THIBODAUX, La. – Zach Mettenberger sat beneath the stands at Nicholls State’s football stadium recently, surrounded by TV cameras and audio recorders.
If he was at all shy, he didn’t show it.
In fact, he delivered a message to LSU fans they’ve likely been yearning to hear for several seasons now.
“I really wanted to take hold of the team,” said Mettenberger, who was asked about what he wanted to pick up this offseason. “We want to accomplish great things this year and we need a sound leader on the team and I think I fill that role quite well.”
For those who follow the Tigers, that’s refreshing news a season after the supposed team leader was embroiled in an off-the-field bar brawl scenario.
Mettenberger, who was in Thibodaux as a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy, doesn’t appear flustered by the spotlight, a good thing considering LSU will be a preseason favorite to defend its SEC championship and get back to the BCS title game.
That might be because he has had to overcome obstacles in becoming LSU’s QB1.
He originally signed with the University of Georgia out of Oconee (Ga.) High School, graduating early to compete for the starting job.
But he was kicked out of the program after one year for violating team rules. He was arrested in March 2010 for underage consumption and possession of alcohol, possessing a fake ID and disorderly conduct-obstruction. Georgia officials never revealed what rule he broke.
Mettenberger transferred to Butler Community College in Kansas where he became one of the most coveted junior college quarterbacks. In his one year in the country’s middle he guided the team to an 11-1 record while throwing for 2,678 yards with 32 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
LSU fans finally saw an aerial attack during this year’s spring game – “It was more for the fans to show that we are capable of throwing the ball around,” Mettenberger said – but the quarterback acknowledges the team’s success could come from elsewhere.
“You’ve got six running backs back there and your smallest offensive lineman is 320 pounds, you’re going to run the ball, you’re going to do what you have to do to win,” Mettenberger said. “I have no problem doing that.”
Yet, when he takes that first snap on Sept. 1 in LSU’s 6 p.m. home opener against North Texas, Mettenberger’s journey to the major college football field will be complete. It’ll be a surreal moment for someone who will have overcome so much to get to that point.
“For me it’s going to be a sigh of relief,” he said. “(I’ll) finally go out there and do what I love to do and play big time college football.”
He added, “There’s always doubts I had growing up and everything that has happened through the past. Staying strong and keeping a level head has really helped me out through this whole process."