By James Bewers
As the 2015 football season approaches, the DIG Sports staff decided to take a look back at the best LSU players of the Les Miles era (2005-present). The Tigers have had 64 players drafted into the NFL with Miles at the helm, and the program led all schools with 38 former players on active NFL rosters during the opening weekend of the 2014 season.
No. 5 Jarvis Landry
Career Highlight: One-handed, 22-yard touchdown catch against Arkansas in 2012.
Eye-popping stats: Ranks in the top-five for receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns for an LSU player in a single season (2013).
NFL draft: 2014 / Round 2 / Pick: 63 / Miami Dolphins
When a wide receiver comes to mind, many football fans think finesse, speed, quickness, hands or elusiveness.
Although former LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry possesses those traits, there is another characteristic he could be labeled with: mean streak.
“Mean streak” is typically a phrase reserved for linemen, who display a certain kind of physicality or nastiness in the trenches. With Landry, it’s a different kind of mean streak—a tenacity, fearlessness and passion visible through his demeanor on the football field.
Landry doesn’t have to get dirty to beat his opponents. He’s beats them by doing everything with a purpose, showing maximum possible effort on every snap. After all, former LSU offensive lineman Josh Dworaczyk gave him the nickname “Juice” because of the energy Landry gave him.
Fortunately for the Tigers, the Convent, Louisiana native also had NFL-caliber skills, but he had to cut his teeth on special teams first.
He played some wide receiver in freshman season, recording just four total receptions for 43 yards, but sat behind Rueben Randle, Russell Shepard and fellow rookie Odell Beckham Jr., on the depth chart. His bone-crushing tackles on kickoff coverage were what Landry became known for early on, especially against Auburn on Oct. 22, 2011.
On back-to-back LSU kickoffs, Landry laid out Auburn’s Tre Mason, aiding a forced fumble by Eric Reid, and flattened Onterio McCalebb to help cement a 45-10 win in Tiger Stadium. As a former safety in high school, he wasn’t afraid to stick his nose in on every play, but he wouldn’t toil in the special teams unit very long.
Landry finished his sophomore season with a team-high 56 receptions, becoming quarterback Zach Mettenberger’s security blanket at the end of the 2012 season. He only had one touchdown through the first eight games but notched four scores in the final five contests, including an average of 70 yards per game.
Landry didn’t just become reliable for Mettenberger late in 2012, he also showed he was capable of spectacular catches.
Against Arkansas on Nov. 23, 2012, Mettenberger took a 3rd-and-8 snap just outside the Razorbacks’ red zone with three receivers to his left. Landry was streaking down the middle of the field and had just enough separation from an Arkansas linebacker for Mettenberger to take a chance in the back of the end zone. The throw, though, was high and to the right, forcing Landry to flip his body while stretching his right hand back.
The result was an impressive one-handed grab for a touchdown, giving LSU a lead before halftime in a game it eventually won.
With a strong finish to his sophomore season under his belt, there was little doubt Landry could improve upon it in what would be his last year in Baton Rouge. But what he and Beckham did exceeded expectations, establishing themselves as possibly the best receiving duo in the history of LSU.
Landry and Beckham accounted for more than 65 percent of the completed passes and more than 70 percent of the passing yards gained from Mettenberger and backup quarterback Anthony Jennings, as the 2013 offense became the first in conference history to have two 1,000-yard receivers, a 1,000-yard rusher and a 3,000-yard passer.
Arguably, Landry’s best catch of his career was once again against Arkansas late in the 2013 season, but it came with unfortunate circumstance.
On a drive that eventually led to an important field goal in the fourth quarter, Mettenberger floated a 32-yard pass to Landry as he took a brutal hit to the knee. Because of the hit Mettenberger’s throw only looked to be catchable by the Arkansas defensive back.
Instead, Landry tracked the ball down and reached over the defender for another one-handed catch. While Mettenberger’s injury was clearly serious, the crowd at Tiger Stadium seemed both saddened by their quarterback’s fate and amazed by their receiver’s heroics.
Despite another 10-win season, some could argue the 2013 team underachieved as a whole. The offense, though, was as productive as any LSU offense in recent memory, and Landry was a big part of that.
Better yet, Landry was a big part of the Tigers for the three years he was with them, and it was more than the skills he possessed or the accolades he racked up.
“Juice” gave LSU 110 percent every play, and that was usually good enough to beat the opponent in front of him.