To say L’Jarius Sneed’s rookie season in the NFL has gone quite well is understating it.
The former Louisiana Tech standout defensive back, a Minden product, is starting at cornerback as the Kansas City Chiefs defend their Super Bowl championship Sunday night against the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Not only is he a starter, but he’s a standout. He’s a lock to make the All-Rookie Team compiled by every analyst and organization.
Late last week, Pro Football Focus (@PFF) tabbed Sneed as the best rookie defensive back in the NFL. He allowed only one catch all season over 20 yards. USA Today’s Doug Farrar noted the Tech product is third in opponent passer rating (58.1) among all NFL cornerbacks playing at least 20 percent of their team’s defensive snaps.
While shutting out the NFL’s top pass catcher, Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs, Sneed sustained a concussion in the AFC Championship game win, but Monday he passed the league’s concussion protocols and was cleared to practice and play Sunday in the ultimate game.
The future’s so bright for Sneed, everybody around him ought to be wearing shades.
And now he has an opportunity to join an elite group – Lincoln Parish Super Bowl heroes.
In the star-studded Lincoln landscape, there’s no shortage of natives or products of Tech or Grambling who have played in the big game. Many have been starters, and have walked away Super Bowl champions.
That’s just about as good as it gets for an NFL player. This week Sneed and his Webster Parish pal, Bucs standout and former LSU stud Devin White, are deservedly enjoying the Super Bowl spotlight and the joy of reaching the ultimate game in just their early days as pros.
Come Sunday night, with luck and by capitalizing on opportunities that might come his way, the former Bulldog could further elevate his status and join local legends and all-time greats like Tech’s Terry Bradshaw and Fred Dean, and Grambling’s Doug Williams, Willie Brown and Willie Davis, all part of Super Bowl lore.
Bradshaw collected four Super Bowl titles as the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback of the 1970s, and was MVP in his last two, 1978 and 1979.
Williams won the game’s MVP honor in his only appearance, a dynamic outing in Super Bowl XXII.
Dean, the Ruston High great who passed away last fall, was a vital cog on the defensive front as San Francisco took Super Bowls in 1982 and 1985. (Johnny Robinson, another RHS and Tech star defensive lineman, helped the Oakland Raiders win SB XVIII).
Davis was a stalwart defensive end for Green Bay as the Packers collected five NFL crowns, the final ones in the first two Super Bowls.
Brown, a savvy cornerback, made a game-clinching 75-yard pick six for Oakland (on a pass intended for another former Grambling star, Vikings receiver Sammy White) to salt away Super Bowl XI.
But if the spotlight doesn’t land squarely on his shoulders in Super Bowl LV, it’s quite possible Sneed may have another chance or a few to play in the final game of the NFL season. He certainly has served notice he’ll be making plays as a pro for some time.
A three-year starter at Tech, the 6-2, 192-pounder played safety as a senior. In his Number 24 Bulldog jersey, Sneed posted totals of 179 tackles, 29 passes defended, eight interceptions (three returned for scores) and enjoyed four straight bowl wins.
As a fourth-round draft pick (138th overall), he made a quick splash in the NFL, picking off passes in his first two games. Although a broken collarbone sidelined him for seven games, Sneed moved inside to a slot corner spot after initially playing on the boundary, and emerged as a dynamic play-maker for Kansas City. He has four sacks in the last four games on blitzes after never having blitzed in college or high school.
Sunday, all he wants to do is walk off the field able to come home with bragging rights over White, and to represent his home and his alma mater as he’s done all season long.
Photo: Courtesy Louisiana Tech Athletics