Updated: Apr 5
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Heading into 2022, one of LSU's most highly anticipated receivers stands at the ready, chomping at the bit, foaming at the mouth to compete:
We're not talking about Kayshon Boutte....
We're not describing Jack Bech....
I'm talking about Malik Nabers, LSU's 2021 All-SEC Freshman selection following a 4 TD debut season, reeling in 28 catches for 417 yards in just 7 games as a starter (11 appearances total), all as he battled back from a nasty shoulder injury in late August.
Lafayette's own "WR steambreather" impressed me so much throughout summer 2021, I called for him to start at the Rose Bowl in Week 1....and it appears last year's former staff agreed with my assessment, favoring their versatile, hungry, empirical #8 over Brian Thomas Jr, Deion Smith, Trey Palmer and Jontre Kirklin during the biggest of games.
Malik returned to the field by Week 3, frustrated over missing LSU's first two games of 2021; But once he was back, Malik only required a few quick catches to find his groove. When his shoulder fully healed, beginning with his first multi-reception game vs Auburn, Nabers assumed control....taking no prisoners.
Over LSU's next 8 contests, Nabers captured 377 of his 417 total yards, rushed for 23 yards off 4 carries during LSU's Texas Bowl showdown vs Kansas State, and hauled in all 4 of his freshman TDs:
Scoring against Kentucky with a leaping, acrobatic snag high over a defender, the ball bobbling between Malik & the Wildcats' DB in mid-air before #8 controlled the pigskin beautifully (an insatiable catch); Saving face with another consolation TD vs Ole Miss (hauling in a bullet from Garrett Nussmeier between multiple defenders), and keeping LSU competitive during the Texas Bowl bloodbath....each touchdown sent a message & declared a startling testimony:
Malik was here for the long haul grind....no matter what quarter, regardless of how many fans were left in the stadium, or what the score happened to be, it was always 0-0 for Nabers....
However, his ultimate display of power arrived when Nabers destroyed University of Louisiana-Monroe, burying the Sun Belt program with 143 yards, 4 catches and 1 long touchdown gallop of 67 yards....averaging a sickening 35.8 per catch on the night.
Finally provided with the right play-calling to showcase his wondrous talents at their apex, Lafayette's native son torched ULM constantly, reeling in gains of 48, 21 and 67 yards, displaying his slippery agility, running back-esque vision after the catch, and terminal velocity in the open field.
The fact that Malik Nabers achieved his All-SEC Freshman honors while returning from injury, playing through the remaining shoulder pain, and after an entire senior season of high school without football, should tell you all about his relentless passion & pursuit of conquest.
Now in 2022, you think he might be slowing down, content with his All-SEC freshman award??
Resting on his laurels as he recovers from a small operation???
No....in fact, LSU's coaching staff could barely keep him away.
Last week, I saw Malik glaring at the field from the sidelines, still clad in his #8 jersey, though wearing a face of disgust as he was forced to stand & watch.
Jumping back into Spring practice action weeks ahead of schedule, Nabers is currently hellbent on making sure no other Tiger wide-out gains ground on his progress.
The former Comeaux & Southside WR is a different breed, playing with an aggression, a wild intensity, and a power so commanding you can't even call him a receiver: he's just a football player, and his 2 special teams tackles vs Alabama (the same amount as Jaquelin Roy or Soni Fonua totaled in that same game), his nonstop work ethic, grounded humility, and boundless ambition point that out clearly.
Of his 28 overall receptions from last year, 13 went for 10 yards or more, 6 catches totaled 20+ yards, with 3 gains of 41+ yards; 16 of his 28 catches grabbed 1st down yardage, 7 arriving on 3rd down (including a 67 yard TD & an additional 11 yard rushing conversion on 3rd down).....just imagine if Malik had two more games tacked on to his 2021 resume, or if he'd simply started the season fully healthy?
Well, 2022 is his second chance, fighting off his injury early in off-season preparations, Malik appears to be saddled up & ready for the grind......the hard work of reaching for greatness....and sustaining it.
OUR OTHER MALIK NABERS CONTENT:
-WHY MALIK SHOULD START (2021)
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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