I'll never forget Zach Mettenberger.
There is something distinctly Louisiana about him. He may be six foot five and from Georgia, but if you hadn't told me any different, I'd have sworn he's a Dufrene or a Robichaux or a Jarreau. It's not something you truly understand, unless you've been to Louisiana for anything more than an away game or a vacation. Everyone else is from a state, or a country, but if you are from the boot, you are Louisiana people. Zach Mettenberger is Louisiana people.
Louisiana people know how to take a punch. I watched Zach Mettenberger get hit in the mouth, weekly, routinely, no matter the opponent. For two years, he kept getting up. There is perhaps no more enduring image of our quarterback than him picking himself up off the ground, shunning any help, and walking off the field in Tuscaloosa... pride intact.
Louisiana people love a redemption story. Following the Arkansas game, Miles said Mettenberger wasn't the same guy he met three years ago. Even from a faraway perspective, it's easy to tell that's the truth. Mettenberger came to LSU broken, needing a second chance. One of the great aspects of college football is the opportunity to watch boys grow into men. We were privileged to see Mettenberger grow before our eyes, not just as a football player, but as a man. It's easy to become cynical regarding troubled collegiate athletes and the many second chances they are given. Mettenberger took advantage of his second chance, rather than taking it for granted.
Louisiana people love some good hijinks. In his first ever SEC appearance, Mettenberger called his own number, likely bucking the up-the-middle run call that came in from the coaches. He scored on the play, though the officials spotted him at the one, and he was then humbled by Les Miles, forced to take four consecutive knees to surrender the ball back to a beaten down Ole Miss team.
Louisiana people love drama. The 2013 offense, captained by Mettenberger, lead the nation in third down conversions, some of them coming in spectacular fashion. Mettenberger saw 3rd and 23 as an opportunity, not an obstacle. Just when opponents would feel they're comfortable, pushing LSU into a near impossible situation, there Mettenberger would stand up, deliver a strike to one of his favor targets and move the chains.
Louisiana people are prideful, tough, and full of character. Louisiana people are fearless, resilient and tenacious. Nothing can slow Louisiana people, not flood waters, not corruption, not oil spills. Just the moment you think they are beaten, never to return, they bounce back bigger, better, more lively than ever.
And that's how I'll remember Zach Mettenberger. A warrior that stared adversity in the eyes and made it blink. An I'll-take-your-best-shot-and-get-right-back-up-again sonuvabitch that doesn't need your help walking off the field. A special player, and a special person, that we were lucky to witness. A man who's final pass was a miracle completion, and that that didn't shock me at all. A man who sings "Forever, LSU" and means it.
Louisiana people are Zach Mettenberger. Zach Mettenberger is Louisiana people.