Updated: May 24
What does it mean to be lost?
Does it mean you were ever truly found?
Does it set the scene? You were on your way, nothing could stop you, then it all came crashing down around you like a velociraptor earthquake, summoning you to the depths or ascension of the afterworld?
Lost....it must mean you were forgotten, stuck, embedded within your own shame, stupidity, or lust for selfish pursuits...right?
"Lost" can be all...or none of these.
"Lost" is a state of mind...
How are guys like Steltz, Hester or Matt Flynn on this list if they weren't technically "lost"?
Because their efforts, accomplishments, and just how much they meant and gave to LSU fell away "lost" on the mainstream Tigers fan...even the die hards, inundated with new recruits...we all forgot about their greatness at one point or another.
Yet, with the list now down to its final two participants, "Lost" becomes much more definitive and evocative of the word's true meaning:
Lost in time, lost in their own dilapidated futures, lost in their own surreal understanding of themselves...lost in their vices, stranded in their negative choices, left behind in the swing of their sorrow...
These are truly the top 2 lost Tigers of all time...we all have our guys who we wished weren't forgotten, Tigers who we feel never received their dues, or fell off the radar before they could achieve those goals...
With so many great players to sort through to create this list, I find this upcoming realization an unbelievably staggering, humbling sensation:
Since the late 90s, no college football program has produced more top-level players...when our third string QBs were once the top recruits in an entire class, you have to wonder....
Over the past 10 names, it becomes clear LSU weren't that far off from a 2019-esque season this entire time...
If it weren't for horrific timing, crude or cruel circumstances, and little decisions which became life-affirming / changing problems, the Tigers would've captured at least two more titles between 2000-2018.
Even with a disappointing combined decade (or so) from the last twenty five seasons in LSU history, this has been without a doubt the (Purple and) Golden Age of LSU football...even in our worst campaigns we were pumping out proven NFL players, many still plying their trade in the league.
Despite our consistent greatness since 2000 (winning 3 national championships and playing in 4 under our last 3 coaches, geauxing 5-1 in SEC Championship games since 1996, producing 19 All-Americans including 12 unanimous selections, sending 111 players to the NFL draft who won 23 combined Super Bowls and were selected for 25 Pro Bowls), LSU have been a forgotten program across college football...almost taken for granted....that was...of course...until Joe Burrow made sure no one would ever forget Louisiana State University again...
Now....we geaux back in time...before Joe Burrow knew what sex was, before Tre'Davious White could tie his shoes, before any of us even knew Coach Ed Orgeron existed....back to a time when LSU still quietly dominated the world:
"Get ready everyone, watch out for Ryan Perriloux next year! Watch out college football....this guy's gonna be spectacular!" Came the words of CBS's eternal commentator Gary Danielson singing away...and except a little hyperbole, he was right:
There he was, Ryan Perriloux...after all the scandal, controversy, and rejection, here he was on national television rescuing LSU's "long-gone" championship hopes on one of the craziest nights in college football history. When we saw him rise up and win the SEC title, after starter Matt Flynn went down with a shoulder injury following the 3OT defeat to Arkansas, we witnessed the forecast of LSU's future, our raw, exciting present, and the brilliance of Les Miles' past recruiting all flash before our eyes. Echoing Matt Mauck's bench-rising victory over Tennessee in 2001 (in lieu of an injured Rohan Davey), Ryan Perriloux had his moment during the 2007 SEC Championship, gutting LSU through a 21-14 win over Tennessee, his 298 passing yards highlighted by his 27 yard touchdown pass on 3rd and 16 to Demetrious Byrd.
This was a special play which displayed every facet to Ryan's blossoming quarterback-play: this was a DB-befuddling-splitting pass of ludicrous quality over the top for Demetrious Byrd, confusing Volunteers safety Eric Berry (2007 Defensive Freshman of the Year / NFL future great) out of his socks....
"Oh my god!" Gary Danielson echoed, while Verne Lundquist replied:
"I can see why so many are excited about this young man..." In his typical, understated / reserved Midwestern manner.
Then, in the 3rd quarter, our back-up quarterback injured and bloodied the index finger of his right throwing hand, screwing up his rhythm:
Only a few plays later, Perriloux and LSU receiver Terrence Toliver miscommunicated on a post route, Eric Berry picking Ryan off, giving Tennessee's Eric Ainge great field position, and a 14-13 lead.
