The Chase is over: Ja'Marr picks up his first championship
NEW ORLEANS -- Ja'Marr Chase is a champion at last.
The sophomore wide receiver had never won a title when it came to football. He has more basketball hardware in his family's home on the West Bank of New Orleans, but a championship in football has somehow eluded the Biletnikoff Award winner until Monday night.
Chase propelled LSU to its first national championship since 2007 thanks to an offense that's etched all over the record books. He was the driving force of the Tigers' 21 unanswered points in the second quarter to grab hold of a lead before halftime that would never be surrendered. New Orleans' native son accounted for 221 yards receiving against Clemson, the most-ever in a BCS or College Football Playoff championship game history. More specifically, he took advantage of his one-on-one matchup against Clemson cornerback AJ Terrell, who entering Monday's night showdown had not surrendered more than 60 yards receiving in a single game, according to Pro Football Focus. Chase racked 147 of those yards in the first half, which again was the most in the College Football Playoff era.
But Chase never envisioned being a top target on a prolific offense in Baton Rouge -- even when he signed with the Tigers in February of 2018. His recruitment took so many different directions -- from an early commitment to a David Beatty-led Kansas team, to nearly choosing TCU over LSU at The Opening in July 2017 and eventually pledging to Florida before Jim McElwain was fired. Even Auburn made a late appearance in the chase for Chase in the final weeks of the 2018 recruiting cycle that had him contemplating both sets of Tigers entering his early Wednesday morning announcement on National Signing Day that year.
He picked LSU, largely because of the nudging from his family, who wanted their son to stay close to home. Looking back, Chase has absolutely no regrets.
"I didn't," Chase said when asked about envisioning this type of success at LSU. "When I signed, I didn't have this is mind. I didn't have Joe (Burrow) in mind, this is mind, the Biletnikoff ... I wanted to come in and work and get on the field during my freshman year. This ... this is amazing. To get this accomplishment, to be with these guys, especially the seniors and juniors that are leaving, I'm happy to spend time with those guys."
Chase and Burrow rewrote the record books this past season. His quarterback, the Heisman Trophy winner, added another accolade to this resume in Monday night's triumph as he broke Colt Brennan's 14-year-long record for total touchdowns and passing touchdowns. Burrow threw for five touchdowns in the game and rushed for another in the 42-25 victory and now holds the mark for most FBS passing touchdowns in a season (60) and total trips to the end zone (65).
His top receiver -- although you won't be able to convince Chase to admit it -- brought the Biletnikoff back to Baton Rouge for the first time since 2001 when Josh Reed was celebrated as the best receiver in college football. Chase's historic season was capped with two touchdowns against Clemson, pushing his total to 20 on the season, good for most in SEC history. Chase also managed 1,780 receiving yards on the season, which was tops in the conference.
Part of the receiver's reluctance to sign with the Tigers coming out of Archbishop Rummel was the continual promise of a new offense and inspired passing attack. The development of Burrow paired with the addition of former New Orleans Saints assistant coach Joe Brady, who worked with the wide receivers and coordinated the passing game, effectively dismantled that narrative.
"I didn't know when it was gonna happen," Chase admitted, "but I believed. I knew it wasn't gonna happen the first year (at LSU), but it would happen sooner or later. Now, we have a national championship.
"I ain't ever gonna forget this moment. It's my first-ever championship I ever won in football. To make this accomplishment, I'm excited."
Looking back at his recruitment and his arduous decision to sign with LSU only 23 months earlier, Chase merely smiled and laughed.