Updated: May 24
PT. I OF THE COUNTDOWN https://www.lsuodyssey.com/post/top-10-lost-tigers-or-those-we-take-for-granted
NOW....HERE WE GEAUX
I need to be myself I can't be no one else I'm feeling supersonic Give me gin and tonic You can have it all but how much do you want it?
- Noel & Liam Gallagher, Oasis "SUPERSONIC"
CRAIG STELTZ: S
Craig "Don't Surf, He Kicks Your Ass" Steltz is a personal favorite of mine, I must confess....his long, blonde beach boy locks were an ever-present failure in advertising, which mirrored my situation as a young athlete with shoulder-length long hair.
"Sunshine" would be soft, right?
The hair coming out of the helmet must mean he's a wimp, a momma's boy, followed by fifty other names deemed acceptable during 2001's medieval adolescence....but ohhhhh mama it felt like the hairier the man, the more their viciousness remained...
Steltz defined these tenets surrounding early 21st century football...and I have to thank him for being such an integral, intrepid renegade in the secondary of my wildest dreams.
Craig Steltz's odyssey through the gauntlet ran the length of his time at LSU:
From freshman special teams castoff to fortified Thorpe Award-finalist, SEC & National Champion as a senior, #16 became one of the top 3 greatest LSU safeties of all time.
His blistering play from deep, belittling any who dared to catch the ball over the middle, became a massive chunk of recent LSU/DBU history.
In fact, the words of an anonymous defensive coordinator tell us all we need to know about Steltz's absolute commitment:
"He once woke me up in the middle of the night, shooting a crossbow through my bedroom window, an arrow going right over our heads, glass everywhere, and I'm waking up just screaming, thinking Ghenghis Khan is coming through our window, my wife is calling 911 and hiding under the bed...but no, it wasn't some tribe of nomad killers or a Nativist drug cartel, just Steltz, wearing nothing but warpaint and some sort of overalls, yelling up from the front yard and demanding 'a 3AM practice'. And that was just one night as Craig Steltz's coach," the unnamed coach continued:
"Most of the time he was doing things like...say if he wanted to put a teammate in their place, he would walk up and pinch their ass or lick their chin after a hard tackle, something only that one person would see or experience...hell, I even observed him sack Tim Tebow ten yards in the back field and scream "YOU JUDAS!" right in his face as loud and as hard as he could...I don't think Tim got over that the rest of the game...he refused to join Steltz in the prayer-circle after we won, too...but if you wanna know the truth:
'fierce competitor' is a tag for pretenders: Craig Steltz was a death star, damnit..."
While the source of this erroneous quotation cannot be confirmed, we have the basic understanding of just how successfully sadistic Steltz grew to be:
Based on high and mighty knowledge, sexy intel, and insider advice (without question or emotional servitude): CRAIG STELTZ IS A MADMAN...this declaration is as rare a compliment as we give on lsuodyssey.com.
"He was always asking people 'Did I look like McConaughey after that hit?' He was weird...but then next practice, he knocked two of my teeth out of place and up through my gums, ending up wedged in my nasal canal..." an anonymous player reported, who asked not to be identified out of safety concerns.
"You never see him coming...all you see is a blur, sort of like tracers, like 'Nam or the doomy, futuristic vision of war-ravaged astronauts returning from space, we had no idea where Steltz would pop up next..."
#16 destroyed all-comers over the middle during his tenure from 2004 to January 2008, his long blonde Sampson locks submitting opposition into the ground, all while learning under fellow safeties LaRon Landry and Ryan Clark for his first two campaigns.
Steltz formed part of a unique crew of guys such as Matt Flynn and Jacob Hester who were apart of both title-winning victories in 2004 and 2007...each occasion in New Orleans, straddling Saban and Miles' iconic & controversial tenures.
Though he was cruelly passed over for the 2007 Thorpe award (he was a finalist), Steltz finished his LSU career holding a disgusting collegiate CV, and should've taken home that year's award as the undisputed best safety in college football:
Hauling in 10 interceptions (6 in 2007 including a pair of multi-INT games in the title-winning season: 2 picks vs Ole Miss and a Tigers record-tying hat trick of INTs vs Miss State), smashing in 183 total tackles (100 solo), forcing 3 fumbles, and blocking a punt he returned for a touchdown as a freshman, Steltz enforced the field like Ronnie Lott on speed.
We pay absolute tribute to the glorified beastcake that is, was, and will forever be Craig Steltz...look for #16 to join Pelini's staff in the next few years...I guarantee.
MATT FLYNN: QB
Flynn doesn't belong on this list, right?
