Grant Delpit: 'I Envisioned Myself Wearing No. 7'
Everyone has something to say. It comes with the territory – and the new number.
Students stop Grant Delpit. Other athletes, too.
But the weirdest one yet happened Tuesday, as the latest to wear the No. 7 uniform for LSU Football – signifying the team’s go-to playmaker – was on his way to a media session.
“I heard, ‘New number seven!’” Delpit laughs. “I turned around, and it was Leonard.”
Fournette, that is.
Fournette started a tradition of offensive players wearing the number, but Delpit is happy it’s back on his side of the ball. The first No. 7 he remembers watching for LSU was All-American linebacker Ali Highsmith, but it was Patrick Peterson’s dominance from 2008-2010 while sporting the uniform that laid the foundation for Delpit’s dream to one day follow in Peterson’s footsteps.
“I really watched Pat Pete in that 7 making plays, and I envisioned myself doing the same thing,” he says.
The next to make history. pic.twitter.com/zXsG7vz03U
— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) March 7, 2019
In addition to Fournette, Delpit has also heard from Tyrann Mathieu, who inherited the number from Peterson and who often texted with Delpit during his Unanimous All-American season in 2018. As a sophomore, Delpit finished with 74 total tackles, 9.5 for loss, 5 interceptions, 5 sacks, one fumble forced and one recovered – a stat line no player in college football has matched since 2000, which is as far back as Sports Reference’s database goes.
The previous players to wear the number set a high bar, but so did Delpit.
“You see a lot of guys where their junior year is not as good as their sophomore year,” he says. “Those guys go downhill, so I’m just trying to go uphill, stay on that uphill path, do what I did last year, more. It might be hard, but I’m trying to do everything I can do to continue what I did last year.”
One comfort is that Delpit doesn’t expect to bounce around so much positionally as he did last year. Without edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson for the final 12 games of the season, Delpit had to offer both pressure off the edge as a quarter as well as play center field as a free safety. He spent time all over the field, from special teams to different alignments in LSU’s diverse defensive attack.
“It’ll be hard for me to play more positions this year,” he laughs.
Chaisson’s return and the emergence of JaCoby Stevens late in the season at the quarter position – a defensive back playing close to the line of scrimmage, or a bigger nickel, in LSU’s terminology – means Delpit will be able to focus more on the safety spot, while still threatening as a pass rusher in dangerous spots.
But Chaisson and the improvement of other edge guys will make Delpit’s life easier in 2019, he hopes.
“K’Lavon’s a beast,” he says. “He’s a monster. DBs love pass rushers. When we get pressure on the quarterback, it’s great for us. Quarterbacks make mistakes. We have great pass rushers. K’Lavon, Michael Divinity, Andre Anthony. All those guys are getting better.”
A former freshman standout himself, Delpit has had a good look at LSU’s early enrollee at corner, Derek Stingley. The 6-foot-1, 195 pound cornerback was ranked as the best recruit in the 2019 class by many evaluators, and he’s impressed his defensive backfield teammate so far.
“He’s a beast. He’s a monster,” Delpit says of Stingley. “He’s already in 1 on 1s, locking up receivers every day. I tell him, he’s way ahead of where I was as a freshman when I came in. He’s way advanced. His mind’s advanced. He’s a great player already.
“He has Greedy (Williams)’s natural talent, but the size and strength of an ox. It’s something you really don’t see in a cornerback that much. He’s definitely special. He’s probably the best freshman I’ve seen come in so far.”
Williams and Devin White, stars alongside Delpit a season ago, have both moved on to the NFL Draft, which means Delpit isn’t just wearing a new number. He’s also in a new role, as a vocal leader who the young players will look to for advice.
“Those guys paved the way,” he says. “They made a good path for me to follow. I have to step up and fill their shoes. They were great leaders, on and off the field. Devin, he was in my ear all the time, even off the field. I gotta be that guy, step up and tell young guys what they gotta do and be a leader at practice. I’m looking forward to it.”
His first step as a leader, though, was to ask for the number he now wears. He approached Orgeron and requested it, happy to bear the pressure that comes with it and eager to carry its legacy forward.
“This is a huge honor for me and my family,” Delpit says. “Those guys who wore it before me, I grew up watching those guys. It’s definitely a huge honor, very humbling for me. It’s really just another number. I’ve got to do the same thing on the field. It’s big shoes to fill, so I have to represent it well.”