Versatility is a big selling point. Their LSU careers spanned multiple positions, stretching across the D-line: from the zero technique (head up on the center as a nose tackle) to the 5 technique (shaded outside of the tackle as a defensive end).

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Christian LaCouture

Former LSU defensive linemen Greg Gilmore and Christian LaCouture pose for a photo with LaCouture's sister, Taylor, after her high school graduation. 

Pro teams want LaCouture at what’s called a 3 technique: basically the defensive tackle in a 4-3 front, aligning at the guard’s outside shoulder. At the Senior Bowl, Gilmore played more of a 1 technique, shading to the outside of the center in a nose tackle role similar to the one he manned in Baton Rouge.

No matter their position, they leave LSU with something else in common, Jenkins said: They’re underrated — by fans and media. Both players left without garnering a single all-conference or all-American honor.

“The LSU fan,” Jenkins said, “they don’t even know who Greg Gilmore is. I don’t know why, but they never were given the limelight, and they’re not guys who seek the limelight. Their a** is not in the paper having a damn bar brawl. They don’t get into trouble.

"They quietly went about their business. They’re just not very fancy.”

But they’re always together — always.

Amy, a nurse practitioner in Baton Rouge, often is a lunch partner for her children, Taylor and Christian. And Greg, too.

“I’ll send a text to Christian about getting lunch,” Amy said. “He’ll send one back, ‘Greg is coming too.’”

Amy laughs.

“I’m wondering,” she said, “if they’ll be drafted together.”

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.