COLUMN: SHREVEPORT, La. — Doubters don’t bother Lafayette quarterback Jeremy Liggins. They never have and they likely never will. Liggins heard enough of the negative talk about his increased playing weight during the spring when he was a member of Lafayette’s baseball team.
He heard some more in the summer during 7-on-7 drills at South Panola and at O-Zone Classic tournament as he led the Commodores to a title. He’s even heard people doubt that he can play quarterback at the next level while he traveled around town.
Sure, Liggins’ 6-foot-4, 270-pound frame doesn’t make one immediately think of him as a quarterback in college, but that’s because we are used to stereotyping. For years we have been told quarterbacks had to sit in the pocket to make plays. We have a tendency to think they should beat teams with their arm and head more than their feet. We all think they should weigh around 220 pounds and be as fast as lightning if they are much smaller than that.
Liggins’ body type and his athletic ability have made us change our mind about what a quarterback should look like at the next level. No, Liggins is not the first “big” guy to play the position. LSU had a similarly built guy named JaMarcus Russell star for them a few years ago, but there are many locally who think Liggins has grown too large to play QB in college and that he has lost a step a step or two with the increased weight.
I admit I was unsure if Liggins could run as well as he has in the past prior to the start of the season. I had a harder time envisioning him leaving defenders in the dust like he did last year against Oxford or like he did in the Class 4A championship game. It seemed logical that he wasn’t going to be as fast as before and maybe, just maybe, a little less productive.
Whatever preconceived notion we all had about how good Liggins could roll with his extra weight this year was completely wiped away Saturday in the Commodores’ highly-anticipated matchup with Evangel Christian. Liggins had his moments in the first three games, but he had yet to break out and dazzle like he has so many other times in his career.
Against Evangel, Liggins was fantastic and his play was very reminiscent of his sophomore and junior seasons. He not only showed his great sidestep, dancing ability and option skills around the line, he also demonstrated great burst down the field. Liggins was as fast as he has been in the past and even more powerful when defenders tried to tackle him.
In short, Liggins was at his bulldozing best in the 35-34 win and there were many who took notice, including a couple of media members who cover Evangel and root for LSU on Saturdays. They couldn’t believe how big Liggins was in person, how fast he really was and how powerful he ran. They all said Liggins reminded them of Russell — even if Russell didn’t run as much as Liggins — and how they hoped the Tigers could land the standout prospect.
It’s amazing what one game on such a big stage can do for a player’s stock. It’s equally amazing to realize just how good Liggins really is when he is able to rush for 126 yards and two touchdowns against a team that is as good, if not better, than any other team in the state of Mississippi.
Liggins has never bragged about his skills or his ability when discussing the Commodores. He is always quick to talk about the team and how his offensive line sets him up or how running mate Demarkous Dennis contributes to his success. Instead of focusing on his own play after Saturday’s game, Liggins was all about the win and what it meant to the LHS program and state.
“We’re trying to turn this program around and getting it going like South Panola has been,” Liggins said. “We wanted to put Mississippi football on the map and we can do it.”
The U. of Lafayette?
Yes, the Commodores can be the next program that establishes the state of Mississippi as a place where great high school football is played each year. We all know how good our athletes are, but South Panola is really the only other team that has been able to garner a lot of national attention.
Saturday’s win for the Commodores was significant in that they defeated a team that has won 12 state titles since 1993 and were once ranked as the No. 1 overall team in the nation. Liggins was a huge reason for Lafayette’s win, and his ability to play quarterback — even with his extra weight — only showed just how superior an athlete and leader he really is and can be in the future for whatever college team lands him. (September 12, 2011, Page 3B)