Updated: Jul 9
We're getting down to the nitty gritty...
the best, not the shitty
We've seen Divinity plowing through Clemson
In his quest for redemption
You know about Queen's offensive instincts
He's goin 1st round, who cares what Kiper thinks
Thaddeus knew he got game, even before he knew his last name
Delpit was criticized, unjustly crucified, vilified
Then they went onto Twitter and tried to justify
The bullshit they let fly, oh my guy I gotchyer back
Nobody believed me when I said that Chaisson
Was one of the best guys on D who got his game on
There could be no mistake after you see Cushenberry
He had to be #5, right?
And now.....#4 is...
DEREK STINGLEY JR
6 INTs (2 vs UGA)
1 FR vs Clemson
38 Tackles (31 Solo)
-34 completions allowed
-4 TDs Allowed (2 vs Bama, 1 vs NWState, 1 vs Florida)
-5 Dropped INTs (NW State x2, Vanderbilt x2, Arkansas)
-12 Stops (tackles forcing negative play)
-Flagged 2x (got away with 2 vs GSO & UGA)
-Forced 3 Flags
BEST PERFORMANCE: UGA (SEC Championship Game) Jake Fromm targeted him 8x on the night, Stingley allowed 2 completions, forced 6 incompletions including 2 interceptions & preventing an end zone catch)
We know who we're dealing with here...we're talking about a stone cold killer...a top dawg who trades the brash mentality of young guns for astute maturity, calm integrity and a near mute reverence for humanity as he glides through life...thankfully bestowing his existence upon us....Derek Stingley Jr is a blinding light in a dark world...that is unless you're a wide receiver.
There have been a long line of stunning freshman at LSU, but only 10 men had ever started on defense, a mere 6 in the previous 20 years...until 2019...
I have a question, though: did any of them run a 4.30, 40 yard dash, weighed 195 and stood at 6'1...by the age of 13?
Were any of these former freshmen phenoms even close to attaining the stark influence Derek Stingley Jr's contributions had on the G.O.A.T 2019 unit?
No joke, alongside Herschel Walker, Cam Newton, Tim Tebow, Bo Jackson, Joe "F**king" Burrow or Verne Lundquist's timeless Minnesotan skish, when all is said and done, Derek could be the greatest recruit the SEC has ever seen....especially when he suits up at both corner and receiver in his junior year.
Before that legend-transcending bridge, a fundamental truth must be addressed:
Even if he were to never play another down for the Tigers, Stingley will already be remembered as a bona fide LSU Legend, purely via his exploits at cornerback in 2019/20.
But much to the fear of every SEC school or CFP perennial (Clemson, Oklahoma, Ohio State...ya know...the teams from the weak play-in conferences): the Dunham School product is only an 18 year old kid....the dude can't even legally smoke or drink yet and he's smoking the opposition like a dank Snoop Dogg breakfast, just as much as he frustrates receivers into looking like they're about to fail a breathalyzer...
With the potential to be a freak in the return game, as well as another world class option for Myles Brennan in the receiving corps, Stingley has the rare opportunity to affect all three phases of the game...making one play after another.
While possessing the calm of a Cheshire's unspoken demeanor, Derek visibly belonged in the same discussions of best players on the entire historic squad of 2019/2020: his Keanu finesse on the outside speaking louder and clearer than any brash post-game bragging could ever achieve.
Other than his bewitched teammates going bananas around him, you never heard Stingley utter a sound either during or after one of his miraculous plays on the ball:
All you heard was the aching misery or humiliated agony of imprisoned wide receivers pleading with Stingley to "please...just gimme a chance, this isn't even fun...this isn't even fair! Damn you!"
To fully grasp #24's brilliance, we must start with the men who's own careers blazed Derek a trail all the way to championship majesty:
His dad (a former professional football & baseball athletic novice and Dunham assistant coach) always knew football would come much easier for his son than it came to himself...and Sr's career was no slouch:
Coming out of Purdue, Derek Stingley Sr destroyed all comers in the Arena Leagues, amassing 443.5 tackles, mastering the art of the interception during a 9 year Arena league career at DB (19 INTs, 110 passes defended). Derek Sr earned a good living for his family while playing the game he loved, just like Grandpa Darryl Stingley, a former 1st Round pick for the New England Patriots.
