Updated: May 23
We've told you why LSU's DB history is much more important and innate than any other school, just as we dropped the first three / four members of the Top 10 list.
We wondered aloud who could even attempt to honor LSU's illustrious DB past while also making sure to give forgotten greats their due?
Well, in the absence of any other Top 10 DBs of DBU list, we're about to embark on a journey into the heart of madness...
Buckle up, the next three blow the list wide open in a controversial maelstrom of fiendish bloodlust....my fingernails will be ripped from my hands, blood curled around my nostrils, my face beaten into a pile of Yoplait, my eyes gouged out by Jonathon Zenon's family...
This'll be interesting....I can take the pain:
7. RYAN CLARK
1 SUGAR BOWL 1 SEC TITLE 1 SUPER BOWL WIN (2 apps.) 38 Games (all as a consecutive starter) 315 tackles (7th all time leader) 8 INTERCEPTIONS (2-3 in each season) (1 pick vs Bama) (4 tackles, 1 sack 1 TFL for a 12 yard loss during Sugar Bowl vs Illinois) 4 FF 1 FR (in 2001 SEC title game vs #2 Tenn) (8 Games of 10+ tackles) 29 PASS BREAKUPS While some may say certain listmates were the brains behind DBU, others the forefathers, the godfathers and the creators of DBU....well then Ryan Clark is not only the heart and soul of DBU: He's the balls. Delivering on a forthright promise of kickass attitude, Ryan's honest, bold, in-your-face representation of the culture of DBU (via his platform on ESPN) has been an invaluable look behind the closed doors of the LSU locker room...all while keeping hold of those deeper secrets only meant for teammates and coaches. Ryan Clark's career at LSU was renegade from the beginning, bursting on to the scene as a rip-roaring kick/punt coverage destroyer, fighting his way for playing time by becoming the invaluable Special Teams Player of the Year as he made play after play, effecting the very outcomes of games.
But the time for waiting was over: beginning with the first game of his sophomore year, RC took over as starting free safety at LSU, a historic run which would set a consecutive appearance mark so voluminous it strikes envy into every new Tigers DB....a benchmark for greatness: the DBU Graduate became the undisputed starting free safety for 38 straight games, culminating in the 2001/02 campaign...a season of rebirth for Louisiana State. Though Rohan Davey and Josh Reed's high powered offense led Saban's Tigers to their first SEC title game since the mid 80s, our 2001 victory over #2 Tennessee wouldn't have been possible without Ryan Clark's 4th quarter fumble recovery in the red zone. While Casey Clausen led the Volunteers to take the lead, chasing us at 24-20, Ryan Clark arrived at the perfect spot, pouncing on Donte Stallworth's fumble, a turnover Matt Mauck punished Tennessee for allowing. Who could forget his final LSU appearance during the 2002 Sugar Bowl victory over Illinois...LSU's first appearance in the Sugar Bowl since 1986: Ryan announced himself from Illinois's first drive, batting a 3rd down pass into the backfield on a blitz while issuing 4 tackles, 1 sack and a 12 yard TFL. Over the course of his four seasons, Clark was a consistent battering ram, levying punishment left, right and center as he amassed 8 games of 10+ tackles during his career, including a ridiculous 17 vs Houston. Despite his establishment of DBU's reputation in the NFL as part of the Super Bowl winning colossus in Pittsburgh, Clark's name hardly gets a mention when we consider the best of DBU's history...we are gathered here today to rectify this decades long mistake. Legendary Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau once called Clark "the smartest football player I've ever coached" highlighting how Clark's dirty work in coverage granted Troy Polamalu the responsibility-less headline grabbing, playmaking role. To be shackled with so much responsibility (he was basically both a free and strong safety), while also finding the time to make plays himself, is one of the most underrated qualities of Clark's game...all as he heroically battled a sickle cell trait which cost him his spleen, gallbladder and 30 lbs years later after playing in high altitude Denver during his years on the Steelers.
When Pittsburgh played at Mile High without Ryan Clark, they felt his missing presence immediately...especially LeBeau and his buddy Troy. I have to say...after watching Clark's career (thank you Boys From The Boot as well as my private home VHS collection), LeBeau's comments become even more obvious at a collegiate level: RC had his shit sooooo together that his reliability in coverage and (once Saban arrived) his superbly timed blitzing, allowed others to excel...
