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Is LSU Football’s Coveted No. 7 Cursed? An ATVS Investigation

“I defy you to come up with a better name than 7” -George Costanza

SEC Championship - LSU v Georgia Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Kayshon Boutte’s 2022 season was strange. Originally thought of as the best wide receiver in the 2023 NFL Draft class, he ended up getting picked in the sixth round, the 22nd wide receiver off the board. Sports Illustrated had projected him as the fifth overall pick in August.

Had that occurred, Boutte would’ve given LSU a Top-5 pick for the fifth year in a row. The prior Draft featured Derek Stingley Jr. getting selected third overall. The only reason this was a risky selection was because Stingley had barely played over his last two seasons in college.

Ja’Marr Chase, who went fifth overall in 2021, did not play at all his final season.

What do all of these players have in common? They were all chosen to wear LSU’s coveted No. 7 jersey. The number once symbolized an all-star talent that can break opposing teams, but the luster has been fading more and more each season.

After a longer-than-usual wait, 2023’s No. 7 jersey was given to tackle Will Campbell. Since he is a sophomore, we can presume he will also be 2024’s No. 7. Is he doomed? It’s time for an And The Valley Shook Investigation into whether or not the No. 7 jersey is cursed.


Patrick Peterson starred on the LSU defense from 2008-10, making his name known as a shutdown corner and electric kick returner. One of the young players who looked up to him, DB Tyrann Mathieu, switched to Peterson’s No. 7 after PP was drafted fifth overall in 2011.

And if you thought Peterson was electric, Mathieu was something else. He was a human highlight reel in a way you never see with secondary players. The ball just found ways to end up in his hands. On a team with physical freaks and NFL talent at every position, the 5-9, 175-pound DB’s jersey was the most popular among fans.

But before he could deliver a third electric season, he was dismissed from the team a month before the 2012 season. Then nobody wore No. 7 for two years.

Leonard Fournette was the most sought-after recruit any of us had ever seen. A years-long hype train had a storybook ending when the New Orleans native chose to stay with his home state team in early 2014. But 80 miles wasn’t enough to make Fournette forget his home. He chose to wear jersey No. 7 to honor his home neighborhood, New Orleans’ famous Seventh Ward.

Like Mathieu before him, Fournette dazzled in purple and gold. Even non-LSU fans couldn’t help but gawk at his highlight reels. His sensational sophomore season created plenty of buzz heading into his final college campaign, but a preseason injury prevented him from ever being the guy we saw in 2015, save for one incredible night against Ole Miss. So he passed the jersey on to blossoming WR DJ Chark.

Chark had a solid 2017, but wasn’t the game-breaker the previous No. 7’s were. Most of that can be attributed to an... unconventional offensive philosophy under one-and-done OC Matt Canada. Chark’s punt return touchdown against Auburn is an iconic play, but really the only highlight of a largely forgotten season.

Chark then took it upon himself to pick the next No. 7, someone who had yet to even step on the field in purple and gold, transfer WR Jonathan Giles... who underperformed to such a degree that he surrendered the No. 7 after five games. Whether or not he did so voluntarily depends on who you ask.

The staff took it upon themselves to award the next No. 7 to star safety Grant Delpit. Delpit followed up his tremendous 2018 season by winning the Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back as LSU steamrolled its way to an undefeated national championship. All good right? We’ll get back to that in a second.

The next selection was obvious, star WR and reigning Biletnikoff Award winner Ja’Marr Chase... who eventually opted out of the COVID-19 ravaged 2020 season. So at the last minute the jersey went to safety JaCoby Stevens who didn’t have a particularly good season, but his defensive coordinator was Bo Pelini so can you really blame him?

Then we get to Derek Stingley Jr, who played three games before an ankle injury ended his season. Then Boutte, whose story is the strangest of all. The next chapter of No. 7 is about to be written, but since Campbell is an offensive lineman, he won’t really have any true stats to compare. So let’s look at the numbers of the previous players before and after wearing No. 7.

