Jontre Kirklin: The Epitome of ‘Next Man Up’

Beyond The Jersey

HOUSTON, TEXAS – JANUARY 04: Jontre Kirklin #13 of the LSU Tigers looks to pass under pressure from Nate Matlack #97 of the Kansas State Wildcats in the first half during the TaxAct Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium on January 04, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

HOUSTON, TX (KLFY) – Senior Jontre Kirklin threw for 138 yards and three touchdowns, never taking a sack.

Just that stat line wouldn’t reveal the secret, but Kirklin has never played quarterback in college. In fact, he hasn’t been a signal caller since high school when he led Lutcher to a state championship in 2016.

“It’s second nature for me since I played it my whole life until I got to college,” Kirklin says. “I just really had to knock some of the rust off my arm, throwing the ball and everything. Besides that, everything else came natural.”

“I’m so proud of him,” interim head coach Brad Davis says. “Obviously he hadn’t played quarterback since high school. It was an unbelievable opportunity for him to finish his career. He’s the epitome of a selfless kid.”

Kirklin and true freshman quarterback Tavion Faulk from Carencro were the only options. Myles Brennan was sidelined all year due to injury. Max Johnson transferred. Garrett Nussmeier decided to redshirt. And walk-on quarterback Matt O’Dowd was injured.

Due to opt-outs and injuries, LSU only had 38 scholarship players available. But to Kirklin, playing in the bowl game was never in question.

“Shoot, we fighting Tigers, man,” Kirklin says. “We ain’t about to back down from nobody! If we got 11, we going play. That’s our mindset. If we got 11, we going play.”

Kirklin has always embodied the ‘whatever it takes’ mentality. A quarterback in high school recruited as a cornerback, he has played on offense, defense, and special teams throughout his career in Baton Rouge.

Having experience on all sides of the ball led to confident and calm pregame emotions.

“This might sound crazy but I was super calm before the game,” Kirklin says. “I was in a still space. My mind was clear. I wasn’t really nervous or anything. To be honest, I was just out there having fun. That’s all it was. Just have fun, and try to win the game.”

The Tigers may not have won the game, but they ended the night on a high note.

Down 42-14, Kirklin threw an 81 touchdown pass to Chris Hilton on the last play of the game.

“We fighting Tigers, and we continue to fight,” Kirklin says. “I’m proud of the guys. Chris Hilton was wide open and I let it fly. That’s that.”

“We’re from South Louisiana,” interim head coach Brad Davis says. “We fight until the end. We represent toughness. To see our guys score a touchdown right as time ran out, to me it’s really metaphoric for who we are.”

On Sunday, Kirklin announced he was declaring for the 2022 NFL Draft.

From a 2019 national champion to playing just about every position, Kirklin’s five-year career at LSU comes to an end.

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