Clark instantly improved any team he was a part of, and like LaRon Landry and Perry Riley Jr, I had the distinguished opportunity to watch him play for my Washington Redskins, too....and Clark made an indelible impact upon the secondary during his tenure, enabling DeAngelo Hall to ascend into a Pro Bowl / shut down corner.
We feel like Ryan hasn't been officially honored as he should be within the purple and gold community...many have turned a blind eye ever since he became an analyst for ESPN. However, Clark has done nothing but perpetuate a positive image of the Purple & Gold, not to mention his relentless passion for analyzing the tenets of DBU in all its past, current and future glory... Well Ryan, we honor you now as the heart & soul of DBU. TURNOVER POINTS: 14 TITLE POWER: 5 LSU GRADE: 9/10 NFL GRADE: 9.5/10 COMPOSITE DBU SCORE: 37.5 OUR SCORE: 31.5 6. MO CLAIBORNE
33 games 1 TITLE GAME APPEARANCE 1 SEC TITLE 2011 UNANIMOUS ALL-AMERICAN 2011 THORPE AWARD 2011 SEC DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR (Shared with Tyrann Mathieu and the LSU Defensive Coaching staff) 1 SUPER BOWL WIN 11 INTs (1 TD) 1 FF 1 PR TD 9 PASSES DEFENDED Exposed as a Dallas Cowboy for the first time in his football career, many began to minimize his LSU stature, poking at his minimal statistics and the fact he was surrounded by the best secondary of all time. Yet again, we denegrate his impact as a premier shutdown corner. We didn't see Claiborne grab 20 INTs simply due to the fact he was hardly targeted...much like another DBU Graduate who unfairly receives the overrated tag, Pat Peterson. Claiborne justified his DBU status in 2019 as a member of the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs, reuniting with his best pal Tyrann Mathieu and revitalizing his NFL career. Like Peterson restoring his DBU brother Tyrann back to glory in Arizona, now Mathieu repaid this DBU debt to his 2011 partner-in-crime. For this guy to win the 2011 Jim Thorpe Award over Tyrann Mathieu, Eric Reid and Brandon Taylor, as well as sharing the SEC Defensive Player of the Year Award alongside Tyrann Mathieu, Eric Reid, linebacker Kevin Minter among others speaks to his high value as an overall defensive asset, let alone as a DB. Mo's ball skills were incredible, rising high above receivers as if the ball were meant for his dominion alone: because of his aerial, golden glove wizardry we always knew if the ball touched Claiborne...possession was ours.
If the ball juggled or bobbled, he always came down with it, and the rare times he was beaten on a route, Claiborne fought back to clap the ball away nearly every time. His place in CFB or NFL history may be up to whatever Joel Klatt-initiated debate you may subject yourself to, but his place on our Top 10 DBs of DBU remains firmly secure. TURNOVER POINTS: 12 TD POINTS: 4 TITLE POWER: 2 LSU GRADE: 10/ 10 NFL GRADE: 8.5/10 COMPOSITE DBU SCORE: 36.5 OUR SCORE: 33.5
5. CRAIG STELTZ
40 Games 2 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS 2 SEC TITLES 1 SUGAR BOWL 2007 THORPE AWARD FINALIST 182 TOTAL TACKLES 109 SOLO 7.0 TFL 10 INTs (6 in 2007) 3 FF -Tied for Most INTs in a single game (LSU History) with 3 v Ole Miss 1 BLOCKED PUNT TD RETURN (2004) 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. 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 the personification of an LSU safety, he was a f***kin soldier of fortune, damnit...when he hit you, it felt like you just became a Metallica album cover, I mean...he made you Ride The Lightning, he brought the Justice...he killed 'em all..."
While the source of this erroneous quotation cannot be confirmed, we have the basic understanding of just how successfully sadistic Steltz grew to be: "He was routinely 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 dismembering opposition, all while learning under fellow safety LaRon Landry as well as forming a mean tandem alongside Curtis Taylor during the 2007 title run. 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 DB in college football: Steltz enforced the field like the lovechild of Ronnie Lott and Charles Bronson, accepting no substitutes for smashmouth football. We pay absolute tribute to the glorified Rummel High 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 it.
TURNOVER POINTS: 13 TITLE POWER: 7 TD POINTS: 2 LSU GRADE: 9.5/10 NFL GRADE: 5.5/10 COMPOSITE DBU SCORE: 37.0 OUR SCORE: 36.5
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN #4-1 NEXT!
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW THIS WEEK!