Quickly, fortunes changed for Les Miles's gang, as it often did thanks to a breathtaking defensive effort: cornerback Jonathan Zenon stepped in front of a woeful, telegraphed Ainge pass out to the right, and walked in a critical game-winning pick-six....yet LSU only had a 5 point lead...a 2 point conversion was needed.
At the goal-line, rushing to the ball from the sidelines in hurry-up offensive mode, Perriloux snapped the ball in the zone read formation, faked the handoff once he spied the open gap and walked into the end-zone, granting 2007 LSU a chance for redemption.
Our quarterback / back-up quarterback now had his redeeming moment, pulling off the incredible MVP-earning performance that forever signifies his Tigers apex....but this proves the failures of Les Miles and those he hired at offensive coordinator: had LSU been ready to equip Perriloux with a zone read scheme offense, the sky was the limit. #11 bobbed and weaved around the Tennessee front, throwing strikes against a Volunteers' secondary including all-time great Eric Berry and linebacking colossus Jerod Mayo....while his detractors would say Ryan was an "unpolished Teddy Bridgewater prototype", the early indications were far more stunning than that kind of cynicism could ever depict.
Without his two starts (two wins) in the 2007/08 season...LSU doesn't pull off one of the most deserving great escapes of all time (in capturing the title over Ohio State): Whether or not we realized it at the time, Ryan Perriloux's performance earned LSU a National Championship just as much as Matt Flynn's 4 touchdown passes in the title game itself: In one of the most Banjo Kazooie bonkers weekends in college football history, Chase Daniel's #1 Missouri and Pat White / Steve Slaton / Rich Rodriguez's West Virginia both lost (while previous #2 Kansas also fell in the last two weeks of a mad season. The top 2 teams lost during the same weekend on three separate occasions in 2007, LSU losing when ranked #1 twice).
West Virginia, Kansas, and Missouri all came so close, yet still surrendered what would've been each program's first title game appearance, leaving the 2008 BCS National Championship Game (no team wanted to play in) on a platter for the only two schools deserving to contest the ultimate: Jim Tressel, James Laurinaitis, and Todd Boeckman's #1 Ohio State, losers of the previous year's title game to Florida....and Les Miles's #2 LSU, the first team in CFB history to ever play in a national title game with 2 losses... Despite the strong aroma of potential greatness emanating from the field whenever Perriloux took the reigns, the unknown status of starter Matt Flynn's return to the team, and the absolute possibility of Perriloux starting the title game, there were choices Ryan made off the field which made sure he hardly appeared during the 2008 BCS National Championship Game. Although former BYU head coach and then-LSU offensive coordinator Gary Crowton suggested to the media that "Ryan would take 15-20 snaps" throughout the title game, he ended up receiving two inconsequential snaps at quarterback under the bright Championship Game lights, on his hometown Superdome turf...
For a kid from the Boot, such as Perriloux, to barely appear at all after media posturing by the former BYU head coach, receiving only breadcrumbs and the bench from Crowton hiding up in the booth...his mind naturally became flooded by a sense of psychological betrayal during the scenario and setting of his deepest fantasies...two plays was more like a spit in the face.
Meanwhile Matt Flynn, in his final appearance as a fifth-year senior, played perhaps his greatest game in a Tigers uniform, chucking 4 touchdowns in a 38-24 victory over Ohio State. Why would Crowton say such a thing leading up to the game?
