Justin Jefferson’s Cinderella story continues as the first-round draft choice of Minnesota

Former LSU receiver Justin "Jets" Jefferson is now the highest paid non-quarterback in NFL history. PHOTO BY JONATHAN MAILHES

LSU is known throughout college football as D.B.U. or Defensive Backs University because prior to the 2020 NFL draft it had six DB’s who have been first-round NFL draft choices since 2010.

How did those defensive backs improve during their time with the Tigers? They guarded some pretty stout receivers in practice, such as Justin “Jets” Jefferson.

Jefferson became the fifth LSU wide receiver taken in the draft’s first round and the 16th Tigers’ pass-catcher since 2000 when he was selected No. 22 overall by the Minnesota Vikings in Thursday night’s NFL draft.

From a three-star recruit who was LSU’s last signee in its 2017 recruiting class to leading all of college football last season as a junior in receptions (111) and yards (1,540) and second in touchdowns, Jefferson’s ascent to becoming a first-round draft choice made him one of the most remarkable stories on the Tigers’ 2019 national championship team.

The last of three Jefferson brothers from St. Rose, La. to play for Tigers – Jordan Jefferson was 24-8 as LSU’s starting quarterback from 2008 to 2011 and Rickey Jefferson was a reserve defensive back with 88 career tackles and four interceptions from 2013 to 2016 – made the biggest splash.

“He was the best slot receiver in college football last year,” NFL draft expert Mike Detillier said of Jefferson. “His ability to get separation and catch the football are strengths, he’s a good route runner, he’s competitive and he’s smart and a good downfield blocker.”

As a sophomore in 2018, he established a solid chemistry with then-new starting quarterback Joe Burrow. Lining up mostly outside, Jefferson had 54 catches for 875 yards and eight TDs.

That was just a warmup for last season when he surpassed his 2018 receptions total after seven games, his ’18 yardage total after eight games and ’18 TD numbers after seven games.

In LSU’s march to its fourth national championship, Jefferson caught at least one TD in 11 of 14 games (he missed the Nortwestern State game with an injury). Against the seven ranked teams on the schedule, Jefferson averaged nine catches for 124.2 yards and 1.3 TDs.

His monster performance in LSU’s 63-28 win over Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff semifinals – 14 catches for 227 yards and four TDs (all career highs) – will never be forgotten. He set CFP semifinal game records for receptions, receiving yards, receiving TDS and receiving yards in a half (186).

Jefferson was viewed a late first-round/slash early second-round selection until he blazed a 40-yard dash of 4.43 seconds at February’s NFL combine.

He classified himself as a “moneymaker” threat.

“Moneymakers get in open space and are able to make big plays,” Jefferson said. “You show that you’re a good receiver with the ball in your hands.”

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Ron Higgins

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