Updated: May 24
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY III
Featuring in over 2,100 snaps throughout his time at LSU, including 1,037 plays throughout all 15 victories of the Tigers' 2019 dominion, Lloyd Cushenberry III became the big ol' reliable punisher on an offensive line which transcended transition, player suspension and injury.
Even before his 2019 ever-present reliability, durability and testimonial D-line abuse, Lloyd Cushenberry had already been trusted with the iconic #18 jersey, such was his infectious work ethic, breezy calm demeanor and unspoken command in the trenches or locker room.
"He's so quiet...so if he were to say anything, Lloyd was only gonna be telling the team something once..." former LSU left tackle Shaadiq Charles described....but when he spoke, everyone stopped, dropped and hopped to Cush's every word.
Because his example is one to follow: if Cush told you or I to jump off a cliff, you best be ready for his long tree branch arms to catch the fall.
"I've had a few people tell me I'm just a completely different person on the field," said Cushenberry.
Lloyd went from being special teams MVP to the center of the college football universe (double entendre intended), becoming more comfortable with Burrow's hands below his waste than Olivia Holzmacher....
Around this time, Olivia allegedly forced Steve Ensminger to install more shotgun plays in the LSU offense.
Now, the name Lloyd Cushenberry is mentioned among the highest ranking offensive linemen in the 2020 NFL Draft, while his colorful surname has become synonymous with Joe Burrow, the orgasmic 2019 offense, and the historic #18, becoming the first O-lineman to ever receive the honor...
This is a guy who went up against FIVE of the 2020 NFL Draft's Top 10 graded defensive tackle prospects and only marginally struggled against Derrick Brown, the #1 overall prospect out of Auburn (still, the LSU offense amassed over 500 yards against former LSU DC Kevin Steele's then #1 ranked defense).
Our #18 displayed why he's the most valuable offensive lineman in the NFL Draft (once again) during the 2019 Peach Bowl (a "game" which was more like the first three seasons of Dexter):
Cush made Oklahoma's #3 ranked DT Neville Gallimore flail at the air, becoming more desperate than Carson Daley's career following every down;
As for the rest of the Top 10 D-lineman list Mel Kiper and Todd McShay cobbled together, Lloyd bent Auburn's #8 ranked Marlon Davidson, A&M's Justin Madubuike looked like Spongebob entering the jaws of hell, while the fire in Lloyd's eyes declared "I'm gonna break you" to #9 rated DT Raekwon Davis, dominating the Crimson Tide senior throughout the Alabama game....this was sweet, sexy revenge for our much-criticized offensive line.
Has there ever been a single year where an offensive lineman had to face such a fiery gauntlet?
Never...not even close.
5 of the top 10 best linemen in the country, 4 more in the top 20...the names of so many elite pass-rushers, run-stoppers or gap-cloggers barreled onto the field, looking to put on a show...and every time they ran into the Great Wall of Cush.
More beautifully boring in his consistent, fundamental brilliance than Jerry Sloan's Utah Jazz, Lloyd fought for Joe Burrow's Heisman on every play.
No one wanted Joe to deliver an LSU championship more than Lloyd Cushenberry....watch him on every play now and you'll get it.
Like most of us, Lloyd is currently taking care of his family at home during the Covid-19 outbreak, however "the most cerebral offensive player" of 2019 (as Joe Burrow called him) has also found plenty of time to prepare himself for the upcoming NFL Draft, running wind sprints by the local levees.
Media members like the great Jacques Doucet and fellow #18 Jacob Hester drove by and witnessed Lloyd's high octane training (in preparation for the upcoming Draft), making sure to report the stellar work ethic.
That's not all he did to establish himself as a top draft pick:
Cushenberry destroyed all-comers during a Senior Bowl performance which finally made his true impact on the 2019 offense definitive and profound...much to the arousal of any and all offensive line junkies.
At the Senior Bowl, Lloyd dominated 5 star recruits and likely 1st round picks, one after another:
Sitting them down, sinking his hips as if he were a ballerina, replacing his hands after a vicious slap move as if he were floating on a ghost's breath, making the coaches and scouts' jaws drop.
His greatness was finally on full display...but it was a long road before Cush would truly be credited for his intertwining relationship with Joe Burrow's Heisman-winning, G.O.A.T quarterbacking frenzy:
As the 1,522nd ranked player in the 2016 class, the 3 star recruit out of Dutchtown High School was the last signee of the 2016 class...but Louisiana State University took a chance on him due to his unshakeable character and IQ, both on the field and in the classroom.
