As we look back on the 44 greatest athletes of the last ten years, let’s first look back just ten months.
There was the perpetual cautious optimism about the offense. On paper things looked good, but that was nothing new for LSU. One of the bigger questions was how the Tigers would distribute the carries out of the backfield.
With the departure of 1,000 rusher Nick Brosette, most of the attention was focused on freshmen John Emory and Ty Davis Price. Clyde Edwards Helaire was something of an afterthought. That wasn’t completely unwarranted. He didn’t have 100 yards rushing on the season as a freshman, and was up (19-145 vs Georgia) and down (17-56 vs Arkansas) as a sophomore.
Back to the present and it’s impossible to think of 2019 without CEH as a featured player.
Ed Orgeron may have been the voice of the team, Joe Burrow may have been its mind, but CEH was its drive. Every snap he took it was very apparent that Clyde was not the physical specimen so many expect at high level college football. Nevertheless, he schooled them all. His performances represented the motivation from the haters, those who thought Orgeron couldn’t coach, Burrow wasn’t a top calibur starting quarterback, and those who spent the year bandwagoning for another team that wasn’t LSU. You could be a doubter on first glance, but you certainly wouldn’t be on gameday. With every play, it felt like a collective “how you like me now” coming from the LSU universe.
His vision was elite, combined with some of the quickest feet in the game had defenders dancing all over the field trying to take him down. He was a nightmare to tackle, not afraid to use his low center of gravity to bowl defenders over or use his agility to make them whiff.
Where he really shined was in the passing game. Joe Brady turned CEH into one of the best, most valuable, and most clutch weapons on the team. His 55 receptions were third most on a team. Since 2009 no LSU running back has had more than 23 receptions in a season. In an offense that took pride in going deep, Edwards Helaire was the guy who killed opponents who tried to shut down the vertical passing game.
The Bama game was the epitome of Clyde. Many will point to the Bama game as the day Burrow locked up the Heisman. A substantial portion will remember that as Clyde’s game. He had potentially the greatest touchdown of the season on the late 2nd quarter TD reception. Schooling Trevon Diggs (times infinity), Syheim Carter, Markail Benton, Raekwon Davis, and Christian Harris. He leapt over the goal line, he plucked the ball off the ground, and he carried the Tide defense to ice the game.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire may not pepper LSU’s record books nor see his name next to the highest awards. When the 2019 LSU team is talked about there will be stories about the road to success, many of which would not have been possible without the spectacular performance from CEH.