by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
While Saturday's colossal defeat @ Kentucky may feel like the closing of one chapter for some, it also appears to be the opening of another for third year Tigers running back Ty Davis-Price, shutting the door on what has been a long, hard road mapped by frustration, underappreciation, and finally, redemption.
The path began in the ultimate fashion:
After an absolutely phenomenal freshman year behind Clyde Edwards-Helaire, posting 6 rushing TDs, TDP's first season as a Tiger ushered in a National Championship, an SEC title, while the offense threw for 61 TDs and rushed for 32....the Greatest Offensive Unit of All Time....and Ty wasn't just a part of it, he was playing a strong supporting role.
Though he played second fiddle to Clyde's unparalleled abilities, Ty appeared across 14 of the Tigers' 15 games, seen on national television plowing over or bending around Oklahoma or Georgia defenders during the CFP Semifinal and SEC title game, scoring in Atlanta for a huge second quarter touchdown vs UGA, posting TDs in 3 of his last 5 appearances, as well as settling matters with his brilliant 33 yard touchdown scamper at the climax of a frenzied showdown vs Florida...the latter in front of a wild hometown crowd.
Gaining 295 yards from 64 carries for 4.6 yards per carry, as well as the 6 TDs, Ty's debut was as impressive as it possibly could be, considering he was dueling alongside another top freshman (John Emery, scoring 4 TDs in 2019) while both were behind Clyde's 17 TDs and near constant presence on the field; Add in Joe Burrow's own 5 rushing TDs, and it's quite crowded....
Somehow, despite the intensive competition, TDP rose above...
Heading into his sophomore year, everything seemed to be perfectly falling into place for his future, regardless of the presence of another dynamic sophomore back:
Either because Coach O's competition narrative framed the two together or due to a lazy sports media, Ty Davis-Price was placed right next to John Emery Jr as the double-headed starting running back for LSU's title-defending season.
Expecting a major sophomore campaign from both backs, most LSU coaches and fans were disappointed by our anonymous 2020 running game, however when you go back and watch the footage and accurately judge the duo, both Emery & TDP received little help from a porous OL, our receiving corps lost one colossal target or strong blocker after another (Chase & Marshall's opt outs, plus Arik Gilbert's transfer), while each back was removed at the worst moments for their own confidence & cohesion....
....this "stop / start" version of rotation never allowed either #3 or #4 to maintain any rhythm whatsoever.
Despite Davis-Price's breakout 135 yard game vs South Carolina or courageous 104 yard stand to beat Arkansas, 2020 was lost under the insanity of Coach Orgeron's ridiculous coaching staff.
There were entire games where Ty Davis-Price sat on the bench or stood on the sidelines...idly watching by as the Tigers were listless on the ground.
Regardless, his sophomore season ended when he was on top, already 55 yards from 9 carries into the early 2nd quarter @ #7 Florida, Ty was poised to roll all over the Gators defense once again....only for an untimely ankle injury shutting him down for the second half, as well as the final contest vs Ole Miss.
Totaling 446 yards, 3 TDs to go alongside a 4.3 average (as well as a diving TD reception vs Arkansas which should've counted), TDP's 2020 may have been considered a lost season by many, yet I feel like it was a brutal proving ground...a stretch of adversity which has only made him stronger.
At the same time, more intense matters were on the young man's mind.....his family:
Ty's family were suffering from dangerous Covid 19 complications: Ty lost family members to Covid, then both of his parents caught the virus and underwent long hospital stays.
His father Tyquency battled for almost three months, being sent back and forth to the hospital as he toughed through countless symptoms.
During that fall, this author watched on as Ty courageously went all out for his family, win or lose, knowing what the Davis-Price family were going through.....all while having to be quarantined away from his parents & sister, LSU's starting running back gave them the strength to fight.
Likewise spurred on by his parents' ability to overcome, Ty looked ahead to what could be his final season in purple & gold, and took the gloves off....it was his time.
Coming into their junior "money year" with an extra 12 months of eligibility in their pockets due to Covid-19, the off-season spotlight was firmly on Ty & John as analysts focused heavily on the Tigers' running game.
Becoming one of the biggest talking points of the spring and summer, John Emery Jr and TDP were poised to decide each other's fate in competition for the #1 running back job.
Throughout the off-season, many cast their lot with John Emery Jr as the future superstar running back at LSU, believing the former 5 star out of Destrehan High would come good during his third season.
However, because the NCAA made an unprecedented decision, banning John Emery Jr for an entire season due to academic ineligibility, John was forced to sit his entire 2021 campaign (pending appeal), coupled with Tre Bradford transferring away from and back to LSU (still ineligible), the doors were flung open for Ty Davis-Price....could 2021 be his season?
While many fans clamored for freshmen Corey Kiner and Armoni Goodwin to start instead, TDP kept his place heading into the 2021 campaign, not only due to his brilliance during Spring & Fall camp....there was a significant change in Davis-Price's life which gave him every reason to stay motivated through the hard times:
This past June, his girlfriend Tiara gave birth to a beautiful little baby girl named Brooklyn; Now months into raising his first child, Ty is already embracing fatherhood to its fullest, and because of Brooklyn & Tiara, for his mother Stacie, father Tyquency & his siblings....for his city....he had every reason to fight on.
