BATON ROUGE, La. — Bowl game beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And to Danny Etling, the Citrus Bowl is a knockout.
For guys like Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey, sitting out bowl games prior to the NFL draft makes sense. No matter what were to happen in those games, their greatest accomplishments in their respective uniforms are already behind them.
But for a guy like Etling, this game will be the peak accomplishment of his career to this point.
He spent the first two years of his career at Purdue, which did not come close to sniffing the postseason in his time there. The Boilermakers won a total of 4 games while Etling was on campus, and were so irrelevant that he once had to convince a fellow student trying to give him tickets to an upcoming game that he would be there since he was, in fact, the team’s quarterback.
Just last week, a pair of old Boilermakers teammates texted Etling and were surprised by how long it took him to respond.
There was a pretty good reason.
“I texted back and said I was at practice,” Etling said. “They said, ‘Must be nice.'”
Etling was able to practice with the Tigers before the Texas Bowl as he redshirted last season, but didn’t get to travel to the game.
“I did somewhat prepare last year until compliance said I had to leave,” Etling said.
Looking back, he does realize he brought this situation upon himself to some degree. Eager to play early, and having the opportunity to do it close to his Indiana home, Etling went against his better judgement and joined a program that was devolving into a sorry state.
“I wanted to play as a freshman. It was probably the wrong reason,” Etling said. “If I could do it again, I’d go to the type of program that has talented players that can make plays around you. But for some reason I wanted to play as a freshman and didn’t want to wait. The best thing I could have done was wait.”
Etling finally did get that wait last year when he transferred to LSU. And now, as he prepares for his first bowl game, he appreciates that he went through a struggle that will make it more meaningful.
“Now that I’m here, the best thing for me was to go to Purdue,” Etling said. “Get that experience, get that playing time. Come out here and get that redshirt year, think about how you could have done different. I think it’s working for me.”
Though he will be the favorite to keep the job next year, there is no guarantee Etling will be in this position next season. Perhaps new offensive coordinator Matt Canada turns out to be the Brandon Harris Whisperer. Maybe Myles Brennan or Lowell Narcisse prove to be so far ahead of the learning curve they can’t be ignored.
Though he wasn’t addressing those possibilities specifically, Etling seems fully aware of the uncertainty the future always brings. He stops to savor the present situation. It’s all because of his tumultuous football past, which is littered with coach firings, a benching and a transfer.
And now, finally, a bowl game too.
“I just enjoy the game. For some reason now I enjoy the practices and meeting time a little more,” he said. “You don’t know how long you’ll get with that coach and those players. I just enjoy the company you have while you have it, because you never know when it’s going to get taken away from you.”