His pure obsession for football won him a spot on the LSU roster and jettisoned the young man through life:
“When he was five years old I bought Lloyd a football and he carried that football everywhere," Cushenberry's mother Debbie detailed on Tiger TV, "he even went to sleep with that football, and I knew that he was going to be a football player one day...it makes me feel very blessed to know that he’s playing the game that he loves."
"I remember the day he got the offer from LSU..." Ayanna Cushenberry, Lloyd's sister explained, "it was amazing," the emotion hits her like a tidal wave on the final words.
As a freshman, Cushenberry was fully committed without any promises or guarantees he'd take the field, yet he battled on in the war he waged against expectations, rankings and the number of stars next to a name.
With his versatility as a center or guard, Lloyd found opportunities behind sophomore guard Adrian McGee and fellow freshman phenom Ed Ingram
(as I call him "Mr. Evernasty"), yet at the position he was born to play, Cush fell behind LSU greats Ethan Pocic and current Saints' center Will Clapp.
All in all, Cush made the most of his 100 total snaps over 7 appearances as a freshman during the transitory 2017 season, earning more respect by the down.
Though Clapp's breathtaking governance of the pocket kept Cushenberry from the field (Clapp allowed a stunning 0 sacks in the first two years of his LSU career), the current Saints center would end up influencing Cushenberry in a variety of ways....most of all, his sudden departure.
“I really didn’t expect it,” LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry said. “But when he declared, he called me and told me to step up and be a leader. But I thought he was coming back. I wasn’t really surprised. I just knew it was my time. I waited two years behind him and Pocic, and now it’s my time to turn up.”
Caught off guard by Will Clapp's NFL declaration, Cushenberry grew excited, though he knew he'd need to be more vocal...no more isolated O-line only hangouts. He branched out, hanging in different groups of the team, getting everyone together, staying after practice with the underclassmen to make sure they "get it right" as Lloyd said.
In 2018, the stars aligned...even if we were all unaware of the magic about to be unleashed:
When Joe Burrow transferred from Ohio State in May 2018, Lloyd and Joe immediately grew close, their chemistry extending to the field as Cushenberry became starting center and Burrow took the QB mantle.
He missed only 8 snaps in the SEC as LSU finished off a topsy turvy 2018 with an unceasing lust for blood: the pieces were falling into place along James Cregg's ultimate offensive trench.
During the Auburn game, Cushenberry's empirical greatness finally shown brightly, when he tossed a few of Kevin Steele's highly rated defensive linemen aside like used toilet paper and allowed Joe Burrow to scurry for a few crucial 1st downs. Without having to win every rep against everyone he faced, he would still recover, fight, keep his hands inside, and earn Joe the few seconds he needed to stay four steps ahead of the defense....
When isolated mano e mano vs Derrick Brown, the #1 D-lineman prospect in the country, Cushenberry handled the never-ending friction and unrelenting force from Brown's bull-rushes with ridiculous ease, keeping him at bay with his vitriolic hands.
Together with guard Damien Lewis. LSU won the national title on Lloyd and Lewis' 28th consecutive start, the Tigers geauxing 25-3 during the unbelievable streak.
Despite the lack of offensive linemen stats, judging by the 2019 tape, Cushenberry fixed 18 knockdown blocks, gave up 0 sacks vs Florida or Ole Miss, and was the highest graded lineman on either team during the Alabama, Auburn, Utah State, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma massacres.
Though he orchestrated the offensive protection of the greatest quarterback the universe has ever witnessed, including the Joe Moore Award recognition, Cushenberry may not be the obvious pick for a player who most defined the vibe of LSU's 2019 season; still, he's definitely the most unsung player of that legendary season...which is probably the way he prefers.
Without question, Lloyd has become the greatest center in the history of LSU football, a true centerpiece of the team itself and recipient of the 2019 Players' Choice Team MVP Award...what a leader, what a champion...what a Tiger.
You don't have to believe me, just listen to Joe Burrow:
"You can't put it into numbers...Great leader. Great player. Even keeled presence throughout the entire team. I don't know where we'd be without Lloyd to be honest...."
#5 & 4 NEXT!
LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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