Why LSU is still an attractive destination for Louisiana's top football recruits
Will Campbell has been attending LSU football games since he was at least five years old.
"Just being an in-state kid, you always are watching LSU," Campbell said.
The five-star offensive tackle at Neville grew up idolizing LSUstars like Devin White and Odell Beckham Jr.He said that watching them inspired him to work harder. And he hoped to one day play on the same field that thrilled Tigers' fans in Death Valley.
Now the No.1 recruit in Louisiana's 2022 class, the 6-foot-6, 285 pound Campbell is close to making that happen after he committed to the Tigers in January.
"LSU has always had kind of a step ahead of everybody," Campbell said. "I kind of felt like no matter what at the end of the day that's where I would end up."
But Campbell isn't the only top recruit in the state who has been seduced by the Tigers' appeal.
LSU, despite a 5-5 record last season and allegations surrounding the programs handling of previous sexual assault cases, is finding success on the recruiting trail. The Tigers own the No.1 2022 recruiting class in the SEC and the No. 4 class in the nation, according to 247Sports Composite.
And they have done especially well with recruiting Louisiana prospects, securing commitments from all three of the state's five-star recruits. The Tigers have landed, or are the favorites to earn, commitments from 10 of the top 11 recruits in the state, according to 247Sports.
"When you're growing up in Louisiana, every kid, everyone wants to play at LSU," said five-star quarterback and LSU commit Walker Howard of St. Thomas More.
Howard, whose father Jamie played quarterback for the Tigers in the 1990s, believes that LSU's national championship winning team in 2019 has contributed to the school's appeal to recruits.
"It shows that the staff there knows what they're doing and can get the job done," Campbell said.
Campbell added that LSU's family atmosphere and locker room culture is appealing for recruits. He won't sign until at least December, but Campbell already considers LSU's players and coaching staff as family.
Fitzgerald West Jr., a three-star lineman at Lafayette Christian and LSU commit, said that the relationships he already has with multiple LSU players and commits was a primary reason behind why he chose the Tigers.
"I chose them because it felt like home," West said. "I just know everybody on the team already."
TreVonte' Citizen, a four-star running back at Lake Charles Prep and the latest LSU commitment, also recognized the schools family atmosphere as an important factor in his decision. The Tigers had been recruiting Citizen since he was a freshman.
"It felt like a real family," Citizen said.
What has also helped LSU lure in commitments from the 2022 class has been Campbell and Howard's emergence as recruiters on their behalf.
When West announced his commitment on July 10, Campbell and Howard were there to witness it. After top prospects visit LSU, it's Campbell or Howard who is insisting on social media that they should choose the Tigers. And when Citizen went on his official visit, Campbell and Howard were also at LSU and letting him and other recruits know "we care and (that) we want them there."
"The commits who talked to me the most were Walker Howard and Will Campbell," Citizen said. "They talked about how LSU was the place to be."
Campbell said he's probably talked to every top recruit, in-state or not, who has considered LSU as a possible destination.
"I want to go get the best guys that I can, whether it's in-state or out of state," Campbell said. "We're trying to make this one of the best classes to ever go to LSU.
Campbell is excited about the future of LSU football, especially when it comes to the 2022 class. He believes the group could win the national championship "two or three times."
His enthusiasm for LSU's future comes is the same excitement that came from watching future NFL stars at Tiger Stadium.
"I mean, it's the best atmosphere, they have the best facilities, the best coaching staff," Campbell said. "There's not a reason why you shouldn't like LSU.
"LSU is home."