JaCoby Stevens was a projected second-round pick in this past NFL Draft, but the Nashville native had other plans. As one of the Tigers’ most productive defenders in 2019, Stevens wanted to come back to cement his LSU legacy.
Everywhere he’s been, he’s left one, but Stevens felt there was more work to be done at his childhood dream school.
Even as a key contributor to one of the greatest teams in the history of the sport, he wasn’t completely satisfied. And his return looms large for the Tigers.
Recording 92 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, five sacks and three interceptions as a junior, the opportunity to come back and solidify his legacy in Baton Rouge was too tempting to turn down.
“I feel like this is only the beginning to something special,” Stevens tweeted after winning the championship. “After much thought, prayer and talking with my family, coaches and the people closest to me, I have decided to return for my senior year in pursuit to leave my legacy at LSU.”
Now, under first-year defensive coordinator Bo Pelini, Stevens can be used in many different ways. His versatility makes him a swiss army knife on the field, and a coach's dream.
“I can't even tell you how excited I am to have JaCoby Stevens in our system,” said Pelini at LSU’s Coaches Caravan. “He can do so many things. The NFL is going to be licking their chops over this guy. There's a lot of versatility, and there's a lot of depth in our secondary."
Not only is he the perfect backbone to LSU’s defense in 2020, but he’s the perfect fit to wear the coveted No. 18 jersey, given annually to a team leader.
At the national championship parade inside the Maravich Center in January, LSU running back legend Jacob Hester looked back at head coach Ed Orgeron and claimed that Stevens would look great in the No. 18. Stevens, standing beside him on stage, grinned from ear-to-ear.
He’s the obvious choice for the number. It personifies him. Not to mention that Orgeron probably teased the idea as a way to reel Stevens back to campus for his final year of eligibility.
Stevens -- mature beyond his years -- is also one of the smartest players on the team. He’s always thinking football. He’s an X’s and O’s guy. And his teammates feed off his knowledge.
“Everything he does, he does it the right way,” linebacker Jacob Phillips said about Stevens in an interview with LSU Athletics. “It doesn’t matter where he plays. He’s a smart player and knows what to expect. He’s that type of talent where he can go in and play any position.”
Splitting time at receiver and safety as a true freshman in 2017, seeing action in six games, finishing with two receptions for just 32 yards, Stevens seriously considered transferring out of Baton Rouge. But, the 6-foot-2, 230-pounder decided to stay put and let things play out.
As a sophomore in 2018, he played in 11 games and started the final four, finishing the season with 35 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and an interception as the teams’ emerging star.
Stevens earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors three times in 2019. He, along with graduate transfer linebacker Jabril Cox and All-American cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. were named the Bednarik Award Watch List on Monday for the most outstanding defensive player in college football.
After a breakout 2019, Stevens is ready to elevate his game and legacy to the next level. If all goes as planned, expect him to be a first-round selection when the draft rolls around next April.