by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
We tend to feel entitled:
Every great football player born in the state of Louisiana who's ever existed had to play for LSU, right?
They were just waiting to be offered and when the moment came they took the chance and ran with it, repping the program, building the future of Louisiana State football all while being proud of the 504....but it wasn't always so simple.
The choice of setting for one's destiny is never as straightforward as people on the outside may feel it is:
Because Louisiana is so deep and full of the best high school football talent in the country, there's always going to be those inevitable misses where for some reason or another, whether it be safety Landon Collins "feeling pressured to go to LSU" or Travis Etienne calling Clemson "the Real Death Valley" as he made his announcement, things just didn't work out.
When investigating the larger picture in the words you'll read below (an ultimate legacy within Louisiana's rich vein of talent) you see just how many storied high school football players from the Boot could've ended up wearing the purple and gold....and potentially, how their presence would've altered the course of LSU Tigers history.
In honor of the #7 playmaker jersey at LSU, as well as the impending announcement for its newest recipient, the countdown begins from 7 to 1...LET'S GEAUX:
-1 SUPER BOWL APPEARANCE
-PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAMER
-1 SUPER BOWL APPEARANCE
-8x PRO BOWLER
Graduating from Southern University before finishing in the halls of Canton, Aeneas was a local Fortier High legend, picking off passes at will & lighting up receivers as a strong safety throughout his tremendous high school career.
Despite being named an All-District safety, Aeneas didn't receive a single offer...not from LSU nor anyone else...it was frustrating and Williams even stepped away from football for his first two years at Southern....
Only 10 miles away from LSU, Aeneas finally walked on for his junior season.
The future Super Bowl-winning / Hall of Famer was starting at corner by mid-way through the season, grabbing 18 interceptions in three seasons at Southern University, ultimately leading to high draft stock when he ran a historic 4.3 40 yard dash.
Eventually a 3rd round pick in 1991, Williams went on to terrorize the NFC West for his entire career, both for Arizona as well as St. Louis, joining the ill-fated Rams "half dynasty" a year too late, right after their Super Bowl victory against the Titans.
Still, Aeneas Williams was an incredible injection of energy into the Rams' defense and entire team after they fell off in 2000: on top of an already potent Greatest Show on Turf offense, his presence ushered in defensive scoring as well for St. Louis.
During the Divisional Playoffs vs Brett Favre's Packers, Aeneas Williams turned QB Destroyer once again, picking off 2 Favre passes and taking both to the house, beckoning a mountainous rout against the Packers.
Williams would catch 3 INTs during the 2002 postseason, another in the NFC title game vs Donovan McNabb's Philadelphia Eagles. The New Orleans-native would play every defensive snap in one of the greatest Super Bowls of all time...inside the building of his hometown Saints.
Taking on New England in Brady & Belichick's Super Bowl debut (grabbing 8 tackles and 2 PDs during the physical bloodbath) the Rams' defense played a great game only for the Greatest Show on Turf to plummet at the biggest moment and Adam Viniatieri's right foot took a homecoming Super Bowl away from Williams.
Williams could do it all, from making routine interceptions, scoring defensive touchdowns and even ending Steve Young's career.....the only reason LSU didn't offer Williams?
Corey Raymond wasn't DBs Coach yet...
-1 SUPER BOWL (2 APPEARANCES)
-14,345 RECEIVING YARDS
-6x PRO BOWLER
-1ST ALL TIME IN RECEPTIONS
-2ND ALL TIME IN RECEIVING YARDS
Earning All-State honors while tearing it up at John Ehret High School in Marrero, Louisiana, Wayne went off to the U, much like many Louisiana guys if they weren't headed to LSU.
During his time, Wayne of course went off and set records which still stand:
1st in receptions at 173 (topping a star-studded list of Hurricanes including Michael Irvin, Leonard Hankerson and teammate Santana Moss among others).
In fact, the pair of Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne (who played all four years together) ended their careers only separated by 36 total yards, both taking home the top two all-time records for receiving yards as well, Wayne 2nd behind Moss.
When he was drafted by the Colts as a 1st round pick, he didn't stop his otherworldly talents....alongside Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison and QB Peyton Manning, Wayne won a Super Bowl and lost another to his hometown New Orleans Saints...still, that Colts offense set all sorts of records during their time as the NFL's most productive offense.