Was it a smoke screen to make it seem as if LSU were now a two-quarterback offense? Did something geaux down which made Crowton and Miles change their minds? We must geaux back to the beginning for the answers:
As a LaPlace, Louisiana-native, Perriloux would shatter the Boot's high school records for total offense, 9,024 passing yards and 3,680 on the ground, winning the Ken Hall Award (the "High School Heisman") ranked 2nd nationally behind (future USC butt-fumbler) Mark Sanchez as the overall QB in his class, and much like prodigal son running back Cecil Collins, Perriloux achieved the title of "Mr. Louisiana". Around this time, Perriloux was an untouchable...a guy who had everything go his way in such a short time span he must've felt invincible...and who could blame him for this over-confidence: Ever since a happenstance incident in his childhood where Eric Rogers Sr (the head coach at St. John The Baptist's Parish) discovered his talents after driving past the family home and the survival of a gunshot wound from point blank range, a sense of pre-destined entitlement can be found littered throughout Perriloux's following career, and in some small fashion became the ignition of his up, then downhill, then up to the highest high, then immediately back down to the lowest lows trajectory; At 14, when trying to prank his sister's date by sneaking upon him in the Perriloux family's night-darkened driveway, the date, chilling in his car with the window down, became spooked and wielded a 9mm pistol in self-defense, shooting Ryan from close range. The bullet entered through one part of his body and out the other...without a single tear shed, Ryan miraculously recovered...and, as if he were Keanu Reeves, took it all in stride and later bragged about his survival. Then, a mere few years later, he was a young man who had Texas fans, coaches and athletic directors on their knees for him, and even the Longhorns' title-winning QB Vince Young began to erupt into the college football juggernaut we all remember thanks to Perriloux's "arrival" nipping at his heels. #11 had the world at his beckoning, and he knew it: At first he had no problem waiting and backing up Vince Young: Perriloux remained realistic, driven, and thought ahead...but suddenly, after a fast month in charge, LSU head coach Les Miles stole one of the most exciting recruits from his entire coaching history. Miles was a shyster capable of turning Ryan's head away from the West by declaring "the pro-style offense we run is better for you to learn if you wanna get in the NFL..."
Somehow, Miles convinced Perriloux out of Texas's reach...but it wasn't an easy, short, or fair process: In July 2004, Ryan verbally committed to Texas after Mack Brown worked on him hardcore for an entire year, hellbent on making sure the Longhorns didn't lose out on yet another hot quarterbacking prospect. Ryan gave (then-Texas head coach) Mack Brown his word, and to everyone around the young man, the start of his career appeared to be destined for Austin, Texas;
Still, within a few weeks of Les Miles taking over from Nick Saban as LSU's head coach, Perriloux finally gave into the unsurmountable local pressure and temptations of becoming someone special in Louisiana...and therefore the NFL. Though there may have been concerns or character-conclusions drawn from his "mercenary" vibes prior to signing day, what would occur on the historic day itself would reverberate throughout Ryan's search for footballing credibility his entire career: From his first press conference as a red shirt freshman in 2005, Perriloux came out swinging, stunning the assembled media by claiming to be gunning for the Heisman Trophy that year....which is fine, always aim high or what's the point, right? The problem was Ryan's disgraceful lack of respect:
When responding to his "Heisman declaration", a Tigers beat reporter asked him, "what about starting quarterback JaMarcus Russell?" aka the fixed offensive leader at the time, Russell now in his second season as the starter under offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher. "JaMarcus who?" Ryan replied with a smirk, immediately shadowing his path forward with pointed disrespect, defiance, and brash cockiness towards anyone he deemed to be in his way or on his periphery of priorities.
He wasn't always this way, though, and while many recall him being an extremely friendly, affable and likable character around campus or the team, he had an intensive moodiness that hollowed his heart. After that moment, Perriloux ruined his ability to climb the ladder within the LSU quarterbacking room, becoming an after thought to one of the most prolific groups of LSU QBs were at the helm when the Les Miles era took flight:
Once he arrived, LSU "vets" JaMarcus Russell and Matt Flynn both kept Perriloux's undeveloped / at times magical athleticism grounded for two and a half long seasons....in fact, #11 may have only been ripped away from Texas out of:
A) Les Miles's hatred for Mack Brown's undefeated record against him during his time at Oklahoma Sate or
B) Simply to heighten competition and production levels from his quarterbacks...
