LSU junior linebacker Lamin Barrow doesn’t care that his peculiar first name often gets mispronounced.
“Ninety percent of people get it wrong.” Barrow said. “As long as my teammates and coaches say it right, that’s all I need.”
The soft-spoken Marrero native hesitates to correct the pronunciation errors — the correct way is luh-MEEN — but Barrow’s play has made his name a household one this fall.
Along with junior Kevin Minter, Barrow has transformed a perennially overlooked linebacking corps into perhaps the LSU defense’s hottest commodity, especially in Southeastern Conference play.
Minter and Barrow are first and second, respectively, on the Tigers’ defense in total tackles, with Barrow recording 27 of his 51 stops in LSU’s three league games.
To go along with four tackles for a loss, his four quarterback hurries — traditionally a statistic dominated by defensive linemen — ranks second on the team.
“When you look at [Lamin] this year, his whole swagger has changed,” said sophomore defensive tackle Anthony Johnson. “He and Kevin [Minter] were young linebackers playing behind two greats in Kelvin [Sheppard] and Ryan Baker. I think they’ve been the best linebackers in the SEC.”
After Florida’s Mike Gillislee gashed the Tiger defense for 146 yards and led to a week of questions about LSU’s defensive toughness, Barrow saved his best for touted South Carolina back Marcus Lattimore.
Behind Barrow’s game and career-high 12 tackles, LSU effectively shut down Lattimore and, in turn, the Gamecocks’ offense.
As part of the first class at LSU to play exclusively for defensive coordinator John Chavis, Barrow said the linebackers’ rapport with the coach has been responsible for their rapid rise.
“It’s been building under Chief for the last several years,” Barrow said. “His scheme is the only one I’ve known, and he’s taken me under his wing. He calls plays in the right spot for us.”
Barrow’s emergence has been a necessary one for a linebacking unit that lost expected starter Tahj Jones before the season and freshman standout Kwon Alexander to an ankle injury at Florida, and also dealt with junior Luke Muncie’s recurring stomach ailment.
“They’ve done such a good job of filling in and answering the whole defense’s call,” said senior safety Eric Reid. “I gave them a hard time in the offseason, saying I led the team in tackles last year. Lamin’s helped make sure not many guys are reaching me this year.”
It’s a sharp swing for a linebacking corps used to naysayers. Even as the LSU defense has consistently ranked among the nation’s best in recent years, Barrow always heard the doubts about the linebackers.
“Of course you see things like, ‘The linebackers might not be as good as the rest of the defense,’” he said. “A lot of progress really started last year, doing our jobs to set up the playmakers up front and behind us, so they could do their thing. We’re more in your face this year, and we are a force on this defense.”
It has cast a spotlight on Barrow’s dreaded mane and easily butchered first name. He’s fine with the attention, but only to a point.
“It’s been different, since now people do notice you and call out your name in public,” Barrow said. “I don’t need to be known like Sam Montgomery or Eric Reid. I want to make the plays they make, but they can keep the notoriety. My name’s kind of tough, anyway.”