KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — If you are an LSU fan, Danny Etling loves you.
His devotion to you was clear enough as a windy chill blew through Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium after the Tigers’ 30-10 dismantling of the Volunteers.
Long after most of his teammates beelined to the warmth of the locker room, Etling was slowly working his way down the sidelines, offering fist bumps, handshakes and high fives to any Tiger fan who had the patience to sit through the miserable conditions to watch LSU win.
With Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards in attendance, Etling looked like he was the one running for office.
“He’s only been in Louisiana two years,” noted roommate Foster Moreau. “But he bleeds purple and gold.”
Ironically, while Etling was shaking hands, he should have been getting his own treated by the LSU medical staff. The senior quarterback took a whack to the right hand from a Tennessee helmet late in the game, and Ed Orgeron intended to give the fans what they want — Myles Brennan.
“We didn’t think Danny could throw the ball,” Orgeron said. “It looked like he wouldn’t even be able to hand the ball off.”
Etling didn’t allow for that to happen.
“We called timeout to put Myles in and [Danny] said ‘Coach, I’m going to be fine,’” Orgeron said. “We put him back in.”
Remember, this comes a week after Etling tweaked his previously injured back before the Arkansas game. None of these maladies ever manage to slow him down.
“You’re not pulling that guy off the field,” Moreau said. “The guy’s battle-tested. You’ll have to drag him off the field. Carry him.”
For example: Sliding to avoid a hit? Not an Etling thing.
“He gives everything he has every night,” Moreau said. “The guy doesn’t slide. He used to, but he says ‘No. They mark it down too early. Let me go get the yards.'”
Etling is far from the model running quarterback, but Matt Canada still called 9 designed runs for him against Tennessee. Though he doesn’t have Derrius Guice’s speed, Etling runs with the same approach.
“You see it best when he’s getting wrapped up by two people,” Moreau said. “He’s a pocket quarterback, but he’s churning.”
Danny Etling should be an LSU folk hero. He salvaged a season that could have gone off the rails when Les Miles was fired. The guy has a 15-6 record as a starter. He’s even put up some numbers, too. Believe it or not, Etling is now ranked 10th in LSU history in career passing yards.
Instead, he’s treated more like the random guy crashing on the couch.
“When the heck is this guy finally gonna leave?”
That Etling is a top-10 passer in LSU history probably says more about its checkered history at the position that it does about Etling’s skills. But that is precisely why he should be getting more adoration from the LSU fan base. Etling may not be a star, but he’s brought stability to a volatile position.
Having grown up an LSU fan, Moreau understands why his roommate is unappreciated.
“LSU fans are the best fans in football because they want the best,” Moreau said. “When we lose, they’re sad. When we win, all hell breaks loose. It’s a great time. I would much rather that than just have them be complacent and apathetic and not care too much.
“They take Danny for granted a little bit. But it’s only because they want the best. And that’s what he tries to give all the time.”
Etling is not a star. But regardless of whether Myles Brennan or Lowell Narcisse inherits his job next year, they’d be wise to model themselves after him as a leader. Combined with their skills, it could be what finally gives the Tigers an all-SEC quarterback.
LSU fans should be grateful those freshmen have Etling to model themselves after. Hopefully they’ll show that appreciation on his final Saturday in Death Valley.