After practice last Wednesday, LSU’s equipment staff gave the team black Nike raincoats. The defensive linemen had wanted to set themselves apart with something unique, so when they received their jackets, they acted on an idea.
For about a year, defensive end Neil Farrell Jr. had tried to create something personal identifying the position group. The secondary owned DBU shirts and a DBU football defensive backs huddled around before games. The defensive line wanted something, too.
“We're kind of unsung heroes,” senior defensive lineman Breiden Fehoko said. “We wanted to do something that made us feel like we have an identity.”
The group had debated personalized beanies, long-sleeved shirts and tight compression shirts. They once thought about buying customized cotton T-shirts at the mall. The jackets allowed room for creativity, their only logos a small, grey “LSU” over an outline of the state of Louisiana and a Nike swoosh, both on the front. They presented an opportunity.
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Farrell texted the defensive linemen an idea to personalize the jackets. Everyone agreed. That night, they gave their coats to Farrell and sophomore nose tackle Tyler Shelvin, who knew someone who made customized clothing. It cost each lineman $12.
“Come to find out, the equipment guys can do heat press,” Fehoko said. “So, we wasted 12 bucks, but they turned out legit for us.”
Three days later, LSU’s defensive linemen emerged for pregame warmups inside Tiger Stadium. Most of them wore their jackets. Their nicknames — “BIG CAT” (Rashard Lawrence), “JOKER” (Glen Logan), “JACK FISH” (Siaki Ika), “BMAN” (Fehoko), “BRUHMAN72” (Shelvin), “REAL SPILL 92” (Farrell) and “SOME BONE” (Soni Fonua) — stretched across their backs, every letter white with blobs of purple dripping toward their numbers.
“We're brothers,” Logan said. “No matter what, we're brothers.”
The LSU defensive line has worn personalized hoodies during warmups with their nicknames and numbers.Rashard Lawrence: “Big Cat”Siaki Ika: “Jack Fish”Tyler Shelvin: “Bruhman72” pic.twitter.com/J1MdkLjRLT— Wilson Alexander (@whalexander_) October 12, 2019
The jackets came at the perfect moment. Against Florida, the Tigers had a healthy defensive line at their disposal for the first time in more than a month. Lawrence and Logan had not played since Sept. 7 against Texas because of injuries. They watched games together at Logan’s apartment, and Lawrence emptied his teammate’s refrigerator.
“It was miserable watching the games and not being there,” Logan said. “Obviously, we want to be with our teammates. That's our brothers. They're fighting. At times, we felt like there's not much we can do. Now that we're back, we're ready to give it our all.”
Other players stepped up in their absences, creating quality depth when Logan and Lawrence returned against the Gators. Farrell emerged as a starter. Shelvin became a valuable nose tackle. Junior defensive end Justin Thomas found a role rushing the passer. Ika earned playing time after he had dropped out of the rotation.
LSU cycled its defensive line throughout the game, keeping players fresh deep into the fourth quarter. One drive, the Tigers used Lawrence, Logan and Shelvin. Then, they inserted Farrell, Fehoko and Ika on Florida’s next possession. Fehoko thought they played their best at the end of the game.
“Our guys never got tired,” coach Ed Orgeron said. “I was proud of our rotation.”
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At one point, Florida scored touchdowns on three straight possessions, tying the game in the third quarter. LSU’s defense blitzed more in the second half, took control and did not allow another point. The Gators finished with 146 yards rushing on 40 carries, an average of 3.7 yards per rush. Orgeron also called it LSU’s best game rushing the passer.
Afterward, Logan wore his personalized jacket while he answered questions. He and the rest of LSU’s defensive linemen, now healthy, have given themselves a performance to build from as they enter the second half of the season. They want more sacks, more tackles for loss and fewer points allowed. They don’t feel satisfied in one game. They believe they can improve after allowing 28 points, and as they pursue a championship, they will continue to wear their jackets, trying to create a recognizable identity along the defensive line.
“We're going to get back out there and play our brand of football,” Logan said. “We're going to attack. We're going to hit people in the mouth. We're going to get sacks, and we're going to make (tackles for loss). We're going to make negative plays. You're going to see an LSU D-line.”