A voice out of the video news conference void asked former LSU and now Kansas City Chiefs tailback Darrel Williams if there was a team in the NFL that doesn’t have at least one former Tiger on it?
“I was trying to think,” Williams said. “It’s pretty much every week, for real. There’s probably a team, but I don’t even know.”
There certainly isn’t a team left standing that fits that description.
It has become something of a Super Bowl tradition, like chips and dip and overhyped, overpriced commercial spots.
You can’t, it seems, have an NFL championship game without former LSU players being in it.
While the 1,000-watt storyline of this Kansas City-Tampa Bay super game is the youth versus veteran quarterback duel between the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes and the Buccaneers’ Tom Brady, there is a delicious subplot for local football fans.
Both teams have a trio of former Tigers on their team. For Kansas City its Williams, fellow running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and safety Tyrann Mathieu, an All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection. For Tampa Bay, it’s running back Leonard Fournette, linebacker Devin White and reserve linebacker Kevin Minter.
It’s the 20th straight year LSU players are in the big game, a streak that started with Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. That year, then Patriots running back Kevin Faulk, now LSU’s running backs coach, helped New England and Brady to their first Super Bowl win, a 20-17 upset of the then St. Louis Rams. And the six are the most Super Bowl participants for any college program this year. Clemson, Iowa and Michigan are next with four each.
“People ask me who I’m pulling for in the Super Bowl,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said earlier this week.
He chuckled at the thought that he might actually choose sides.
“I’m pulling for the Tigers, man,” Coach O said. “It’s something we’re selling to our recruits. We’re talking to them about it right now.”
And why should the man choose sides? This game is a gold-plated calling card for him and his staff to play on the recruiting trail, a chance to play up the “NFLSU” angle to the hilt.
Come to LSU, they can tell recruits, and if you play well you’ll make it to the NFL. And you may get a chance to hoist a Lombardi Trophy before you’re done.
“It’s great to have so many LSU guys playing in such a prestigious game,” said White, who was somehow snubbed from the Pro Bowl despite 140 regular-season tackles. “Super Bowl LV is the top of the top. That just lets you know we put out great players. With LSU players on the team, that team is going to have a chance to be great.”
Picking a former Tiger trio to pull for over the other has got to be a tough call for LSU fans. Yes, the Bucs eliminated the Saints from the playoffs with a 30-20 win, but the Chiefs also beat New Orleans during the regular season. You may be sick of Brady getting in and winning so many Super Bowls (six wins in nine previous appearances), but White says don’t hold that against him.
“My pitch for LSU fans out there is this: Don’t be selfish,” he said. “Darrel Williams got a championship last year (with Kansas City). Tyrann Mathieu got a championship last year. Clyde got an LSU championship last year.
“It’s your boy’s time,” White said, referring to himself. “Go and root for your boy because it’s my time to get a championship.”
Fournette can also make a play for title-less sympathy.
“It would mean a lot. The last championship I won was at Goretti” playground in New Orleans East, he said. “I’ve always come up short in high school. Never made it to the playoffs in college. So it would mean a lot to finish off something I’ve always dreamed of, which is winning a Super Bowl.”
Edwards-Helaire, going for that rare college-pro championship double play back to back as a Chiefs rookie after helping LSU win the CFP title a year ago, said fans should root for the guy who already delivered them a big win.
“Why not root for the running back who was able to get a national championship to come back to Baton Rouge and be on a 15-0 team?” he said. “I still feel I need some fan love on my end.”
Maybe the best thing is to root for a close game (but not overtime … think of the poor sportswriters on deadline). Then LSU fans can kick and watch with pride as the gleeful Chiefs or Bucs grab the prize.
And maybe LSU fans can take glee at more fact: neither Alabama, nor Ohio State, have any former players in the Super Bowl.