The Data

Below we’ve compiled the stats from every player who donned 7 after DJ Chark. Prior this point every LSU fan agrees the player lived up to the hype. Sure Mathieu and Fournette’s final chapters did not go as planned, but on the field performance was unrelated. We’ve also decided to throw out JaCoby Stevens’ numbers because the 2020 season was a flukey mess and nothing made sense or counted. Except that time Florida lost a game by throwing a shoe.

The Curse’s Mark

Player Season before 7 Season wearing 7
Player Season before 7 Season wearing 7
Jonathan Giles *69 Rec, 1158 YD, 13 TD 10 Rec, 59 YD, 0 TD, one back-breaking muffed punt
Grant Delpit 5 int, 19.8% missed tackle rate, Great on tape, Projected top 15 pick, 84.2 PFF Grade -2 int, 25.6% missed tackle rate, Not great on tape, 2nd Round, 66.3 PFF Grade
Ja'Marr Chase -64 Rec, 1780 YD, 20 TD Literally Nothing
Derek Stingley -6 INT, 91.7 and 72.1 PFF Grade, Best freshman season ever -0 INT, 66.6 PFF Grade (see, cursed), Season over after 3 games
Kayshon Boutte -9 TD in 6 Games -2 TD in 14 Games
*2016 at Texas Tech. Also, nice

Sure there are caveats to most of these. Delpit’s struggles were overblown as he played very well during the home stretch. Stingley probably would have come back from his injury if the team was playing meaningful games. But there has definitively not been one case over the last six seasons where a player elevated his game upon receiving the jersey. To be clear, we are not blaming the players for this. In fact, we are doing the exact opposite. We believe the number, at the moment, is cursed.

No. 7 was never meant to be awarded. It was only cool because several star players just HAPPENED to wear this same number. A turn of the universe that continued to repeat is what generated the mysticism around 7. Remember, Patrick Peterson wore 7 because he just...wore 7. Tyrann Mathieu wore 7 because Patrick Peterson wore 7. Leonard Fournette wore 7 because he grew up in the 7th Ward. The second they started forcing 7, the magic was destroyed, and the universe grew wroth at the perversion of its poetic repetition.

While the number was awarded once again, it is a little different this time. Will Campbell is an interesting pick for a slew of reasons. First and most obviously, he is an offensive lineman, meaning that he will have a No. 7 patch but continue to have 66 much larger on his chest. Is this a roundabout way of acknowledging something is wrong with the number and they can give it to a player without technically giving a player the No. 7 jersey? It’s a plausible theory.

Campbell is also a sophomore, meaning he will be the first player since Fournette to don No. 7 for multiple seasons. Will this lessen the pressure? Delpit and Boutte had world-crushing expectations after stellar sophomore years that clearly weighed on them. Campbell doesn’t have to think about the NFL Draft yet, and hopefully that will help.

Also... he’s still just an offensive lineman. The reason 7 is so iconic is because Mathieu and Fournette were electric, game-breaking human highlight reels that the whole college football world stopped to pay attention to. Being Grant Delpit, a solid safety who battled through injury to deliver big hits and prevent big plays wasn’t enough, he had to be superhuman. But since offensive line is the least flashy position, that pressure isn’t there. Last year Campbell blocked well. All he needs to do is keep doing that!

Brian Kelly also stated that No. 7 will be awarded to the best player on the team from the state of Louisiana. That... was definitely not how it was. Hell, Patrick Peterson started it all and he’s from Florida. But maybe adding more criteria lessens the impact of it. We at ATVS were mostly of the opinion the 7 tradition had run its course and needed to be retired by giving it to a walk-on QB or punter. But LSU is trying something else. They are redefining it.

The next two years will be an interesting litmus test for this curse. Will Campbell is a great player, nobody denies that, but this feels like a very specific choice. Maybe the number was too much pressure for guys, but I don’t think the COVID-19 pandemic happened because Ja’Marr Chase was under pressure to improve upon his 2019 season. College football is strange, weird shit happens. It’s best not to think about things too much. If we don’t think about the No. 7 jersey the next two years, it’s probably for the best. After all, nobody will truly be wearing 7 (@ football gods).

Also Campbell “wearing” 7 the next two years means Harold Perkins won’t get it and we should all breathe a massive sigh of relief.