It’s been a rough couple days for Tiger Nation after finding out that senior quarterback, Zach Mettenberger is out for the LSU bowl game with a torn ACL and his career with the Tigers is over prematurely. However, now that the reality has set in that he is time is up we can celebrate all that he accomplished and meant to LSU during his time in Baton Rouge.
He finished his career with 5,783 passing yards and 35 touchdowns and went out with one of the best seasons in LSU history with the third most passing yards in a season with 3, 082 to go along with his 22 touchdowns. What I will remember most about the 6-5, 240-pound signal-caller is how much he matured from 2012 to 2013 under Cam Cameron’s coaching.
After Mettenberger transferred from Butler Community College, LSU fans were peppered with scouting reports that the Watkinsville, Ga native was the most talented quarterback LSU has had since JaMarcus Russell was on campus. When he ascended into the role of starting quarterback in 2012, the early impressions were that Mettenberger wasn’t all that he was hyped up to be.
Despite another 10-win season for LSU, Mettenberger only had 12 touchdown passes and seven interceptions in 13 games with only five touchdowns coming in SEC games. He did show signs in November of turning the corner to only have a sub par game in the Chick-fil-A game vs. the Clemson Tigers in a one-point loss.
With the pressure of a large and passionate fan base on his shoulders demanding results and a new offensive coordinator, Mettenberger dedicated himself to film study, becoming a student of the game and soaked up knowledge from Cameron who was instrumental in developing quarterbacks, Joe Flacco and Antwaan Randle El.
One of my favorite aspects about college football and sports for that matter is seeing a player develop over time and take to coaching and instruction and put what he learns off-the-field and translate that knowledge onto the field. The 2013 season for Mettenberger is one of redemption and self-actualization. He did what so many athletes never are able to achieve. Sports are riddled with stories of unrealized potential and wasted opportunities, but Mettenberger avoided that trap.
After being dismissed from the Georgia Bulldogs after pleading guilty to charges of sexual battery it wouldn’t have been a surprise if we never heard from the former four-star recruit and No. 9 pro-style quarterback in the class of 2009, but once enrolled at LSU he was a new person.
Enter the 2013 season for Mettenberger and he was a new person on-the-field and after a ho-hum performance in the win over the TCU Horned Frogs in the season opener he exploded with five touchdowns–two more than his incompletions on the day–vs the UAB Blazers.
This was the eye-opening performance for Mettenberger that showed he had turned the proverbial corner and everything began to click for the talented quarterback who had been pegged as a potential first round pick int he 2014 NFL Draft.
The UAB served as the awakening of a career that should continue in the NFL for the next decade. His performance vs. the potential BCS National Champion Auburn Tigers showed his poise and resiliency. After throwing his first interception of the season in the second half, he was perfect the rest of the game as LSU is still the only team to defeat Auburn this year.
The next milestone Mettenberger achieved this season was heading back to Athens to face his former team in Georgia where his former roommate, Aaron Murray was on the other sideline. LSU lost the game in the final minutes on a defensive breakdown, but Mettenberger had what I think was easily his best game of his college career.
Mettenberger threw for a career-high 372 yards with three touchdowns on the road against the No. 9 team in the country with all the pressure on his shoulders entering the lion’s den. He handled himself perfectly that entire week.
I hope you don’t remember him for a down game at the Ole Miss Rebels or two losses to the Alabama Crimson Tide, but for the man he became while at LSU and the quarterback who honed his craft while wearing the Purple and Gold.
It was a privilege watching him mature on and off the field and can’t wait to see all that he accomplishes in the NFL. I put together some of the finest images documenting his career and hope you enjoy going down memory lane as much as I did.