ORLANDO, Fla. — Forgive Danny Etling. He’s not from here.

Not here as in central Florida, LSU’s site for the Citrus Bowl, but here as in south Louisiana, the home of the Tigers.

So forgive him when he pronounces the name of a famous Louisiana seasoning like he does: “Tony,” Etling said, “Shark-Chairs.”

Etling smiles: “Is that close?”

As you probably know, the second word in Tony Chachere’s is pronounced Sash-Uhries. Etling, the Midwest boy and LSU’s two-year starting quarterback, is Cajunfied only to a certain degree. It is a work in progress. Pronunciations are one of the many hurdles of his indoctrination into south Louisiana culture.

Meanwhile, he’s overcome, accepted and fell in love with …

• the entrees: jambalaya is his favorite

• the spices: Louisiana Hot Sauce is the go-to

• the holidays: Yes, Mardi Gras

• the cooking ingredients: the Holy Trinity (onions, celery and bell pepper)

“And king cake,” Etling said. “King cake is good.”

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Etling plays in his final LSU game Monday against his childhood favorite, Notre Dame, at Camping World Stadium near downtown Orlando. The outing caps a winding college career that has brought him from his family's home in Terre Haute, Indiana, to Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana, to Baton Rouge.

Here’s a synopsis of that wild ride: A true freshman Etling replaced Purdue’s starting quarterback in 2013, a sophomore Etling was replaced in 2014 and a junior Etling, after transferring to LSU, replaced Brandon Harris in 2016.

The college version of his football ride ends here, but there’s more football to be had. Etling has accepted an invitation to the SPIRAL Tropical Bowl, a lower-tier college all-star game Jan. 14 in Daytona Beach, Florida. He’s still hoping to nab an invite to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, something that could be acquired with a strong outing in a nationally televised game against the 14th-ranked Irish (9-3) at noon on ABC.

For now, he’s mere hours away from joining rare company. He’s one of just sixth Midwesterners to sign with the Tigers in the past 10 recruiting classes. Just three of those completed their careers: center Ethan Pocic (Illinois), running back Spencer Ware (Ohio) and punter Derek Helton (Kansas).

Midwesterners don’t venture to LSU too often, but when they do, they’ve made a splash recently. For instance, pitcher Alex Lange, a Missouri native, was selected in the first round of the MLB draft this past spring, and Pocic, now a starter for the Seahawks, was a second-rounder.

Former LSU quarterback Matt Mauck, an Indiana native like Etling, led the Tigers to a win in the 2001 SEC championship game and was drafted in the seventh round.

Etling is not projected to get drafted, and many believe he’s not NFL material, despite numbers that put him as one of the school’s most productive quarterbacks. He’s one of just five to throw for 2,000 yards in consecutive seasons, one of 10 to crack 4,000 career yards and is second in Southeastern Conference history in interception ratio (1:73).

In regards to those doubters, Etling’s message is clear.

“Mostly I don’t think those people really know what they’re talking about,” he said Friday. “I don’t really worry about what other people think. I understand it might be a long road and uphill battle. I’ve got total belief in myself. I will make it as an NFL player. I don’t see why I wouldn’t.”

NFL or not, Etling is changed, he said, for the better because of south Louisiana. The culture was an awakening for a boy from a sleepy town that straddles the Indiana-Illinois border. But Terre Haute was not devoid of Cajun fare, said Joe Etling, Danny’s father.

J Gumbo’s is located in the heart of the city and touts itself as a “counter-service chain outpost dispensing gumbo, jambalaya, poboys and other Cajun-Creole fare.” It was one of Danny’s favorites.

“He actually had an affinity towards spicy food, whether it was traditional Cajun cuisine or what not,” Joe Etling said. “There’s a restaurant in Terre Haute called J Gumbo’s that Danny liked to frequent. They have a menu that’d have some items on it that would be comparable to those in Louisiana.”

How does it compare to real Cajun fare?

“It doesn’t,” Danny said. “That’s like saying, how does Taco Bell compare to real Mexican food?”

This is a theme with the Midwestern guys — they fall for the food. Lange consumed as much crawfish and boudin as locals, and Pocic often dined on gumbo and etouffee.

Danny has introduced his parents to Cajun cuisine. They will eat everything, Danny said, except crawfish. Danny prefers his crawfish pre-peeled in an etouffee. Picking them is too much.

“Crawfish are iffy. They’re tough to do. I like them, but I don’t like peeling them,” Danny said. “It’s such work. I’d eat like five of them and I’m burning as many calories as I’m eating.”

Danny has “Northernfied” some here, said tight end Foster Moreau. Moreau, Danny’s roommate since he arrived in the summer of 2015, recently visited Terre Haute, which he called a “culture shock” for the New Orleans native.

“He introduced me to stuff they do up there,” Moreau said. “The way they’ll dress for winter, some of the things they eat or say or do.”

Danny has left the Midwest, but, no, it hasn’t left him. He’s proud of the city, state and region from which he hails. He brags on the Colts and even the Pacers, F-back JD Moore said. He requests a “soda” or a “pop” — not a "Coke."

“He’s got some more Midwestern tendencies,” Moore said. “That’s what makes him Danny.”

Joe Etling assumed his son would find it difficult to integrate into a football program full of players from Texas or the Deep South. It wasn’t, and the Etlings point to Pocic as the reason.

A native of suburban Chicago, Pocic hosted Etling on his visit during the transfer process, developing a “special bond,” the quarterback said, from their first meeting. They were the only two Midwestern guys in the LSU locker room.

Coincidentally, they exchanged the football on each snap.

“Don’t worry, you’ll fit in great,” Pocic told Etling on the visit. “You’re more like a Southern kid. You’ll fit in fine.”


BY THE NUMBERS

Five

  • The number of LSU quarterbacks, including Danny Etling, who have passed for 2,000 yards in consecutive seasons, joining Jeff Wickersham, JaMarcus Russell, Zach Mettenberger and Tommy Hodson.

73

  • Etling’s one interception for every 73 pass attempts ranks second in SEC history, only trailing Alabama’s AJ McCarron

10

  • Etling is one of just 10 LSU quarterbacks to pass for at least 4,000 yards in his career

MIDWEST TIGERS

In the past 10 signing classes, LSU has signed just six players from the Midwest out of 245.

 Signing Year

 Name

 Hometown

 2015

 QB Danny Etling*

 Terre Haute, Indiana

 2015

 OL Georgia Brown#

 Cincinnati, Ohio

 2014

 LB Clifton Garrett#

 Plainfield, Illinois

 2013

 C Ethan Pocic

 Lemont, Illinois

 2010

 RB Spencer Ware

 Cincinnati, Ohio

 2009

 P Derek Helton

 Hoyt, Kansas

*transferred
#did not finish career at LSU

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.