Establishing the trademark multiple attribute genes found in his son and grandson, Darryl Stingley experienced a fantastic NFL career during the 1970s', totaling 110 receptions for 1,883 yards and 14 touchdowns during 60 overall regular season games for the Patriots.
Additionally, Grandpa Stingley also carried the ball for 244 yards, 2 rushing scores and returned 19 punts for 136 (as well as 8 kickoff returns for 187).
Darryl Stingley could ball.
But Grandpa Stingley's promising NFL career was horrifically curtailed in 1978:
In one of the most horrifying plays in NFL history (a play which changed NFL rules forever, as well as altering the careers / lives of both men involved) "hitman" Raiders safety Jack Tatum smashed into Darryl in an obvious helmet-to-helmet cheap shot, paralyzing Derek's grandfather following this tragic spinal cord injury.
At the age of 26, only days before he was to become the highest paid receiver in the game, Darryl would never walk or play a down of football again.
Had things continued to trend in the direction he'd established, his numbers & versatility would've put Darryl in Canton.
Darryl Stingley's legacy is about his day to day heroic battle, his family's sacrifice, the friendships with John Madden or Gene Upshaw leading to increased safety in the NFL, becoming a force for good in Chicago, somehow finding the strength to forgive Jack Tatum...these are all just drops of the royal blood from which Derek Stingley Jr hails...greatness coursing through his very veins.
Beginning as a toddler, Derek Sr already ran Jr through back pedal drills, looking upon his son and knowing "he can handle any technique I show him," realizing #24 had special intangible qualities that you're either born with or you're not...
Echoing his elders, the All-American possessed supernatural abilities which set him apart at an early age, adapting the same grinding work ethic and ball skills of his forefathers...now he was playing for grandpa, dad and the name on the back of the jersey.
Suiting up for Dunham's varsity team as an 8th grader, Derek's body exploded, experiencing a major growth spurt as a 13 year old. In a single summer, Stingley transformed from the smallest in his class into a lanky, rangy, speedy athlete...though his stature may have been slight at first, height advantages never mattered in one on one coverage vs Jr, anyway.
Before his first year at The Dunham School, he began a tradition of producing "Jesusy" plays during practice, showcasing the wonder to his teammates before them....
....like James Bond with a silencer, you never heard Stingley, he was just suddenly there: executing these receiva-divas like a mute assassin.
In Stingley's jaw-dropping junior season at Dunham, he was targeted 18 times, caught 11 interceptions, deflected 6 others, and allowed a single completion at the end of a 4th quarter blowout victory, after he was told to play off (according to Dunham Head Coach Weiner, from an episode of Tiger Details).
As a senior he caught or ran for 14 touchdowns, averaged 28 yards per catch, 17 yards per rush, ridiculously scored a TD every three touches, and grabbed 3 more interceptions (8 fewer than 2017 thanks to no quarterback daring to throw the ball to his side).
By the end of his career at The Dunham School, Stingley snatched 27 total interceptions, ascending as the #1 ranked all around player (and cornerback) in the country....Jr becoming the utmost feared, productive and skillful all around football player the Great State of Louisiana has ever seen....
As a pure talent, no player from The Boot touches his all-encompassing versatility; as a three-phase threat, it's borderline impossible for an alien such as Stingley to even be considered a generational being...he's a transcendental talent, much like Reggie Bush, Bo Jackson, Joseph Burrow, Cam Newton, Doug Flutie, Charles Woodson, Charlie Ward, Sean Taylor, Tyrann Mathieu...hell even Ja'Marr Chase...guys who'll be remembered forever, even if only for a single season's exploits.
