It’s third and 17. Georgia Southern has the ball at the 18-yard line and hand it off to running back Matt LaRoche, who cuts right and starts to cut upfield.
LaRoche is about seven yards past the line of scrimmage when sophomore linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson blindsides him from the right, jarring the ball loose, creating the second turnover of the game Saturday for LSU.
Chaisson, is back.
The road for Chaisson to that point, however, was long and arduous, dating back to Sept. 2, 2018.
Chaisson went down in the fourth quarter of the Tigers season opener against Miami and every LSU player, coach and fan held their breath. The Monday following the game, LSU coach Ed Orgeron announced that Chaisson had a severe knee injury and would be out for the remainder of the season, dealing a crushing blow to the Tiger defense.
But Chaisson wasn’t ready to quit. After surgery to repair his torn ACL 18 days after suffering the injury, Chaisson posted a tweet asking “Who’s running the 5k with me tomorrow?” with the hashtag #Likeitneverhappened.
Throughout the season, Chaisson was seen on the sidelines cheering on his teammates. He didn’t want to have a negative impact on the team, but rather show that even though he couldn’t play, he still wanted to positively affect the team.
Chaisson showed the progress he was making rehabbing his injury running sprints in a video on Nov. 8, just three months after the surgery. The video made waves on social media as the recovery timetable for an ACL injury typically doesn’t include serious training until much later in the rehab process.
Going into the 2018 season, Chaisson’s teammates gushed about his explosiveness and what kind of season he could have for the Tigers. Former Tiger linebacker Devin White predicted that Chaisson would break the single-season sack record. While that obviously didn’t come to fruition then, the possibility still remains. The expectations for Chaisson’s 2019 season are as high as they were in 2018, if not higher.
“We believe he can be a 12 to 15 sack player for us this season,” Orgeron said.
Chaisson was named to the AP and ESPN Preseason All-American team, along with the Butkus Award watch list, showing that Chaisson is well regarded by not only Baton Rouge, but also nationally.
This offseason Chaisson was awarded the coveted No. 18 jersey by his coaches and teammates, an honor that is given to players who show leadership, character and a hard-working mentality.
“Sometimes as a football player you might forget, or it slips your mind about what a blessing it is that we have this game, and sometimes we need to be reminded of that,” Chaisson said.
Chaisson showed no rust in his first game back for the Tigers, almost like the injury never happened. But it did, and Chaisson knows he’s better because of it.
“I know God has a plan, even after the injury, I had to realize that this was happening for a reason,” Chaisson said. “Now I’m stronger mentally, and ready to take advantage of this opportunity that I have.”