BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The great Wendell Davis was my first, favorite LSU wide receiver as a kid. Davis teamed with star quarterback Tommy Hodson in the late 80s to terrorize opposing defenses and lead the Tigers to some exciting seasons. The two always seemed to be on the same wavelength, with Hodson often firing the football long before Davis would make his break and completing it perfectly anyway. And while LSU finished only 5-6 in 1990, Todd Kinchen's 79-yard zig-zag touchdown to upset No. 11 Texas A&M is still one of the most exciting plays I've ever witnessed in Tiger Stadium.
During my years at WAFB-TV, we've likewise covered a long list of accomplished and talented LSU wide outs. During my first year at the station, Rayne's Josh Reed won the 2001 Biletnikoff Award for the nation's top receiver. All Reed did that year was catch an astounding 94 passes for 1,740 yards and 10 touchdowns. LSU also won the SEC Championship that season, with Christian Life's Michael Clayton likewise playing a huge role in the Tigers' success. And from that point, the big names just kept coming - Devery Henderson, Dwayne Bowe, Craig "Buster" Davis, Early Doucet, Brandon "JoJo" LaFell, Demetrius Byrd and Rueben Randle - to name several. And of course, last season the Tigers had their deadliest duo ever, with Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry ripping secondaries apart.
LSU redshirt sophomore Travin Dural has a long way to go before being mentioned with the names above, but it certainly appears the young man nicknamed "Flight" is taking off.
During No. 13 LSU's pulsating 28-24 win over No. 14 Wisconsin last Saturday, Dural finished with 151 yards receiving on just three catches. His 80-yard score down the sideline from a scrambling Anthony Jennings was basically the only positive play the Tigers made in the first two-plus quarters.
"All week, Coach Cam [Cameron] had been preaching to us, 'We have mobile quarterbacks, so the scramble rules are going to be intact,'" Dural said. "There's going to be at least four or five plays this season where the quarterback is going to extend the play and the receiver is going to have to make the right decision - to take it up field or come down. It happened on Saturday. Anthony [Jenning] scrambled, I took it deep and he led a great ball. And my speed did the rest."
So, have you ever averaged 50 yards a catch kid?
"Ha, ha, never. Never did that before," he laughed.
The performance certainly showed the Breaux Bridge native is becoming a star.
"I think so," wide receiver John Diarse, a redshirt freshman, said. "I think he's starting to embrace that role. He definitely deserves it, knowing him from high school, understanding his story. And where he came from to where he is now. I'm proud of him."
So what is the story? And what has No. 83 overcome?
"I first got here, a guy that was possibly going to play as a true freshman. Being hurt (knee injury that wiped out his entire year in 2012) and then coming back, I was supposed to be that guy to help the team. And having two wide receivers that had great years (Beckham and Landry), being under the radar to now finally getting my shot and taking advantage of it. That's what he was talking about," Dural said.
Dural caught a touchdown just before halftime in LSU's 38-17 loss at Alabama last season, while likewise hauling in a 49-yard scoring strike from Jennings to rally past upset-minded Arkansas 31-27 in the final moments of the Tigers' regular season finale. Those huge plays, combined with his effort and LSU's win over the Badgers on Saturday, has Dural's confidence growing.
"It grew a lot. It showed me I have the ability that I knew I had. I can make the plays I've been dreaming of, so my confidence has grown a lot from the Arkansas game until now," Dural stated.
But with that, Dural is hardly ready to anoint himself an All-American yet.
"I have to do it multiple times for me to say, 'Okay, that's my role. That's what I do. That's what I bring to the team,'" Dural explained.
Dural certainly won't be the only weapon in the Tigers' passing attack this year. Diarse had a brilliant 36-yard catch and run for a touchdown in the fourth quarter Saturday, while true freshman Trey Quinn hauled in the subsequent two-point conversion.
However, I believe Travin Dural is not only emerging as the leader of the Tigers' receiving corps, but also a guy the entire team can rally around. In spending time with him during light-hearted moments at LSU's Media Day, I learned Dural is quite hilarious. He is certainly one of the more engaging and likable personalities on the squad.
Travin Dural is an easy guy to root for on the LSU football team. And I definitely feel many more great things are ahead before his career ends.