While there may be more "critical" recruits to the program, such as Joe Burrow leading the current renaissance or Kevin Faulk installing, repping and normalizing Tiger Greatness in the late 90s (and/or the modern raging soul of a Tiger), Stingley however exists on his own orbit:
When Patrick Peterson looks up to you, simultaneously Tyrann Mathieu orders LSU to hand you the #7 jersey before you've even played a down...you have more than what it takes...you are what it takes:
Derek Stingley didn't need LSU, we needed Derek Stingley...but most importantly, he wanted to be a Tiger...in fact, he demanded purple and gold.
Stunning footage still exists of Derek Stingley Jr and Ja'Marr Chase, both highly recruited but not yet signed, battling at a July 2017 LSU prospect camp.
With Coach Orgeron, Off. Coordinator Steve Ensminger, Wide Receivers Coach Mickey Joseph, and DBs Coach Corey Raymond on the sidelines, Chase destroyed the DB prodigy with his first step, left him in the dust with his second...and leapt over him from the separation of his third....yet it was Derek's constant recovery on the ball which caught so many eyes:
Jr's consistent fight, disappearing hand techniques and ball skills affirmed the hype (other than Chase, nobody caught a pass on him in any drill)...
Chase was already a local legend, so being embarrassed by him once or twice in a drill wasn't uncommon, it was expected; what nobody saw coming was Derek's willingness to get back out there, his ability to forget...a DB's greatest mental asset:
Sting wanted Chase on every play....the two challenging each other to greater heights.
#24 graduated a semester early from Dunham, and after Derek Sr received Coach Orgeron's word that his son would play both ways (as a receiver and corner) during his Junior year, Derek Jr committed as soon as possible.
This early signing was rewarded when Coach Orgeron invited the Dunham prospect to the 2019 Fiesta Bowl's prep practices, the LaRose genius knowing exactly what would happen:
Orgeron foresaw Derek's presence raising the levels of his team and the incoming freshman himself, helping speed up his integration even quicker. Since corner Greedy Williams had already left the team for NFL preparations, Stingley took his opportunity for an appearance on the practice field with both hands.
"He was the best player on defense...and he wasn't even on the team," former defensive coordinator Dave Aranda implored in the aftermath of #24's arresting displays.
"I remember those Spring games...I was like 'oh ok we've heard everything about this freshman being the greatest thing ever and so I was like alright, let's throw it his way...let's see how he handles it'. I did and...let's just say it didn't work out too well," Joe Burrow chuckled.
The duels between Ja'Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson & Terrace Marshall vs Derek Stingley became the molten lava of local football legend:
Our 2019 collective on the wings reignited the DBU / WRU Natural Habitat on the outside, developed from the same school of thought as the originating battles between Jonathan Zenon, Corey Webster, Ryan Clark, LaRon Landry, Michael Clayton, Josh Reed, Brandon LaFell, Dwayne Bowe (2001-2006), later Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Morris Claiborne, Eric Reid and Tharold Simon vs OBJ, Russell Shepard & Jarvis Landry (roughly 2010-2012).
Those were all fantastic athletic supermen, defying their limitations, rising higher on every play, pushing each other to the absolute brink of their capabilities (therefore improving the team as a whole)... but this was just one guy being fully capable of defending three very different, yet extremely explosive 1st round NFL Draft receivers:
Every rep, every time the ball went into the air....everything mattered, all was on the line...this shit was personal.
Humiliating Jr would never be possible, though, not only due to #24's irreplaceable performances in his first collegiate campaign, but because of his near-mute mentality...letting his game speak for itself. The chances of an opposing receiver talking trash to Stingley and somehow driving him into an on-field collapse is completely impossible.
When Sting refused to allow a completion until deep into the Texas game, finally surrendering his first touchdown vs Florida (only 2 he was directly responsible for all season, 3 total), everyone knew what a special talent he was and is.