Ty was a father now, he had maturity, experience and leadership that no one else in the running back room possessed....a definitive #18 candidate for 2022, if he returns.
Although confidence was high for the Tigers going into the Rose Bowl on September 4th to launch the Tigers' bounce back season.....some things in life don't turn out the way we plan:
After 5 games, TDP had been through yet another brutal spell, where it wasn't just tough sledding for yards....there wasn't anywhere to go.
Completely stuffed @ UCLA, going 13 for 31 yards behind a capsizing offensive line, Ty wasn't trusted with the bulk of the carries for the next few games by a "thus far" inept LSU offensive coordinator, only receiving 5-8 total touches vs CMU, Auburn or McNeese State....games that could've given our true starting RB extra reps to build confidence.
You don't find out what kind of running back you have by giving them 5 rushes....you just don't....and Ty's numbers prove it:
Over his LSU career, when TDP received 15 or more touches, the former Southern Lab star hit 100+ yards, scored at least one touchdown, and led LSU to a 3-0 record.....
And while criticism rained in from certain sides of the LSU fan base, it felt as if Tiger fans had no idea just what kind of running back they had on roster:
Remember, the Baton Rouge native is a running back Nick Saban went after with everything he had....he wouldn't get off the phone with Ty until 3 am the night before National Signing Day....it's not out of the realm of possibility to say TDP could've been a 1,000 yard back for multiple seasons at Alabama...
The G.O.A.T college football coach ruthlessly pursued Ty out of Southern Lab; but regardless of all the promises, Alabama "allure", the recent dynasty under Saban,
Ty Davis-Price wanted LSU, he chose LSU...and only LSU.
"He wanted to show out for his city," his mother Stacie told me back in 2020.
Playing for LSU, wearing Kevin Faulk's #3....it's all a dream for Ty....but now he has higher designs:
All of it, the rumbling rumors off the field, the competition during practices, the shortsighted desires of LSU's fan base.....everything negative fell to dust and aligned for TDP on Saturday night in Lexington.
Walking out to face the Wildcats, TDP appeared with an edge, a grit I've never seen him display before Saturday....he wanted it all.
Ready for battle, he wore eye-black with "Remy" written in silver marker, a weekly tribute to Remy Hidalgo, a young junior offensive lineman from Denham Springs who died following his mid-practice collapse due to heat stroke early last fall.
Ty doesn't forget....
But he may want to wipe out the memory of how LSU played vs Kentucky as a team...
While freshman Corey Kiner received the bulk of the first carries, LSU fumbled the ball early and were never going to stop Kentucky's running game, contributing to a 14-0 Kentucky lead before the Tigers could blink.
Trusting in his junior running back to put his university, his team, his city on his shoulders and try to drag them back, facing a habitual two score deficit, Offensive Coordinator Jake Peetz looked to TDP.
Ty soon began to take over as the main back...especially when one 2nd quarter drive began with 4 straight TDP rushes, all going for 25 yards and 2 first downs...the most for the Tigers all season in one sequence.
Of course, the drive stalled after penalties and timeouts, still Jake Peetz found a recipe and kept going back to the 2019 National Champion.
Suddenly, he saw daylight, busting runs for 12 yards (smashing a Wildcat defender to pieces at the end of the play), another 14 yard scramble showing off his pacey shiftiness and vision, before rattling off a 30 yard burst down the sidelines. He topped the drive off by scoring on a do or die 4th and goal attempt, bringing LSU back to 21-7.
Despite his greatest attempts, the team continued to hold his efforts back. An unnecessary holding penalty on the outside (that didn't free TDP's run) removed a 12 yard rush, yet Ty scored a second touchdown to bring the Tigers within 14 once again...
All in all @ Kentucky, Ty rushed for 7 first downs, two 3rd down conversions, and a pair on 4th down, including his first TD. He also ran for 4 gains of 10+ yards, a 30 yard rush, and 3 runs between 7-9 yards.
Soon, 35-21 became 42-21 and the show was over....LSU lost to Kentucky in hellish fashion.......and still, if it weren't for Ty, we would've had nothing to cheer for:
It may sound futile writing about it now, but to myself and many other Tiger fans, #3 was the only bright spot during one of LSU's lowest SEC moments.
Becoming the first LSU Tiger to rush for over 100 yards this season, eclipsing his previous career high of 135 yards, and scoring his first two touchdowns of 2021, Ty's 147 yard, 22 carry, 2 TD performance against Kentucky kept the homefires burning....kept the faith alive.
Taking on Florida this Saturday morning, with the Tigers' backs up against the wall, I expect Ty to show out for his city yet again....plus.....he's always loved playing against the Gators....
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc
SHOUTOUTS: HAPPY 19TH ANNIVERSARY STACIE & TYQUENCY!