Two days after LSU claimed its fourth national title, the first handful of Tigers’ underclassmen are turning pro.
Safety Grant Delpit, linebackers Patrick Queen and Jacob Phillips, wide receiver Justin Jefferson, center Lloyd Cushenberry, offensive tackle Saahdiq Charles, and running Clyde Edwards-Helaire announced Wednesday their intentions to enter the NFL draft. The deadline for declaring is Friday.
Delpit, who has been projected as a first-round pick all season despite injuries, was the first to announce. As winner of the 2018 Thorpe Award given to college football’s best defensive back, he finished strong in the latter part of the season. He had 65 tackles (38 solo ) with 4.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, and seven pass breakups.
“We are champs,” Delpit’s farewell message started. “We hoisted the trophy for you and LSU fans everywhere. I’ve decided to move on to the NFL. I will carry the joy and excitement of this season with me forever.”
Queen emerged as a playmaker this year along with Phillips during Michael Divinity’s absence from suspension. Queen recorded 85 tackles (37 solo) with 12 tackles for loss, three sacks, an interception and two pass breakups.
He played probably the best game of his career Monday night in LSU 42-25 College Football Playoff national championship win over Clemson. He was named the defensive Player of the Game after leading LSU with 8 tackles, including six solo and 2.5 for a loss and half a sack.
“My time at LSU has given me an unbreakable bond with incredible people,” Queen said in his statement. “The opportunity to wear the purple and gold was a childhood dream. Upon realizing this dream, the goal turned to winning a national championship. The opportunities LSU has given me are ones that I will cherish my entire life.
“After much though, the time has now come to pursue my next goal. I am officially announcing my decision to enter the NFL draft this spring. I am honored and blessed beyond words to have played for this great university.”
Phillips led LSU with 113 tackles (56 solo) with 7.5 tackles for a loss and a sack.
“The past three years at LSU have been a dream come true,” Phillips said in a message posted to Instagram. “I am and will forever be a champion. With that being said, I will be forgoing my senior year and declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft. This has always been my dream and I am blessed to be going into this new chapter. Thank you again for all the love, support, and memories I will cherish forever.”
Jefferson told Yahoo Sports! his decision over the phone before announcing it on Twitter, saying “We just had a perfect year. We won the national championship and set records. We had a lot of awards and did it with our team. I feel like it was the best way to go.”
Jefferson recorded a school-single season record 111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2019. His TDs total ranks second in LSU and SEC history behind teammate Ja’Marr Chase’s 20.
Team captain Cushenberry, the anchor of the best offensive line in college football this past season, started the last 28 games. He was the first LSU offensive lineman to be presented with the No. 18 jersey (in the form of an honorary patch as offensive lineman aren’t allowed by college football rules to wear No. 18). An LSU offensive and defensive player are chosen annually to wear the number awarded to players who are successful and selfless on and off the field.
“I’ve given my all to this program from day one, and it has been nothing short of amazing to be a part of this great university and be surrounded by such amazing people on a daily basis.” Cushenberry’s Twitter statement said. “Thank you to the great fans for all of the great memories in Tiger Stadium over the years. I will cherish these moments for the rest of my life and I will always be forever LSU.”
Charles started at left tackle in eight games for the Tigers, holding down the line on Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Joe Burrow’s blind side.
“My journey at LSU has been nothing shot of amazing,” Charles said in a tweet. “The last three years have been three of the best three years of my life. I am blessed and thankful for the opportunities that LSU has provided me.”
Edwards-Helaire was the Tigers’ leading rusher by a wide margin, racking up 1,414 yards on 215 carries for 16 touchdowns in a pass-first offense. He also demonstrated to pro scouts his receiving skills with 89 catches for 453 yards and a touchdown. Also, he was a valuable blitz protector for Burrow.
“A Louisiana man through and through, I made the hardest decision of my life by choosing to stay home and continue my life’s journey at Louisiana State University,” Edwards-Helaire said in a tweet. “The past three years of my journey memories I will never forget.”
Thank each and everyone of you for giving 100% on and off the field. I really appreciate how hard everyone tried, the work, and the hard effort you put forth. Thank you for a miraculous record setting year that will live on in infinity. All of ya’ll made this a wonderful football season and not only broke and set new records but also brought so much joy to so many fans. I wish you the very best in your future endeavors. GOD bless ya’ll. Forever LSU. Geaux TIGERS !!!
I would say GOD has blessed LSU. It is going to be a long time before any one comes close to breaking any of those records