During a time where LSU had a near non-existent passing game (cue the arrival and greatness of Rohan Davey, a trailblazing quarterback for the program) it's obvious to see why Wayne didn't join the Tigers and I don't blame him....he would've missed Davey by a year anyway, instead watching his talent wasted during the doldrums of the last years of the LSU 90s.....sour milk offenses...
But don't think Reggie has forgotten his Louisiana roots...no way:
"A lot of people, they'll associate since I went to the University of Miami that I'm from Florida, but I got to always correct them like 'No, no, no, I'm 5-0-4 'til the day I die."
-3x PRO BOWLER
-OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
-WALTER PAYTON MAN OF THE YEAR
10,967 RUSHING YARDS
-4.1 PER CARRY
4,339 RECEIVING YARDS
-NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP (1993)
3,959 RUSHING YARDS
-6.9 PER CARRY
-37 RUSHING TDs
1,314 RECEIVING YARDS
-12 RECEIVING TDs
Excelling at running back, quarterback as well as cornerback at Catholic High, New Orleans-native Warrick Dunn was always going to be a superstar...there was never any debate there...the only question:
Would he geaux.... or would he go?
Rebuffing LSU to head for Bobby Bowden's Florida State wasn't seen as sacrilege in the early to mid 90s: it was seen as on/off field survival for many an offensive talent coming out of Louisiana.
When Warrick Dunn sat down to make his choice at the start of his senior season at Baton Rouge's Catholic High, he had two options:
Should he take his chances with LSU's archaic offense and fading national prominence (the Tigers had just gone 2-9 the season prior) or take off for a certified "win now" powerhouse a few states away?
But when the choice was made, it had nothing to do with football...and more about survival than ever before.
During his senior year on January 7th 1993, Warrick Dunn's mother Betty Smothers, an off duty police officer escorting a businesswoman to make a bank transaction, was murdered by two robbers (with the help of a getaway driver), devastating the young man at such a crucial time in his life.
After such a tragedy during a particularly violent era, Warrick knew he had to head elsewhere, signing with Florida State and going on to become one of their greatest ever players.
Graduating in 1997 with a Bachelor's Degree in "information studies", he eclipsed 1,000 yards in 3 consecutive years (511 during a National Championship-winning year as a freshman...with 6 receiving TDs, hitting 1,026 during his sophomore season, notching 1,242 as a junior and finally sealing the trilogy at the end of his senior campaign (1,180).
At the same time he was a true dual threat, an uncompromising speedster possessing every move in the book and creating new ones at will, making it up as he went along...using the field as his own personal playground.
When he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, nothing changed...in fact, he only became a more dominant version of himself, taking one game over after another as the main (and sometimes only) offensive threat for Tampa QBs Shaun King and later Brad Johnson.
Warrick was snubbed for the Pro Bowl many times in his 12 season career (only 3 selections, 1997, 2000 and 2005) and a die hard fan favorite, though he weirdly was sent packing by Tampa Bay in 2001 (along with longtime corner Donnie Abraham), Dunn heading to divisional rivals Atlanta.
Once there, the Louisiana-native was electric throughout, averaging at or near the same amount of total yards from scrimmage in Hot 'Lanta as he had at Tampa Bay. Dunn formed a strong axis alongside QB Michael Vick for a few successful playoff runs (including a legendary victory at Lambeau) and became every young kid's favorite go to running back when it came to Madden or the NFL2K series........ but watching Tampa Bay hoist the Lombardi trophy the season after his release had to leave a bitter taste.
Though Dunn isn't a man who dwells on such egotistical pursuits...after all, if he could muster the strength and bravery to enter a penitentiary, face his mother's murderer and forgive him, then I'm sure he's long forgotten about 2002.
He finished his career as one of the most explosive players of his era, a true force who kept chugging through injuries, a highly publicized separation from Tampa Bay to a divisional rival and even cheating father time....hell, in 2007 Atlanta listed him as a 3rd string QB given his high school experience and athleticism for the role.
One of my favorite all time human beings...Ladies and Gentlemen, Warrick Dunn!
Canton...put him in the Hall of Fame, now!!!
-1 SUPER BOWL
-9x PRO BOWLER