We've celebrated him enough, surely?
He won a national title as a starting quarterback under Les Miles, won another as a backup on the 2004 squad with Nick Saban, surprisingly seeing the field in 12 games due to his value / experience as a place-holder on special teams, yet Flynn was never quite the guy.
The above detail is all we need to know about Flynn's heart:
Here was a QB "lowering" himself to lead the unspoken / incredibly crucial special teams duties in order to see the field...that's what we look for when separating the good from the great at LSU:
Matt Flynn did whatever it took to play, anxious to help his team no matter what the cost to his personal ego, stats, or image across the college football landscape...
Matt Flynn is a winner...which is why many NFL teams sought his affable, selfless services in their locker rooms, most notably in Seattle and Green Bay, serving as a luckless back up to Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers.
It's ok...Matt grew accustomed to getting the shaft:
At LSU, "Brainiac" Flynn waited four years for his chance, playing off and on, coming from the bench during the 2005 SEC title game to replace an injured JaMarcus Russell...only to ride the sidelines for nearly the entirety of the 2006 campaign, seeing the field on a few occasions while never receiving the title of starting quarterback.
Finally, as a fifth year senior geauxing into the 2007/2008 year, Flynn became the unquestioned starter:
Flynn wasn't perfect, yet he was never even close to as bad as his critics pretend he was...#15 tossed 2,407 yards, 6.7 yards per attempt, and 21 TDs, seemingly exploding as the season went along in the final games of 2007 (7 touchdowns, 1 interception in his final two games vs Arkansas and Ohio State)...though we must add, his statistics are affected by the fact Matt harshly missed two games in 2007 with a nagging ankle problem, specifically the 2007 SEC Championship game.
For some reason one of the main images that'll always stick in my head when thinking of Flynn resides in the triple-overtime masterpiece vs Arkansas:
#15 sitting on the grass, shoulders slumped after Darren McFadden and Felix Jones's Arkansas appeared to steal a shot at the title away from LSU. We watched the horrific misery, the agony, the wrenching hell across Flynn's face and we all felt it with him in that moment...the whole ordeal is so sickening, I haven't replayed the triple-overtime game in years: the young man sensed he just cost the Tigers a National Championship...but like much of Flynn's story, things didn't end there:
We won't remember Flynn as a loser...in fact, in little under two months from November 23rd 2007-January 7th 2008, he experienced the emotions of both losing and winning a title, as well as watching Ryan Perriloux win the SEC title game in his place...
....2007 was just f*****&#%#*ing crazy, wasn't it?
We'll look back at Matt as the wounded warrior fighting a nearly broken ankle in order to lead LSU to victory...only coming just short...yet the loss becomes impressive when coupled with the knowledge of victory two games later in New Orleans, an opportunity the still-hobbled Matt would never pass up. ...Due to this assured, quiet dedication prior to and following the Black Friday defeat, Matt Flynn's icon as a Louisiana State hero will never fade.
Dropping 4 touchdown passes in the 2008 BCS National Championship game vs Ohio State sealed his fate as a legend in the Boot for time and all eternity, #15 leading Les Miles' crew to a 38-24 victory, becoming the first school to win multiple BCS National titles in the era.
For all his faults, raw technical ability, and at times rugged mechanics, you'll never be able to predictably analyze Flynn's intangibles:
Much like the mentality we witnessed emanating from Joe Burrow's devout dedication to the ultimate, Matt Flynn took LSU to the mountaintop possessing these same leadership qualities......
Wait! I thought Joe Burrow was the first LSU quarterback ever???
ARDEN KEY: DE
Welcome to LSU's own version of getting your heart ripped out in the Temple of Doom, legendary sack menace Arden Key was another elite machine within Dave Aranda's long line of DE/LB hybrids, joining such wondrous beasts of SEC burden as K'Lavon Chaisson and Devin White....some are more DE than LB, others more LB than DE, though the fact remained:
Former Utah State, Wisconsin coordinator and current Baylor coach Dave Aranda looked for versatility, adaptability, and carnal, wrath-born thrust....Key had those attributes in spades.
As a freshman All-American, Key installed himself as an important aspect of Dave Aranda's subtle / leverage-tweaking defensive front, the big boys in the middle allowing Key to use his speed in tight spaces to Caligula-esque effect.
Becoming LSU's single season all-time sack leader after 2016's 12 quarterback assaults, Key also ranks 3rd in total at 21, additionally compiling an impressive 129 tackles total as a lineman hybrid.