But we already knew how good he would be...he's merely fulfilling his destiny. Following the Vanderbilt bloodbath of 2019, I wrote:
"After a performance where he was targeted 9x, allowing 3 completions, his recovery was total and absolute with his first ever interception...Anything positive he does from here on out just adds to the mystique, he's already sealed himself as a future and current LSU great. There's nothing he can't do on a football field...let's see him in red zone packages on offense: either out wide, or in the backfield to fluster the opposition, too."
It was true: although Stingley enjoyed a great start to 2019, the freshman was targeted 9 times by Vandy QB Riley Neal in a sloppy affair vs Vandy.
Neal completed 3 passes on Stingley, enjoying early success on the quick slants, but after the corner deflected, batted or defended 5 other passes (including preventing a touchdown and dropping 2 INTs), Derek reached up high and picked off Riley Neal, snatching the ball at its apex from up high.
Though my early write-up on Stingley ignored all caution and went for glory, maybe I shouldn't have been so hasty; The kid recently turned 18, yet here we all were ordaining him DB Gawd of the Century and saying just "give him #7" etc...but this definitive belief in Derek's greatness wasn't some cheap thrill or photo-op for Instagram hype... the love came from the hard truth:
Everyone close to the young man, any of those media members or recruiters (who spent time with this incredible prodigy) knew he could take the responsibility.
Many behind-the-scene realized he would assert himself, never doubting his authority as a freshman, all as he kept an even-keel, "you don't bother me..leave me alone so I can watch Phineas and Ferb and eat gummy bears" vibe.
Just like any great story, there had to be adversity, though...
Stingley's near-perfect 2019 campaign will always be remembered as a historic accomplishment, allowing only 25 direct completions the entire year from 94 overall targets...
But it was the night against Florida when Sting finally faced his toughest psychological test...
After a week filled with "Battle of DBU" interviews & cameras in his face, Stingley could've been annoyed, rattled from the increased camera attention & interviews.
Allowing a season-high 5 completions vs Florida (lifetime high most likely), Derek struggled against Kyle Pitts and especially Van Jefferson. #24 surrendered a touchdown on an inside route from Gators quarterback Kyle Trask's perfect pass to Van Jefferson, the Gators taking a Pyrrhic 28-21 lead in the 3rd quarter...but the worst came after the play.
While he missed the brunt of the brutal impact, the whiplash still caused Derek to suffer a wicked smash to the head.
He laid there for a few nightmarish seconds, lifeless looking and the shades of history began to close...would another Stingley be taken by football?
No way...#24 rose to his feet and despite the whiplash, the future #7 hadn't suffered a concussion...that we know of.
They checked him over and over, looking for the symptoms...
Although the Divinity hit had truly churched Derek, #24 passed the tests and swapped sides with fellow CB Kristian Fulton, Stingley moving from his usual right side to the left in an effort to shake up the so-far successful Florida route tree against him.
As if he hadn't been racked up against the coals enough, the Auburn game became a trial by fire as well.
Fellow freshman Bo Nix (like Florida's Trask) threw at Stingley without fear, even going after Stingley twice on the first drive.
Nix was somehow able to complete two passes vs Derek, including a rather audacious late leap over Derek's head by Seth Williams...but just like Trask, he tossed a crucial interception, this time before halftime.
This wasn't a horrific throw, the receiver was in perfect position to make that catch, this was just Derek Stingley Jr suddenly rising into frame like the Zapruder film and reaching up and over heads, arms, hands and getting that ball at all costs...no surrender.
He had to atone for the 7 points his earlier fumble cost the team...
Before the interception, Sting looked good receiving punt returns so far in the season, looking spritely and capable of breaking loose at any point; #24 had respectable, but overall modest return numbers in 2019, which....let's face it, became a neutral part of LSU's game when you had an automatic "TD-Gawds" such as Joe Burrow, those receivers, Thad Moss, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
The primary job for special teams last season?
Not only were the coaches insistent on watching their own offense, the manic energy from the fans, commentators, celerities like Vince Vaughn, Matthew McConaughey, alums such as Shaquille O'Neal, Jacob Hester, Tyrann Mathieu, among many others, Louisiana legend and LSU player-father Karl Malone, football legends like Marcus Allen...they all had to be at our games...some of these bandwagon fans became obsessed...entranced by what was on display...such bravado and mano e mano "come get me" vibe emanating from these soon-to-be NFL greats on the field before us all...
