Ali Gaye made sure he rang in 2021 on a high note for LSU football coach Ed Orgeron.
Gaye, the Tigers’ best rusher and a second-team All-SEC selection by the league coaches, announced on New Year’s Eve that he’s returning for his senior season.
A junior college transfer, Gaye tied for sixth in the SEC in tackles for loss with 9.5. He started all 10 games for the Tigers at defensive end and recorded 32 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks.
“He came and started making improvement every day,” Orgeron said early in the season. “During COVID, he didn’t go home. He stayed here, learned, studied and worked out on his own. In camp, he just kept coming and coming.”
In LSU’s season opening loss to Mississippi State, Gaye wound up with three tackles, two for losses, a sack, broke up three passes and had 11 QB pressures, according to the LSU coaches game film.
After that game, Orgeron said, “I hope we can keep him here for two years.”
It looks like Orgeron got his wish.
Gaye moved with his family from The Gambia – located on the coast of West Africa – to Seattle at the age of 12 where he learned how to play football.
Six years later, Gaye signed with the University of Washington in February of 2017, but wasn’t academically qualified and headed to Yuma, Ariz. to play at Arizona Western College.
He played one season when the school announced Dec. 5, 2018 that because of financial concerns, it was dropping its football program after six decades of competition.
The school’s winningest coach, Tom Minnick, left to become head coach at Garden City where Gaye opted to transfer and finished his junior college career where such schools as LSU and Oklahoma extended scholarship offers.
Gaye, who was recruited by LSU safeties coach Bill Busch (who was recently fired), committed to the Tigers June 10, 2019 and enrolled seven months later.
In the midst of the COVID-19 health scare, he not only emerged as one of the Tigers’ top defensive players, but one of the best in the SEC.