LSU’s Kelly wants in-state players, but not all want LSU

Not many people cared where I went to college.

Mom. Dad.

That’s about it.

I wasn’t a highly recruited football player. Heck, I wasn’t a football player at all. So, no signing ceremony. No putting on one of five caps, while sitting at a table surrounded by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins — anyone who wanted to be on TV. No fancy graphic on social media. (Never mind there wasn’t social media in 1981.)

But for kids who play high school football in Louisiana and are talented enough to be offered a scholarship to LSU, a lot of people care where those players take their talents (aren’t you tired of hearing that expression?).

Including new Tigers head coach Brian Kelly.

Speaking Monday at SEC Media Days, Kelly made it clear he wants the state’s best players to wear the purple and gold — including players from our part of the state.

“You gotta get all the way up through Shreveport,” Kelly said. “You gotta get up to Monroe. You gotta get all up into the state of Louisiana. Now, that doesn’t mean you just take a kid from Louisiana just because he’s from Louisiana. If he’s not rated as high, then can you go out of state? Sure. But you better know the players in the state of Louisiana, and that means the entire state.”

But Kelly won’t get every in-state player. And if you read the message boards, you know nothing gets the Bayou Billys, Bengal Barneys, and Touchdown Tommys worked up more than a Louisiana kid not going to the Louisiana school.

Back in the day, there wasn’t much discussion around the family dinner table. If you had a chance to play for good ’ol State U, you played for good ’ol State U. In Louisiana, that’s still LSU, no matter what the folks at The University of Louisiana-Lafayette want you to believe.

But times have changed. Boy, have they. For some, the purple and gold of LSU just doesn’t look as good as, say, the Crimson and White of Alabama (see Shreveport’s Kendrick Law last year), or the Red and White of Nebraska.

Speaking of … a few weeks ago, North Caddo receiver Omarion Miller — who committed to LSU, then decommitted, pledged his allegiance to the Huskers. Memorial Stadium is 919 miles from Tiger Stadium — and a heck of a lot colder. Miller didn’t grow up surrounded by cornstalks. He was never a part of that consecutive sellout streak Husker Nation always tells us about — which, by the way, is now at 382 games.

Instead, Miller and his grandfather (Miller’s father died when the young man was still in grade school) spent many a Saturday night in front of the TV watching the Tigahs. Last year at practice, Miller was easy to see. He was the one wearing LSU gloves.

So why would the four-star recruit choose not to play at LSU? Why would anyone choose not to play at LSU?

As with most players these days, it’s all about relationships. Relationships with the coach who is recruiting you. Those relationships mean more than the name of a school.

“Each kid just wants to know that somebody understands them, and knows what they’ve gone through, and are possibly going through in life, and has their best interest at heart,” North Caddo head coach Johnny Kavanaugh told me.

So, what’s it like to disappoint an entire state?

Shreveport’s Ross Setters knows. Growing up in Memphis, Missouri, he was that state’s second-ranked offensive lineman.

But good ‘ol Mizzou wasn’t so good.

“They were horrible, and had been horrible for 12 years,” Setters told me. “It was assumed I was going to go there.”

But Setters showed the Show-Me state.

“I ticked off a lot of people when I went to LSU.”

Setters found out quickly that those who loved him when they thought he would stay home and play for their Tigers, didn’t want to have anything to do with him when he decided to play for our Tigers.

“Everybody was always pumping you up, pumping you up, pumping you up. But then you don’t go close to home — you go off to a big school — they’re like ‘Aw, he’s going to fail. He’ll be back within a year, working at the Gas & More.’”

By the way, the big fella enjoyed a nice career at LSU, starting his junior and senior seasons “when I wasn’t hurt.”

So, the next time a Louisiana boy decides to play football somewhere other than the Louisiana school, cut him some slack. He is already under enough pressure.

Would you want to go back home and work at the Gas & More?

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