Bizarrely, this freshman phenom's role in the Alabama "Real Game of the Century" will be marred by the two long touchdown bombs and 5 1st down completions Tua Tagovaiola tossed over his head for DeVonte Smith's mittens...we live and we learn...if anything, winning a national title while getting burned by Alabama may prove to be the best thing to happen to Stingley Jr...
After LSU took a big time 16-7 lead in Tuscaloosa, there was a defensive adjustment by Aranda's staff and everyone looked over to the sideline for the call...but Tua was so sly.
The Bama quarterback snapped the ball, catching LSU's defense completely off guard (including their defensive line, linebackers and especially Derek Stingley himself) for a long touchdown, Smith leaving Stingley on the floor due to #24's head turning to the sideline for the call....for once in his life, Stingley was beaten badly on a big stage...it had to happen at some point...
He angrily pointed at the culprit who distracted the defense after the play, furious with the Smith touchdown making him look "bad". But it continued for the rest of the Bama game: Tua picked on Stingley via DeVonte Smith, the freakish, speedfreak athlete at receiver burned Stingley on the final Crimson Tide snap, once again a streaking go route up the sidelines to close in more than should've been allowed.
We never said Stingley was perfect, but it's an inherent intangible of the greatest to address, improve and conquer those flaws before jettisoning themselves towards an infinite bounty...and if that's greatness personified, Derek Stingley Jr meets the criteria.
So many fools were caught saying "So this kid is the best corner in the country? No way!" all over the newspapers, bars, forums, coffee shops, the Herb Kirkstreets of the world, the Sirius wanna-be deathdrones of the radio, the fanalysts and cynics on Twitter, Facebook all came out of the woodwork and assaulted Derek Stingley Jr, Grant Delpit and the rest of the LSU defense.
As a swarm of hives, they came after our boys with a full-court press of toxic velocity, spewing hatred against the soon-to-be Thorpe Award winner and the freshman supernaut as figureheads of a "top-heavy, individually strong, collectively weak" Dave Aranda defense.
When the defense rested Grant Delpit and a few other wounded defenders, the group rallied and smothered "rivals" Arkansas to pieces, allowing only a single TD of consequence.
Against the Razorhacks, the carousel of QBs at Arkansas (Jefferson, Lindsey etc) targeted Stingley six times, completing only a single pass as Derek batted down a season-high 3 passes in the game, dropped an interception, made 2 solo tackle stops and led a breathtaking display from the LSU defense, especially from guys like Jacoby Stevens (3 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss) or LB Jacob Phillips's 12 tackles.
But the apex has to be his 2 interceptions vs UGA in the SEC title game which cemented his legendary Tigers status...
If you watch the route Simmons ran and how in-step Derek was alongside his every step, you have to feel as if Stingley becomes the real receiver on the play mid-route while Simmons became the DB....such was #24's sheer control of that play.
Later on he dueled with Georgia's fantastic receiver Matt Landers, including stopping a touchdown.
Stingley had been beaten, the ball fixed in-between Lander's left hand and his shoulder pad...and as his feet are landing in the end zone, Stingley pokes the ball out, of course preceding a disgusting Grant Delpit hit on Landers.
On another occasion, Landers beats him on an out-route, gaining separation, yet the eyes deceive as Stingley's lanky arms snake inside, swipe through and swat the ball from Landers' grasp again.
But the play of the day should've been the Tigers' first defensive touchdown of the 2019 season....
With a 27-3 lead, Stingley backs off, disguising a soft coverage, but once Fromm identifies and makes a shallow throw on an out route, Stingley already reads the play, dissecting Fromm's thoughts like he's been his marriage counselor for three years, closing in on the ball like a hawk, jumping in front of UGA receiver Pickens and ripping the ball outta the air (his 6th INT).