Either way, Les Miles was damn right to grab him: Russell and Flynn both flew to their highest peaks as quarterbacks during their final years in purple and gold, and whether their improvement has anything to do with Perriloux's arrival or big mouthed press conference, we'll never know... What we do know...is like a caged Tiger, Perriloux (much the same as Tyrann Mathieu) had the intensified demeanor and personality that could become lost if he wasn't on a football field, and during 2006-2008, one of LSU's most talented dual-threat quarterbacks fell prey to the idiocy of bad friends, the local high-flying night life scene, and the wrong side of the law: After Ryan and LSU lineman Derrick Odom started a scuffle in Baton Rouge bar The Varsity, Perriloux watched as Odom was kicked off the team. Meanwhile, the third-string quarterback escaped harsh punishment, serving a suspension for the Alabama game...a contest he wouldn't be competing in anyway: no consequences equals no change. Seeing Les Miles's ability to be swooned by the rankings of his recruits and needs of his team, Perriloux continued his risky endeavors, getting arrested for the use of his brother's ID when he tried to board the Hollywood Casino gambling boat, failing drug tests for marijuana, and obtaining / attempting to use counterfeit money, the final allegations bringing about a federal investigation in which #11 hired the services of a local high octane defense attorney. After his MVP performance in the SEC title game and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton's lyin' eyed promise for Ryan to feature "in 15-20 snaps" throughout the 2008 BCS National Championship Game, Perriloux became entitled...feeling this was his moment, his time, his team to lead... But...sorry Ryan, without any hesitation, I would say fifth-year senior Matt Flynn earned the right to start in that title game...and though Ryan Perriloux cried his eyes out all night in the "aftermath" of a national title victory, he'd never play another down in a purple and gold uniform. After the aforementioned events, Perilloux was dismissed for "failing to fulfill his obligation as an LSU student-athlete" as Coach Miles later put it...hostility in his voice. For however much Perriloux could've possibly accomplished on a football field, the quarterback never understood the limits of his own talents or his persona's ability to communicate with his teammates, coaches, or the media. As we look back at the stunning specimen that is and was LSU's #11 Ryan Perriloux, we wonder: Just how great could he have become? How many games would LSU have won throughout 2009 and 2010 (Perriloux's last years of eligibility) behind Perriloux as a full-time starter? During this era, the quarterback situation in Baton Rouge went into the tank, all while the most highly sought after dual-threat recruit LSU had ever captured flew into the ether, leaving behind an abyss of possibility and unrequited destiny.
We'll never know why he wasn't an LSU success...even now we sit confounded and wonder "what the hell happened?" just as much as the man himself....and yes, he may do a few interviews and detail a few incidents, but there'll forever be mystery shrouding the Tigers career of Ryan Perriloux. We should've won multiple national titles under Perriloux...there should be a statue, a plaque in a corner of Death Valley...something for Perriloux...what did he have to do in the mid-2000s that was more important than ushering in an LSU dynasty?
He wasn't going to a Strokes concert or some Kanye West baptism...Perriloux wasted his time in the netherworld of lost stardom... Rather than a defined renaissance or plague, his Tigers career remains an ethereal fantasy mirrored in our own musings of shoulda, woulda, coulda's...a ghost of our frontal lobe's brutish mechanisms. Still, he... Shoulda... Woulda.... Coulda....
Who is the All Time Lost Tiger????
He had it all.... He had an arm that could muscle a football the length of a field...while laying down... As a freshman in high school, standing 6'3 and weighing 185 pounds, this massive architect of aerial design threw for 20 touchdowns, eclipsed 2,000 yards, and led Williamson High School to a State Championship... At LSU, this man could rely upon an offense loitering with specimen, Dwayne Bowe, Early Doucet, and freshman Brandon LaFell to name a few, he had a mad-dawg Bo Pelini defense to keep games close, and the recruits coming down the pipeline were even more promising....
If he hadn't suffered a shoulder injury, he would've won an SEC title as a sophomore in 2005, and courageously took down an undefeated Alabama before ascending during his junior year. The 'lovechild' of Randall Cunningham and Jared Lorenzen refused to lead as a quarterback with sloppy, yet victorious, suddenly magical play which elevated him ahead of Kentucky's Andre Woodson, and into the QB spot for the All-SEC team. He capped off his surprise final LSU season with 350 combined yards and 3 touchdowns throughout a Sugar Bowl stapling of Brady Quinn's Notre Dame, evaporating the high profile Fighting Irishmen in front of a jazzed-up hometown crowd... Our players & his teammates were celebrating on the sidelines in front of the TV cameras by the 3rd quarter...this was true swagger and dominance...NOLA was raging...
