You heard a lot about the state on Louisiana when it came to Sunday’s Super Bowl. Much of the hype surrounded the Cincinnati Bengals and players like Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, who led LSU to one of the greatest seasons in college football history.
There were Shreveporters representing Cincinnati — Trent Taylor (Evangel) and Brandon Wilson (Calvary) and even a Byrd product, Winter-Noelle Grant, a member of the Bengals’ cheerleading squad.
But how about the members of the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams? Robert Rochell, the surviving member of Fair Park’s football program, may have been on injured reserve, but he’s getting a ring after the Rams’ thrilling 23-20 victory at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.
Then there is Odell Beckham Jr., another former LSU Tiger who took a circuitous rout to the Rams this season. OBJ began the 2021 campaign with the Cleveland Browns but wound up in Los Angeles after losing faith in quarterback Baker Mayfield. Has there been a better controversial midseason decision in recent memory?
All Beckham did was catch the first touchdown of Sunday’s game. Although his evening ended in what could be a significant knee injury, he’s secured that elusive championship.
But Louisiana’s big winner this week, without question, is Andrew Whitworth.
Talk about an opportunity to exit the game on top. Thursday, the 40-year-old corralled the NFL’s most prestigious individual honor, the Walter Payton Man of the Year for community service. The former West Monroe and LSU star made the voters proud with a stirring speech that impacted many.
If that wasn’t enough, three days later, Big Whit finally got to hoist that Vince Lombardi Trophy high into the air. The victory came against the Bengals, the team that drafted him in the second round (55th overall) nearly 16 years ago.
“It’s been a heck of a four days,” Whitworth said, cigar in hand (a la Burrow following LSU’s 2019 national title) Sunday night. “This makes you reflect on all the people that have been a part of my life and helped me get to where I’m at, and all the people you’ve done battle with.”
There are many reasons the 6-foot-7, 335-pound behemoth, who is four years old than his head coach Sean McVay, is beloved around the league. One example recently came to light and detailed how he mentored Burrow after the pair were shelved with injuries at the end of last season.
The players, 15 years apart, shared a surgeon, Dr. Neal ElAttrache. The LSU grads struck a friendship and Burrow hit Whitworth’s California home on Sundays to watch the games. Burrow even spent his birthday at Big Whit’s.
“He took me in and we had some good times hanging out,” Burrow told the media. “He’s become a good friend.”
It wasn’t hard to remember Whitworth’s speech three days prior, when he spoke about mentoring a kid named Derrick Barnes at a Boys & Girls Club in Cincinnati. Barnes wound up playing in the NFL and stunned Whitworth on the field after a game this season with a classic “remember me?” moment.
“No one knows when the moment will present itself (to be there for another person), the key is to always be available when it does,” Whitworth said Thursday.
That moment presented itself again Sunday.
Whitworth put the mentoring cap back on when time expired. He and a dejected Burrow embraced at midfield. There is little doubt Whitworth offered some words of encouragement and wisdom.
Half an hour after the finish, Whitworth sat on the SoFi turf while his wife and children showered him in blue and yellow confetti.
Whitworth could do no wrong this week. And as he hinted prior to the game, this seems like an impeccable way to walk into the sunset, in a real Hollywood finish.