He was heading toward the house if it weren't for the wide out doing a remarkable job in stopping the corner's path to the end zone....Georgia barely saving some face.
It is no exaggeration to say Derek could influence Tiger championships in every season during his LSU career...
First, he had to mark his freshman campaign with the stamp of greatness which defines a player for life...branding you as a member of the triumphant 2019 LSU Tigers World Class "Renegade Brigade".
The "Renegade Brigade" were a band of misfit warriors, throwaways, castoffs, suspended or injured guys teams gave no chance...except Coach Orgeron, Bill Busch, Corey Raymond, Mickey Joseph, and the rest of the recruiting coordinators at LSU.
We grabbed em up from the transfer portal or the scraps at the bottom of the barrel in recruiting (Joe Burrow, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Justin Jefferson, Lloyd Cushenberry, Patrick Queen etc).
Despite the reputation, like Thaddeus Moss, Stingley had to deliver the family a championship, and when LSU faced off vs Clemson on the hollowed grounds of the New Orleans Superdome, Derek lived a dream many on the LSU squad could only imagine in their minds: A Louisiana kid wearing purple and gold, competing for a national title on the Superdome floor, much like the 2003/04, 2007/08 and 2011/12 units.
Now all he had to do was perform, and in an unreal display where the All-American corner posted his 7th created turnover of the season, Derek didn't let up at all during the National Championship Game.
His blanketed coverage on Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross forced "one of the greatest college QBs of all time" Trevor Lawrence into a variety of incompletions (6), handcuffing the Clemson offense.
Since half of the field (to Lawrence's left) was removed on many plays due to Stingley's existence, Lawrence continually challenged Kristian Fulton on the other side.
Regardless of his early success in the game, Fulton recovered and began shutting down Higgins or Ross with ease. By that point, linebackers Patrick Queen, Jacob Phillips and safety Grant Delpit hampered & limited Travis Etienne, Lawrence felt pressure from all sides (Michael Divinity, K'Lavon Chaisson, Neil Farrell Jr, Rashard Lawrence, Tyler Shelvin, Glen Logan...everyone getting in on this action) and thanks to Fulton and Stingley's solid coverage, Delpit and Jacoby Stevens making plays closer to the line for the RPO sets, Dabo Swinney's men were squeezed slowly before being devoured.
Delpit smashed Clemson's quarterback hard, knocking the football loose in the vicinity of #24: like a true ball hawking corner, Derek scooped the ball up into his chest and sealed the title game victory in resolute style.
This was a surreal moment for Stingley Jr...part of a crazy night where LSU turned New Orleans into party town once again, his home state of Louisiana rampaging and raving all night long, all week long, all month in celebration...for some, this was their last appearance in purple and gold, the last stand in which rings were captured...
While January 13th will forever be known as Joe Burrow's night, or Patrick Queen's night, the night of Grant Delpit or Thaddeus Moss, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Ja'Marr Chase, Terrace Marshall, Michael Divinity, K'Lavon Chaisson...etc upon etc...this championship will also be remembered as the beginning of Derek Stingley Jr's quest to become the 3rd Heisman Trophy winner at LSU, the next #7 after Ja'Marr Chase & Jacoby Stevens and potentially the all-time interceptions leader in Louisiana State University history (he needs 15 more to pass Chris Williams' 20).
Who knows what the future may hold for this superstar...he could be a flame-out at receiver, still be a world class corner, while scoring one punt/kick return TD after another, breaking every record in his wake....
We simply don't know how good he can be...but from the evidence we've been given, the young man that he is, the accomplishments, the techniques, the failures and mistakes he can learn from, there's more room to improve...
The scary thing for all SEC opponents: he will adapt, adjust, mature and build on his 6 interceptions, 4 in the red zone as a freshman, allowing completions on a radioactive 4.3% of his targets, he'll recover from his 28 passes defended / deflected...somehow, he will become an even better cornerback in 2020...
That's how he's been raised, this is what he was born to do.
LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2020 Uninterrupted Writings Inc LLC