Malachi Lane remembers being drawn to LSU as a sixth-grader in San Antonio playing old NCAA Football video games.
As he began putting together vision boards with his parents, the university and football program seven hours east in Baton Rouge always topped his list of dream schools.
And despite two handfuls of scholarship offers to smaller schools and other Division-I preferred walk-on invitations, the assured roster spot from the Tigers left no question where the Smithson Valley running back and linebacker would attend college.
“LSU’s been a dream school of mine since sixth grade,” Lane said. “Me and my family have filled out college vision boards every year, and LSU’s been at the top of my list forever. So once I got the PWO, it was a no-brainer.”
As the 6-foot, 205-pound team captain wrapped up his senior season this winter and began trying to finalize his college plans, he asked Smithson Valley coach Larry Hill if he had any connection to LSU’s almost entirely new staff.
Longtime Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was coming south for the first time in his career and bringing several key assistants with résumés also built largely in the midwest.
But the hiring of New Orleans native and former Tigers assistant Frank Wilson III celebrated by Louisiana fans and high school coaches, prospects and families also represented a tie for Lane.
“So (Hill) called coach Wilson, talked to him about me for a little bit, shared my film and gave me coach Wilson’s number,” Lane said. “Then I talked to coach Wilson for a bit, he told me what he thought of my film and put me in contact with Jim Hofher. And I’ve stayed in contact with coach Hofher and stayed on LSU’s radar.
“And they brought me up for the spring game, where he introduced me to coach Wilson, (defensive coordinator Matt) House and (special teams coach Brian) Polian, because those were the three coaches that had seen my film and liked my film. So I talked with them, met with them a little bit and then watched the spring game.”
Lane said the coaches told him they would let him know by May 30 whether he would receive a preferred walk-on slot.
So even the timing in the first days of May was a surprise that sparked an exciting and emotional relay of the news.
“The moment coach Hofher told me, I was just speechless for a second that after all these years and months that LSU was finally happening,” he said. “I was just overcome with happiness and excitement of what’s to come. I immediately called my mom, and she was super excited and started cheering. Her whole office started cheering. And my dad was also super excited and started telling the whole family.
“My dad and my mom have been the biggest motivators for me and support system, so my dad actually started crying after we found out because he knew how hard I’d worked and how bad I wanted to go to LSU.”
Lane said he doesn’t have any prior family connection to LSU or Louisiana.
His passion started from video games and televised college football games and was enough to have the Tigers top the vision boards that also included: in-state TCU, of which Lane’s father is a fan; Florida, where his mother grew up and still has family; and Boise State, where his father has family.
And a couple of visits to Baton Rouge in high school further cemented his vision.
“I went to one of the games, (vs. Texas A&M in 2019), and the atmosphere there was just electric,” he said. “And I felt comfortable. I felt at home. And I took a tour of the campus on my way to Florida one time (to visit family), and I loved the campus and loved everything about the campus. The people were super nice. And then they won the national championship.”
Lane isn’t sure whether he’ll end up primarily under Wilson as a running back or House as a linebacker, but is just ecstatic to move to Baton Rouge this summer, put on purple-and-gold practice jerseys and get to work in whatever capacity the coaches feel best helps the team.
Regardless of which side of the line of scrimmage he’s on, donning the jersey he has admired from afar for so long will represent the realization of dream half his life in the making.
“It’s super crazy,” he said. “I know younger me would be super proud of myself that I said I was going to go there and I got there through all the ups and downs. Younger me would be proud.”
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