It was party time: For only the second occurrence since the late 80s, and the first since Rohan Davey left in 2002, LSU finally had a bona fide quarterback...lighting SEC defenses up for 5,500+ yards and 43 touchdown passes in only two seasons... Yes...we're talking about:
JaMarcus Russell....our 2006/07 lightning in a bottle who opened the lid abruptly and turned untamed, unhinged or...even our Icarus who flew too close to the sun: After Russell's enterprise of anguish upon Charlie Weis and Notre Dame's pilgrimage back to reality in the 2007 Sugar Bowl, common sense around the football world ran amok: Many expected JaMarcus Russell would be leading the highly stacked Tigers to a national title winning year in the 2007/08 campaign: We still had most of Saban's veteran recruits married with Les Miles' freshmen.....and the fans were right...somehow, some way, albeit deservedly, LSU would end up winning a national championship in 2007.... ....just minus our "star" quarterback.... Before he could finish his post-game shower deep within the bowels of the Superdome, Russell already aimed to forgo his final season of eligibility, taking his talents to the Bay Area...doesn't have the same ring to it does it, LeBron?
Playing in 36 games over his 3 year stint at LSU, JaMarcus was part of the 2004/2005 National title winning team as a freshman, went 25-4 in his career, and threw for nearly 6,000 yards and 43 TDs...it was a joke how well-equipped he seemed to become a star in the NFL.
His surface measureables were always going to be off the charts, many analysts and commentators falling in love with JaMarcus's mechanics and arm strength...yet none of them had any inkling of his lack of work ethic or motivation to improve. Mel Kiper Jr: "He will immediately excite Raider Nation...he is John Elway-esque!" Todd McShay: "I've never been in awe of such a quarterback at the combine..." Jon Gruden: "Russell's workout was straight up Star Wars, man!" How could they all be so wrong? Soon, Raiders owner and #1 NFL Draft pick heir Al Davis could be found verbally masturbating to the 2007 Sugar Bowl tape, "obsessing" over how JaMarcus played in the game, according to then-head coach Layne Kiffin. Kiffin knew JaMarcus looked great on tape...he also believed in every fibre of his being the Raiders needed to draft Megatron, aka future Lions' Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson:
"No, instead we're gonna pay a guy $63 million and he's not ready for it..." Kiffin eventually told sportscasting.com. Before he'd even shown up for Raiders' mini-camp or entered advanced team discussions, the kid ballooned in weight, partied way too hard, scoffed at the idea of "practicing", barely cared, hardly showed up, then held out for the richest, thickest rookie contract in NFL history...everything about him became bloated ...In the process, Russell became the most complacent and disliked LSU Tiger we've ever seen and altered the course of NFL history in regard to rookie contracts, a negative for players.... JaMarcus traded the sparkle in his eyes & a glittering future for $32,000,000 guaranteed and Codeine syrup's right to his soul...his Lil Wayne fantasies in Houston becoming the stuff of underground H-town legend. Russell only played two games in his rookie season, wrapped within the dysfunctional shititude of Al Davis's diabolical self-sabotage, somehow permitted by the ransom-held NFL to dub this flaming, rotting carcass "the L.A/Oakland Raiders franchise". One day in his rookie season, JaMarcus was handed a DVD of plays he needed to dissect by Kiffin and QBs coach John DeFillipo, the duo hoping to gain some traction with their young quarterback. JaMarcus's assignment: watch the DVD of plays and simply identify which ones he'd feel most comfortable running...ya know, the system he knew nothing about after his entire offseason holdout. The next day, Russell returned telling QBs coach DeFillipo "I watched it, yeah I'm good coach, all of 'em are great...we're good to go with any of 'em!" The DVD was...in fact...a blank DVR disc... After a sloppy, though improved 5-11 second year in Oakland, tragedy struck JaMarcus, hitting him hard & stopping his progress in its tracks...in fact, the wheels fell off the Progress Train altogether, his life careening into the cold boundaries of horror: The two men closest to Russell, the men responsible for building, encouraging, and supporting his feverish talents, his beloved Uncles Ray Ray and Mike both passed away in the same offseason...Ray Ray from heart disease at the age of 42, Mike from a heart attack. These deaths destroyed Russell...flipped his world upside down, disoriented the quarterback to the point he couldn't tell who was friend, foe or vulcher anymore...his compass became broken...perhaps totally lost. He'd never been under the panic or frustration of adversity without Ray Ray and Mike... During this time, he could be seen mourning over a picnic of KFC chicken he'd smuggled inside the locker room only minutes before an NFL game. JaMarcus downed the entire bucket, thighs, breasts & drumsticks all to himself...shameless in front of his teammates.
