It’s no secret that LSU features one of the most prestigious legacies of wide receivers in the entire country. In 2023, the torch was passed to Lafayette, La., native Malik Nabers to be “the guy.” Nabers’ performance this season has placed him in a prime position to cement himself as a Tiger legend.
The 2023 LSU offense has been nothing short of spectacular so far. LSU is a top-ranked team in just about very offensive statistic that is tracked by the NCAA. Obviously, it’s a result of the talent that the Tigers possess on that side of the ball. Nabers has undoubtedly been one of the most vital pieces to the offense’s success, leading the nation receiving yards this season while being named a First-Team Midseason All-American by the Associated Press.
“We talk about (former LSU and current NFL receivers) Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson,” Nabers said. “But when we talk about them, I want my name to be added as well. With this season, I’ve been able to get another 1,000 yards, and I think I’m only the second back-to-back 1,000-yard receiver (Josh Reed was the first in 2000 and 2001) to ever do it at LSU.”
After logging 1,017 receiving yards last season, Nabers has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark already this season, as he has 1,152 entering this weekend’s game versus Florida.
Passing Josh Reed’s all-time LSU career receiving yards record of 3,064 yards is still a very realistic possibility for Nabers. Going into the Florida game, Nabers sits at 2,586 career receiving yards. With three games left in the regular season plus postseason, he would have to finish the season performing at the same level he’s displayed all year.
“I basically take a lot of different things from my peers,” Nabers said. “I might watch (LSU wide receiver) Brian Thomas, his practice film, because he gets off the line of scrimmage pretty fast and his route running is tremendous. I might get some top of the route stuff from (LSU wide receiver) Kyren Lacy.
“And, I can go back from last year and get a release from (former LSU wide receiver) Jaray Jenkins. They’re all good at something, so if I can pack that into my game I can probably become, you know, better.”
Nabers has made an impact on every game of the season up to this point. The credit he gives his teammates is not just lip service. He has referenced specific game-changing plays that he has made as a result of borrowing technique from his peers, such as his fourth quarter, go- ahead touchdown against Arkansas.
“I would say the last play against Arkansas,” Nabers explained. “When I caught the touchdown, when it was like 2nd and 17, I won on the top of the route. It looked just like BT (Brian Thomas). His release on it and everything; I was in practice and I watched him do it, and I was like ‘how does he get so much separation on that kind of route?’
“So I watched it in practice and I was like ‘alright, this is what he does,’ and I tried it in the game, and the DB got stung by it, and I became wide open.”
Nabers has caught a pass in 27 straight games, and he has gone over the 100-yard mark six times in 2023, including a 13-catch, 239-yard effort at Mississippi State on September 16 to earn SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
In the first half of the Mississippi State game, Nabers recorded a remarkable 10 receptions for 188 yards, marking the fourth-highest yardage total in school history in any half of football.
Success hasn’t come without its share of hardship. In the first game of Nabers’ sophomore season against Florida State in the Caesars Superdome, he muffed two punts. The Tigers would end up losing the game in dramatic fashion.
“It really hit hard,” Nabers said about the 2022 game. “It was a learning experience. I would just say it was something that I had to put in the past but, I thought about it every time I played another game. It was something when the punter went out there and they were calling punt, the flashbacks that went through my head. But I would say it drove me. It drove me so hard to change the narrative that was on my name.”
LSU coach Brian Kelly sensed that Nabers was in line to have a big year when he described the junior wide receiver’s work ethic during preseason camp in August.
“His skill level has always been there,” Kelly said. “His ability to come out every single day, maintain his emotion, and focus on what’s important – being at his best during practice and not being distracted by anything. I thought, at times last season, he got distracted, quite frankly. He had some up and downs during his practice.
“This year so far, very little to no distractions have put him in a position where his practicing has consistently put him at a high, high level. If he stays at that level and eliminates distractions, he’s in line to do some really special things.”
Nabers has high praise for the guy throwing him the ball over the past two seasons. He has a great relationship with quarterback Jayden Daniels. The two hang out as friends off the field, as well as spend extra time on the field together to perfect their crafts.
“We might kick it a little bit,” Nabers said about Daniels. “Might go shopping, you know he spends a lot of money so, just things like that and knowing someone personally, it benefits a football relationship really well.
“We come (to the facility) at 5:30 in the morning, watch a little film. We throw the ball after practice, might hit some routes that we missed on in practice. In the spring and in the summer we always came way late at night, probably around 9:00, and would throw the ball around, just get the little small details right.”
Malik Nabers is proud to be able to represent his home state’s flagship program. He admitted that he didn’t really get into football until high school, but he loves that he has the opportunity to be the next great LSU receiver, calling it a dream come true.