Ja’Marr Chase enjoyed one of the great rookie seasons for a wide receiver in NFL history. The Cincinnati Bengals selected the 6-foot pass catcher with the No. 5 overall pick, and all he did was put up 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns on 81 receptions.
Chase was a top-five pick out of LSU despite opting out of the pandemic-shortened 2020 college season. His standout performance in the 2019 national championship game — where he recorded 221 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Clemson — was clearly enough to convince NFL scouts he was destined for stardom at wide receiver.
Apparently even LSU coaches didn’t believe that when they first recruited Chase.
In 2019, The Athletic did a deep dive into Chase’s career at LSU. It leads with this anecdote about former LSU coach Les Miles wanting Chase to play cornerback for the Tigers, according to Chase’s father. Chase was so against the idea of him moving to corner he walked out of one drill.
“But Les had messed up because Les told Ja’Marr that he wanted to make him a DB. Ja’Marr didn’t want to have anything to do with that. I was telling Trey Palmer’s mom this Saturday. We was with Trey Palmer sitting in the players’ lounge. Everybody going into Les’ office came out with an offer. So when we go in there, Les tells us, ‘Ja’Marr, you’re a pretty good athlete and we like your skills. I want to try you at DB.’ Ja’Marr looked at me. Then I said, ‘Yeah, Coach. We’ll do it.’ Ja’Marr looked at me like I was crazy. Look, you don’t tell Les Miles no to his face. Let’s just try it out. Ja’Marr kept telling me that he didn’t want to do it. So he got in line to do a drill. They said, ‘Hut!’ and Ja’Marr just turned around and walked away. I asked what’s the matter. He said he couldn’t do it.
Chase’s one year of starting at LSU resulted in 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns on 84 receptions. It’s a good thing Ed Orgeron eventually realized playing receiver was Chase’s destiny.
The Bengals have a great foundation for years to come with Chase and his former college QB Joe Burrow as their offensive foundation. It sure seems like this connection can be every bit as good in the NFL as it was in college.