Michael Divinity wants to cry.
Surrounded by his teammates inside the Xavier University of Louisiana convention center, he admits he could drop a tear. He’s positively overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation unfolding in front of him.
He’s not sad. It’s quite the opposite.
“It’s more of a joyful cry,” Divinity said. “Just being around these guys is wonderful.”
Divinity, one of LSU’s best pass rushers, hasn’t played since October as he’s dealt with an undisclosed personal matter paired with an eligibility issue.
Divinity declined to discuss the details, but spoke about his situation in broad strokes.
“I made bad decisions that had consequences,” the former John Ehret star said. “I had to accept the consequences and better myself as a man and just accept with what came with it, move forward and stay positive about it. I could have mourned. I could have left. I stuck it out because I love this game.”
He said he had an expansive support system. He named everyone from his parents to his grandmother, as well as several teammates and LSU coach Ed Orgeron.
“I know they were going to be the ones still in my corner no matter what,” Divinity said. “I knew when I had the opportunity to come back, they were going to take me back with open arms and that's what they did. They were helpful throughout the whole process. They could have given up on me. They could have taken my scholarship away, did all these things, but they didn't.”
Divinity has played in five games during his senior year, totaling four tackles for loss, with three of those coming as sacks. He missed the Georgia Southern and Northwestern State games because of other disciplinary issues and didn’t play against Utah State because of an apparent leg injury.
Two of his best games came against Texas and Mississippi State. Against the Longhorns, Divinity tallied 10 tackles, with one sack. Versus the Bulldogs, he had two tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
“We’re excited to have him back,” LSU safety Kary Vincent Jr. said. “Honestly, you can tell that he’s super excited to be back. It’s really fun having all our guys back. We’re just a big happy family, and now that we got all the pieces together it’s going be very fun to watch.”
LSU safety JaCoby Stevens vividly remembers one specific thing from Divinity’s first practice back — Divinity’s goofy smile plastered on his face.
In that moment, Divinity was happy. Stevens knew it. Vincent knew it. Everyone at practice knew it. But there was no promise Divinity would wear his No. 45 again, at least not as an LSU Tiger.
Orgeron had never closed the door completely on the possibility of Divinity playing again, reinstating him to the team on Dec. 31 ahead of LSU’s national championship berth.
“It was huge for us to lose him,” LSU safety Grant Delpit said. “He's a vocal leader on the field. Just having him back is huge. Now, I want him to make a huge play in his own city. That would be pretty cool to see.”
Delpit isn’t the only one who wants to see Divinity, a Marrero native, tear it up in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Monday.
Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said he expects Divinity to fit right back in to the role he vacated several months ago. Defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence predicted “a couple sacks” for Divinity. Linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson said he expects Divinity will win many of his one-on-one battles. Stevens said he thinks Divinity’s picked up where he left off.
“The way he’s been practicing lately is unbelievable,” Lawrence said. “I think he’s going to help us a lot, especially on third down.”
Whatever happens Monday, it's his final ride, and his senior season veered far from the path he expected in the spring.
Divinity hasn’t played in a game since Oct. 26. It’s his last game as an LSU Tiger. It’s in the Superdome, where he played his last high school game for John Ehret.
But Saturday, in between answering questions about off-the-field adversity, he smiled. He laughed. He joked.
He wanted to cry.
“Being able to play the game I love again,” Divinity said, “and to be able to finish my college football season in my home state is a blessing. I'm just blessed to have this opportunity. I have to take advantage of every day and I do what I can.”