LIVONIA, La. — Patrick Queen was born to be an LSU Tiger. Quite literally, as it turns out.
Fans often use the language of birthright in a figurative sense when describing their loyalty — “born to be a Tiger” or “I’ve got purple-and-gold running through my veins.” But they’ve got nothing on Queen. His birth actually invoked the opening scene of “The Lion King,” only with Tiger Stadium as his declared destiny.
“I held him up in the hospital and the doctor said, ‘LSU-bound,’ ” said Queen’s father, Dwayne.
Queen’s mother, Sue, who would know better than most, confirms this is no tall tale.
That was Aug. 13, 1999.
By the time his 18th birthday rolls around, Queen will be in training camp at LSU, well on his way to proving his doctor was as good at clairvoyance as he was at delivery.
The biggest, strongest — and youngest
At Livonia High, about 30 miles from Baton Rouge, Queen wore No. 8. At LSU, he has requested No. 13 — not exactly a frequently sought-out digit because of superstitious minds. Combined, those numbers represent his date of birth. And to some extent, it feels like he’s subconsciously proving the event happened.
That’s no coincidence. As a youth player, Queen’s athletic career was marked by incredulous opponents who needed proof this kid wasn’t too old to be on the field.
Queen smiles when recalling the first time his parents had to produce his birth certificate in order for him to continue playing a sport. It wasn’t because of something he did to dominate on the football field, but rather on the baseball diamond.
“I hit back-to-back home runs. Then I hit a kid in the chest with a line drive,” Queen said. “So they asked for my birth certificate. At the time I didn’t really pay attention to it. But then a few years later I was like, ‘That’s crazy. Why would I have to cheat?’ ”
And when Queen says they asked to see his birth certificate, it wasn’t a behind-the-scenes deal where a Little League official called up his folks after the game.
“In the middle of the game, they asked for his birth certificate,” Dwayne Queen says. “When we produced it, they said ‘This has to be fake.’ It’s always been like that.”
Because baseball was his first love, it took Queen some time to realize he’d have the same ability to make people look foolish in football.
“Maybe when I was 12, my last year for recreation ball, they gave me a toss and I broke 10 tackles and ran for about 75 yards and scored,” he said. “After that I just took off with football.”
Queen was asked if he’s sure it was 10 guys that he juked, or if some poor saps got a second helping.
“It was 10 different people,” he said. “We went to practice Monday and looked at” the video.
Which begs the question — where the heck was the 11th guy?
“I don’t know,” Queen said, laughing.
As in most cases, the joke’s on whoever goes up against Patrick Queen. Perhaps the most amusing thing of all? Queen, who was always thought to be older than everyone else on the field, was actually the youngest. He turned 5 just a few days before the start of kindergarten.
Now he sees the two things that have defined his life — size and youth — as advantages going forward. His size, Queen says, has a lot to do with his success.
“People don’t think a kid like me can’t move as fast as I can,” Queen said. “And the fact that I’m young, my body still hasn’t matured to its fullest yet. So that’s another advantage.”
Two sports, two positions
Just as Queen had to eventually pick football over baseball, he had to determine what side of the ball he would play in college.
Until his senior year, Queen played almost exclusively at running back for Livonia. He was impressive enough to garner the attention of schools including Nebraska and Colorado State that saw him as a ball carrier in college.
Queen modeled himself after the type of bruisers who end up at Alabama.
“Trent Richardson, T.J. Yeldon. They would not go down,” Queen said. “It took four or five hits for them to come down.”
But when Queen attended college camps such as the one at LSU, coaches projected him as a defensive player. They just couldn’t figure out if he was going to be a safety or fill out enough to become a linebacker.
Eventually, Queen and his dad decided that the brightest future involved playing defense.
“The question was whether I still wanted to play running back,” Queen said. “But my daddy made me realize running backs don’t last that long in college and the NFL because they get hit a lot. So that played a big part, too.”
Not that Queen is one to shy from contact.
Satisfaction? “I say it equals out, making a big hit and scoring a touchdown,” he said.
At LSU, Queen will be placed at the “Rover” spot filled by Duke Riley last season. Considering that Riley didn’t start until his senior season, Queen knows he will have to be patient.
“People look at it as, ‘I’m supposed to start when I get to college,’ ” Queen said. “But really, in high school you probably waited. So why do you think it won’t take one or two years?”
That said, Queen thinks he chances of adjusting quickly will be helped by his ability to think like a running back.
“When you play both positions, you know what the other side is about to do,” he said. “You know what everybody’s about to do every time, and make adjustments.”
The biggest deal in Livonia
The sign outside Livonia’s press box — which, despite its ordinary size, is nearly as large as the box itself — proclaims “Welcome to the Jungle.” In the spring, dandelions crop up on the field. Within walking distance, roosters can be heard crowing. And if you aren’t driving a pickup truck, odds are you’re in from out of town to see Patrick Queen.
“I’m blessed every day,” Queen said. “Not too many people get to grow up in a culture like this.”
Livonia has a proud football history, winning six state titles. But until the Wildcats won the 2014 Class 3A title — Queen’s sophomore season — all of those crowns were won playing six- or eight-man football in the 1950s and ’60s. In all that time, not a single LSU football letterman has come from Livonia.
The significance is not lost on Queen.
“I want to play for them,” he said. “Play for the community.”
They’re just as excited in Livonia and the nearby hamlets of Ventress and New Roads, where Queen grew up fishing and riding four-wheelers.
“Everywhere you go, it’s, ‘We can’t wait for September to get here to see you on the field,’ ” said Dwayne Queen, who retired early from his shift work at the Dow Chemical refinery to open the time to attend Patrick’s games.
“I’ll be at every game, no matter where we’re playing,” the elder Queen continued. “They could play on the Moon. I’ll be there.”
With the expanding bowl schedule, nothing can be ruled out.
Others from Livonia have come close to going down Queen’s path.
Stephen Guidry, a Livonia graduate currently enrolled at Hinds (Miss.) Community College, was a member of this year’s signing class but had to spend another semester in junior college because of academic issues. He has since reopened his recruitment.
Another of Queen’s teammates on the state championship team, Russell Farris, started at linebacker for Louisiana Tech as a junior last season.
In the past, Queen figures there are plenty of talented guys who just didn’t make it to LSU for one reason or the other.
“I feel a lot of the old guys could have gone to an SEC school, but that didn’t work out,” he said. “Now it’s my turn, and I’ve got to make the most of it.”
Queen estimates the largest home crowd he ever saw was for the semifinal game of that championship run, when about 2,000 people showed up.
Needless to say, walking into Death Valley for the first time for the 2015 Florida game was a life-changing experience.
“I was really shocked. It’s an electrifying place,” he said. “You get chills. I’m used to walking into a stadium, but you don’t feel chills like that. That’s when I knew that’s where I wanted to be.”
Just as the doctor knew on Day 1.