Almost eight months ago, Patrick Queen wasn’t even in LSU’s starting lineup.
A little more than three months ago, the Tigers’ starting inside linebacker he was chosen as the most outstanding defensive player in the Tigers’ national championship game victory over Clemson.
Thursday night in the NFL draft, Queen was the 28th player overall chosen as a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens.
That ladies and gentlemen and kids of all ages is called “improvement.”
Starting in just 11 games, Queen was the Tigers’ third leading tackler with 85 stops. He had 12 tackles for loss including three sacks.
During the post-season in LSU’s three biggest games against Georgia in the SEC championship game, Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff semifinals and Clemson in the national championship game, Queen had a combined 22 tackles with four tackles for losses including 1½ sacks.
Against Clemson, he had eight tackles les with 2½ for losses including a half sack.
‘I’ve always been a kid who puts his head down and works,” Queen said. “So, when those games came up, I was prepared after watching film. I pray before every game and it gives me a relaxed feeling.”
Queen was mentored in 2018 by Devin White, LSU’s Butkus Award winner as college football’s best linebacker and someone who became just the second Tigers’ linebacker ever to be drafted in the first round (by Tampa Bay).
He figured to take White’s spot, yet LSU coach Orgeron and then-defensive coordinator Dave Aranda decided to start Michael Divinity and Jacob Phillips.
Queen went to coach Ed Orgeron’s office to ask what areas of his game needed improvement. The answer was he needed to get better at his run fits, getting into gaps using his hands and not his shoulders to shed blockers.
The next few weeks after practice, he worked with safety JaCoby Stevens on reading opposing running backs and getting in and out of gaps.
Though he barely played in the opener against Georgia Southern, he wasn’t discouraged. He showed Orgeron his run gap improvement with a 4th-and-goal stuff at the Texas 1 in game two.
By game four vs. Vanderbilt, Queen was a starter. And he kept making big plays, stuffing a Florida option to clinch a win and making a huge interception of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with 26 seconds left in the first half to set an 11-yard Joe Burrow to running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire for a 33-13 lead just six seconds before halftime.
“He’s a heat-seeking missile,” NFL draft expert Mike Detillier said of Queen last week on Tiger Rag radio. “East and west, he can get to the ball and make a play. But he jumped up in the draft because of his ability to cover. There’s not a lot of guys who can drop back in pass coverage.”
There have been questions about the 6-foot, 229-pound Queen’s lack of size. He’s not particularly worried about it.
“Coming into college some people said I was too small to play linebacker,” Queen said. “I still hearing that same talk coming into the NFL. I’m just going to put my head, go to work and try and win those guys respect.
“I know (at linebacker) I have to be able to stop the run and play pass coverage. I bring all those tools. I can cover the Alvin Kamaras, I can stop the Derrick Henrys. I’m looking forward to be a three-down linebacker in the league.”