Following the offseason, JaMarcus arrived for summer workouts weighing in at 308 pounds...understandably depressed as well as uniquely unprepared for football in the aftermath of two father-figure deaths... In 2010, after his release from the Raiders, Russell was arrested in a Codeine syrup sting / bust in his native Alabama. Due to JaMarcus being a small piece in the DEA's hunt for an actual drug supplier, the charges were later dropped; it was obvious the Williamson High School product had problems...although his biggest issues weren't in Alabama or BR...they reside in Houston. Houston was where the temptations of womanizing, drugs, gambling, and hanging out with underworld characters collided in a career-sucking vortex of shame & addiction amidst fading glory....and JaMarcus has only just rose his head above those troubled waters of his past...though he's still here...he's alive...he's with us... Those who bemoan the fact we didn't win a title with JaMarcus don't understand the man had already won a ring as a backup at LSU as a freshman...there are also no guarantees we win a title in 2007 with JaMarcus Russell starting....while we actually did win a title with Matt Flynn and for 2 games, Ryan Perriloux. Skipping his final year at LSU (like many traditionally NFL ready specimen have) wasn't his downfall...it was his aimless mishandling of sudden celebrityhood, his bloated laziness and disinterest in succeeding on the promise of his Uncles Ray Ray and Mike. It's always been hard to make excuses for Russell, however....when you look at the whole picture, when you've lived pieces of JaMarcus's path, his transgressions were his life to live, not ours as fans. When we realize this inherent truth, many of JaMarcus's acts of self-harm becomes easier to forgive now we know the man is currently okay.
Still, he's the all time #1 Lost Tiger for a variety of reasons:
Not only due to the scope of JaMarcus's inherent loss, or the epic rise and fall, or his life-changing decisions which became 24/7 news cycle fodder for ESPN and others, it was Russel's absolute betrayal of LSU on his way out, it's the fact he never really gave a shit whether we won, lost, or drew...he just wanted to be a star.
We can talk about recovery...sure, we've all been through it at some level, but that doesn't always change a person.
Russell wasn't just a prodigal son of LSU or a Lost Tiger, he was our public psychological vampire...turning Baton Rouge into a quarterback pariah, hanging out before the world to stamp a big fat stereotype upon every LSU Tiger heading into the NFL Draft.
For the rest of time, the careless cloud of JaMarcus Russell will hang over every LSU quarterback or high-impact / highly-rated player who comes out of the school...even Joe Burrow will have to prove himself above and beyond just to get out from under the Russell #1 pick haze.
Thanks to Joe Burrow and the other 16 Tigers from the 2019 unit who participated at the NFL Combine, a lot of the stigma has faded, yet still a debt is owed...a debt needs to be repaid.
JaMarcus needs to give back to LSU...however he does that is fine by me, but the man has a toll which needs to be paid...
The damage he's committed upon the image of an LSU quarterback over the past decade has been a recruiting nightmare for our Tigers staff and is a tragedy when looking upon the litany of fantastic players and excellent teams in Baton Rouge over the past 11 years...only missing a quarterback.
JaMarcus Russell...the biggest bust in NFL history...
JaMarcus Russell...the 2007 Sugar Bowl winner at LSU...
JaMarcus Russell...sold his soul for the highest-paid rookie contract (at the time of signing) for $62.5 million dollars, $32,500,000 guaranteed...
JaMarcus Russell...bankrupt former multi-millionaire....
JaMarcus Russell...2004/05 BCS National Champion (back-up)...
JaMarcus Russell...Codeine syrup addict...
JaMarcus Russell...victim of depression...
JaMarcus Russell...is.....all of us... Once you're a Tiger, you're family forever....
THE MOST EXCITING LSU NEWS COMING SOON... ORGERON DUELS WITH COVID19,