By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
In today's transfer-crazed era of collegiate athletics, specifically concerning the quarterback position, red shirt sophomore (third year) LSU QB Garrett Nussmeier's decision to stay in Baton Rouge for one more season, with the full understanding he will play backup to Jayden Daniels, stunned many analysts and scouts across the nation.
With long-time ties, admirers and contacts from Fort Worth to Gainesville (yes, even Tuscaloosa) there was no shortage of suitors for the rocket-propelled arm and incendiary mentality of "The Nuss Bus".
Instead, he chose to remain at LSU for a third season, with many pointing to his all but guaranteed starting role in 2024 as the chief reason.
"I think Garrett’s smart enough to know that with 3 years, he puts himself in a great position to lead this program, and lead it to a championship," Head Coach Brian Kelly told WBRZ recently about his 2nd string quarterback's decision.
However, we've seen this movie before:
A script where the next Tiger "QB of the Future" is ordained, celebrated for "sticking it out" amongst the uncertainty: Matt Flynn's 2007/08 is still the crown jewel of that argument.
The reality is we've mostly seen these quarterbacks "who wait their turn" never quite grab their chance, following a career of false starts, delays, the arrival of a more talented or experienced QB, and at times, false promises from Head Coaches playing quarterback room politics.
In simple terms, nothing is guaranteed....for LSU fans, look at the case of Myles Brennan as an obvious cautionary tale:
Cast as the Tigers' ultimate "freshman wunderkind" heading into his debut season (2017), before becoming the "heir to Joe Burrow" in the wake of 2019's success and LSU's endless haul of formidable skill position talent.....but it never was to be.
Brennan dipped his toe in the waters as a freshman vs Troy with mixed results, hung in there for two years behind Joe Burrow as he waited his turn;
Then, in year four, game four, after racking up a record number of yards and touchdown passes through his first 4 starts, Myles was hurt with a nasty abdominal tear....one which would cost him his season, and in the wake of a long recovery / transfer saga, ultimately his football career.
But this isn't about Myles Brennan....
Garrett Nussmeier isn't Myles Brennan...
The son of an NFL quarterback & longtime collegiate / professional QBs Coach, Doug Nussmeier, Garrett has football ingrained within him.
Outside of faith & family, Nuss loves the game more than anything else, and that enthusiasm is infectious when around his teammates.
The former 4 star prospect is a locker room antidote, often found celebrating or joking around on the sidelines or at practices.
Also, Nussmeier already holds limited big game experience, making dazzling plays as a freshman during a narrow loss to Arkansas, and just this past season, he produced over 800 yards throughout 2022, before starring in the SEC Championship Game as substitute.
Nuss took over from the bench to toss 294 yards and 2 TDs vs the reigning two-time national champions.
On that grand stage, Nuss pulled off dazzling miracle-worker plays against the Bulldogs, including a brilliant off platform touchdown bomb to Jaray Jenkins, complete with a Burrow-esque turn away from pressure that curdled Kirby Smart's blood.
Nuss wasn't just racking up numbers....he constantly made scintillating throws, manipulated the pocket, and played a central role as the Tigers scored 30 points vs Georgia's historic defense, all while LSU's receivers were finally unleashed for the first time all season.
That performance taught me a lot about what Garrett is made of:
The command, leadership, ability to deliver the ball with deadly calculation from anywhere on the field, but most of all, his intense fearlessness in the face of any challenge is what captured my Tiger heart.
Speaking with Garrett, his mother Christy, Grandma (aka "Ganno"), younger brother Colton (also a QB) & aunt Stephanie, I could sense a calm from the coach's son....as if he'd just had a ten ton weight released from his shoulders.
Leaving it all out on the field in Atlanta, his performance silenced critics, though Nuss seemed more at ease with the fact he'd proven himself to his teammates and coaches.
At that moment, despite the fanbase's collective transfer fears, taking his talents elsewhere and leaving the team never entered his thoughts.
"Garrett is a baller, he's been that way his entire life," his mother Christy told me inside a nearly empty Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the immediate aftermath, "he will do whatever it takes (to help the team win)....and when you're balling like that, an interception? It's nothing, you just go back and you make another touchdown. But see, I'm his Mom, I've seen him do this his whole life....As a child, he sat on his Dad's lap watching defenses....he's been watching quarterbacks and studying what they do the whole time he was growing up...."
Even during that conversation, with both Christy and later Nuss himself, the subject of leaving LSU was scoffed at.
Even back in December 2022, Garrett was locked in.
So......if he possesses the intangibles, abundant talent, desire, hunger, an NFL-drilled quarterback mind, alongside the poise to start for LSU, then why isn't he starting....or at least, why isn't he leaving to start elsewhere?
The first answer is two words: Jayden Daniels.
LSU's dual threat weapon has proven to be far too successful to be dethroned, with plenty of promise & signs of positive development heading into his final season.
When Daniels arrived at the program last winter, Nuss was thought to be too young & raw to lead Kelly's first year Tigers; Now, just 5 months later, Nuss was called a "veteran" by Head Coach Brian Kelly during Spring.
So....why would Garrett Nussmeier, now on the cusp of year 3, stay at LSU, potentially risking yet another season of precious eligibility?
In the end, Nuss stayed at LSU because he craves stability.
Due to an upbringing where the Nussmeier family constantly moved because Doug's demanding college or pro gigs, Garrett refused to "start all over again."
Garrett's love for LSU and his home state of Louisiana is another major reason for his decision to stay...a factor that shouldn't go unnoticed.
Born in Lake Charles, where his cherished "Ganno" still resides, where fishing memories with Grandpa Paul still remain, Nuss decided to stay in an environment that's become like a second home.
The red shirt sophomore's decision to remain a Tiger should pay maximum dividends for both player and program.....not just for the future, but the imminent present.
Since LSU run an offense predicated on the brilliant athleticism of their starting quarterback, injuries are always possible.
In fact, just 6 months ago, Kelly's Tigers suffered the loss of their starting quarterback during the first half of the SEC Championship Game.
When the contest already seemed long over, Nuss strode on to the field, and on the biggest stage of his career thus far, #13 answered the call with fiery confidence & exacting focus, turning an embarrassing blowout into a career crossroads coup that turned outside expectations (concerning Garrett) on their head.
If LSU find themselves in another position where Daniels is hurt, Coach Kelly and Offensive Coordinator Mike Denbrock have full confidence in their 2nd stringer.
Garrett won't simply rise to the occasion, the Marcus High grad can win games for this 2023 squad.
Holding two more years of eligibility beyond 2023, defying the current "me first" / "no patience" transfer trends of his peers, Nuss's critical choice to stay is the continuation of a mentality born from a different time....
The next time a fan declares, "they just don't make football players like they used to," you can be certain they've never heard of Garrett Nussmeier.......yet....
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
©️ 2023 Uninterrupted Writings Inc