Landon Ibieta tries his luck and runs with them, signing with LSU football class | LSU

Landon Ibieta’s first college catch was a ‘screen now’, where quarterback Devon Tott turned and immediately threw the ball at him over the line of scrimmage.

Ibieta was a second-year catcher at Mandeville High School, playing against High School Woodlawn, shaking everyone in his way as he crossed the pitch, defenders crashing in his wake in his way for a 65-yard touchdown.

“He could have played for us in the freshman but we weren’t very good and I didn’t want this to be his first college experience,” Mandeville football coach Hutch Gonzales said. “He’s just that skinny little sophomore and after that we said, ‘Okay, yeah, he was as advertised,’ he’s ready to play at this level.”

The unsuspecting 6-foot-tall, 185-slot receiver, he believes, is the best he’s ever trained, but like him, it took schools like LSU longer to mine the uncut gem. not far from the backyard of Baton Rouge. But Ibieta received his offer the day before his 19th birthday, December 9, and five days later he would disengage from Miami and send his national letter of intent on Wednesday morning of the national signing day.

Jodi Ibieta, his mother, remembers entering the living room to tell her that it was the first time she had seen her son moved.

– I’m sorry, she said, wiping away her tears. “It was very moving. My son is not a very emotional person, and it was probably the first time I had seen him cry in his life.

Even as Ibieta sits against a backdrop of Mandeville High School at Sidney Theriot Stadium, his family crowding around him as he signs his letter, his face is expressionless. A microphone is placed in front of him, and he glances at his father. He doesn’t want to talk.

“Just thank your teammates and your coaches,” said his father, Chad Ibieta.

Ibieta is somewhat of a “legend of the park,” according to Gonzales. People in the community have known him since he was nine, lingering around CrossFit Mandeville, which his mother owned. This is how Gonzales first met the family, before becoming head coach in 2018.

He said his favorite memory of Landon was watching him do 50 consecutive push-ups at the age of eight.

Ibieta’s speed, Gonzales said, comes from her mother, who was a fierce sprinter at Chalmette High School. But he gets his discipline and his love of football from his father, who was in the navies for four years. Chad tried marching to LSU, but in the past military veterans weren’t eligible to play unless they sat on the bench for a few years.

Chad was throwing the ball at Ibieta all over the house with the music of the Tiger Band playing in the background.

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“Everyone is wondering how he got so fast,” Chad said. “While all the kids were on their bikes, he was running around. “

This speed was not immediately evident to the scouts until Ibieta arrived at the camps. It was different from Mandeville’s last wide receiver presenting the SEC offers: Will Sheppard. Sheppard, a 6-3, 200-pound athlete, was what he called a “dominant” prospect, while Ibieta, he said, is the best he has ever coached.

Sheppard’s stature and 41-inch upright alone gave him an advantage. Gonzales described him as a kid you could close your eyes to and throw the ball into the air and rely on him to catch it, in addition to physically dominating defenders.

Ibieta is sharp.

“It’s not the prototype, when you talk about what guys are looking for in those SEC wide receivers you see guys who are these 6ft 5in long striders,” Gonzales said. “Landon is special because he does things that a high school wide receiver doesn’t, that’s in control of his body and the way he gets in and out of a road.”

That’s when the offers started to pile up, except at LSU. He was told that if he came to the camp he would get that place, but that did not happen. Then coach Manny Diaz was fired in Miami, and the uncertainty made him uncomfortable. He had planned to travel to Nebraska and Louisville after the dead period ended, not signing with anyone on signing day.

“Coach (Jake) Peetz pushed for Landon, and he’s like, ‘I want it now,’ and it looked like the coaching staff couldn’t be on the same playing field,” Jodi said. “When the new staff came in they were talking about having receivers and Peetz said, ‘Have you seen Landon Ibieta? If he hadn’t participated in this conversation or told the staff to look at this kid, I don’t know if we would do anything here today.

His visit to LSU the weekend before signing day was more about finding out if there was any reason not to sign with his dream school, but they don’t. found none.

The papers were signed, and in a rush, the school held a last-minute signing ceremony on the soccer field, in front of all of their soccer and basketball teammates. The backdrop was blowing in the wind, as were the purple and gold balloons.

Jodi put a jar of yellow and purple Dum Dums on the table when it was finished, and all the photos were taken.

Ibieta then stood next to the screen to explain to reporters how it all happened.

“I’ve been going to these games since I was 4, it’s just a part of my culture,” Ibieta said. “I was one of those kids where if LSU lost on Saturday it would ruin my whole day, ruin my whole Sunday, ruin my whole weekend. I hope I can help another child.

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