Key's best season, his junior year, saw him rack up 55 tackles, the record-breaking 12 sack, refusing to stop his motor, and committing widespread atrocities upon offensive lines throughout the SEC...swimming, bending, and stunting through the gaps as if they were made of mincemeat.
Arden Key, in only three seasons, has to be the best pass-rusher we've ever had....the problem is... he only performed when he felt like it...thus, we only saw his greatness in spots.
A combination of weight issues (he couldn't keep the lbs off in Baton Rouge), a personal absence prior to his final season, a shoulder injury, and a late grasp on the final summer practices, all contributed to Key's dramatic fall off in 2017...dropping to 5 total sacks from the previous year's mammoth escapades.
We witnessed a lack of fight, an unwillingness to pursue from behind while the added weight / bum shoulder distressed and displaced his motivations...
Instead, he forgot about LSU before the season was even over...forgoing the 21-17 Citrus Bowl loss to Notre Dame in preparations for the NFL Draft due to another injury, this time a late season blow to the knee.
As much as I'll never begrudge a Tiger for geauxing pro (that's what we do), Key wasn't fully ready, at least psychologically...he sadly never fully developed his phenomenal physical traits...but worst of all, he never fully prepared himself for the studious mentality of a professional footballer:
You need to improve and learn every day...more importantly you have to want that detail-oriented lifestyle.
Prior to the 2018 NFL Draft, Daniel Jeremiah declared Key "had some similarities to Pro Football Hall of Famer Jason Taylor," the NFL.com analyst wrote. "They have a similar frame/length and they both have great instincts as pass rushers."
NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock said in 2018:
"Key is as talented a natural edge rusher as there is in this draft. (He's) 6-foot-5, 238 pounds, he tells me he'll play between 245 and 250. He ran 4.9 at 238 pounds. That's not very good, but it's his quickness in short areas that's really telling. In the position drills, he looked phenomenal," Mayock said on Up To The Minute Wednesday. "The whole key for him is off the field. Man, you got to evaluate him. Remember, Randy Gregory was a first-round talent. He went in the second round and pretty much has disappeared from sight because of off-the-field issues. There are similar concerns about Key. His job is going to be convincing NFL teams you can trust him."
The measureables, the film, as well as Key's swaggering charm all impressed the executives and GMs, yet all they wanted to hear about was "why" he left LSU in the Spring of 2017...."what happened to Arden Key, aka one of the biggest disappointments of college football in 2017???" An anonymous GM asked The Advocate.
“I told him to be truthful and let them know he made a mistake,” Arden Key Sr. said this week. “He’s a person that, like any other kid entering the draft, he’s proven he’s a high-character guy who’s made a few mistakes along the way. That’s the phase he went through, and he learned from it. He’s put that behind him."
The obsession around Key's leave of absence has seemed to fade since he joined the Oakland / LA Raiders, though other issues have now persisted:
During college, Key gained far too many muscle-less pounds, slowing him down in the trenches as games went on;
But in Oakland / L.A, keeping the weight has been the problem for Key.
At 33 tackles, 1 sack in his first NFL season, Key suffered injuries in his second year to go alongside his lack of production, posting 4 tackles & 2 sacks in a mere 7 games before missing the rest of the 2019 campaign...
Intriguingly, there's currently a renewed degree of excitement around Gruden's camp regarding the defensive line: legendary defensive coach Rod Marinelli signed on the dotted line as the Oakland/LA/Vegas/Hawaii/Mexico Raiders' new D-line coach in the Winter.
If there's anyone who could maximize Key's potential, push him to deliver upon the promise of his ridiculous athleticism, or maintain the highest levels of Arden's former work ethic, it's the fiery, in your face spit-fire Marinelli.
I mean my gawd, the man coached the 0-16 Lions...you think he doesn't have an iron dose of spewed vitriol and obscenities or a good kick in the ass set aside for Key if he messes around?
We'll see what happens to Key moving forward...however, as if I'd just kissed Rudy Giuliani, the way he left LSU will always leave the taste of rotten flesh in my mouth.
Make no mistake...Arden Key will always be one of my favorite LSU players...perhaps in my top 10...which is why the way he left still hurts so bad.
CECIL COLLINS: RB
He was the first Mr. Louisiana in football...he was supposed to be the frontrunner in a three running back race between himself, Kevin Faulk, and Rondell Mealey...he was on the cover of College Football magazine...he ran for nearly 600 yards in his first four games as a Tiger...he could not be tackled as much as he refused to be tamed...and yet, at every corner, tragedy, dumb choices, or straight up chilling behavior crept in his way of success.
Collins entered LSU with an-already dismal disciplinary record, the running back being forced to re-take the ACT twice due to concerns over potential cheating.
When he retook the test, sans any suspicious activity, he couldn't pass. Instead of joining up with the rest of the loaded Tigers running backs corps, he sat...watching his freshman season.
Despite the early troubles, #34 Cecil "The Diesel" Collins seized control in the first half of his sophomore season, outlasting the strong RB competition from Kevin Faulk and Rondell Mealey in the carries department at the season's outset, but who could forget his unreal salesman of tailspin efforts vs Mississippi State?
Cecil bounced off every would-be tackler in his sight during the game itself, however on this long sideline burst from a pitch outside, Collins showed his vicious separation speed and paranormal agility which had only just begun to develop.
Then, with LSU in the ascendancy up 17-9 in the 4th quarter, The Diesel depicted the accuracy of his nickname when he tore off a near 70 yard rush through the heart of Mississippi State's front, their linebackers and secondary all powerless against Cecil's poise in the rush, his fluid, bullish feet, and of course, that violent burst...they couldn't catch, touch or stop him...and he damn well knew it....DiNardo sensed this intangible greatness before him...and so did we.
Little did we know, but the entirety of Cecil's greatness on a football field raced through the Miss. State defense...flashing before our eyes, lightning uncaged...then, like a shooting star...he was gone.
In only 4 games, he rushed 72 times for 596 yards, averaging 8.3 yards per carry, pulling off 3 touchdowns (taking two different long gallops inside the 1 yard line vs Mississippi State and adding another 47 yard rush vs Auburn which set LSU up inside the five); Cecil displayed a stunning mercilessness in his suddenly enhanced work ethic.
Cecil was prepared to beat out Kevin Faulk, Rondell Mealey, or anyone else who stood in his path...and though the trio would amass 2,300+ yards and 25 TDs combined in 1997....at one point vs Auburn, LSU's backs had 240 first half rushing yards!
These numbers would've been far greater, LSU would've won more games, the trio's development would've skyrocketed due to the greater competition, and Collins would most definitely be remembered as a bona fide Tigers legend had he been rested, benched, hell even if DiNardo had access to a time machine and fake-suspended Collins for the Vanderbilt game...20/20 hindsight really allows the train crash to be dissected in slow-mo:
....before that SEC game, Cecil began to follow a secure path....after, he lost his soul in the wilderness of darkness.
He snapped his leg in a savage contest vs SEC Least's Vandy (we always have injuries vs Vandy) and #34 was never the same again. Tragically, we'd never know just how good Cecil "The Diesel" would've been...
After bizarre, unsettling and creepy situations in which Collins was found breaking and entering the darkened, occupied rooms of a few sleeping women, quite rightly Coach DiNardo had enough of Collins' escalating criminally deviant behavior.
Following his entrance into the 1999 NFL Draft after a failed stint at McNeese State, Collins found himself in Miami after Jimmy Johnson selected him in the 5th Round.
Then, in Davie, Florida, it happened again:
Collins, claiming he was "sleepwalking" (as he had the prior occasions he'd broken, entered and crept upon a sleeping woman), was charged with burglary this time after being caught red-handed in the dark of a bedroom owned by a woman Cecil knew from the gym.
With a pattern of rapey behavior growing into a more devious nocturnal obsession, Cecil was sent packing for a 13-year prison sentence after admitting he "only wanted to watch her sleep."
Though we cannot disregard what horrific circumstances could've occurred had these women failed to wake up, there's a silver lining to the Cecil Collins story:
Although he nearly passed away following a ruptured esophagus in prison (due to a lodged chicken bone...we can't make this up), prison "changed" Collins' life for the better, as he put in his own words: It was there he met Elena, his future wife while she visited another inmate in the same prison; shortly before his release in 2013, they became married, he'd "found god", and the couple have three children now.
However...13 years is a long time...a vast road of potholes and unforgivable days of anguish, anger & everything in between:
"Remember what you said you wanted when you got outta prison?" Elena, his wife asks him.
"A beeper," Cecil laughs.
"Yeah...I had to tell you those didn't exist anymore...."
Nowadays, he prefers nobody call him "the Diesel" anymore, only "Cecil", sensing a much-needed separation from his persona, ala Tyrann Mathieu and "The Honey Badger" .
What could've been now becomes what had to be for Cecil Collins the human being...
"The 'Diesel' is dead...I'm just Cecil Collins now," he'll say. "And I'm happy like this."
JOIN US FOR THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!
THE TOP 2 LOST / FORGOTTEN /
OR TIGERS WE TAKE FOR GRANTED
LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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