AARON S. LEE
Special to the Press-Herald
With the 55th Super Bowl just days away, anticipation for the big game has perhaps never been higher in Webster Parish.
Two of Webster’s finest ever are all set to continue a friendly rivalry that dates back to their high school days and extends now to their fledgling seasons in the National Football League.
But according to North Webster alum and Tampa Bay linebacker Devin White, there has never been a doubt in his mind as to the talent of Minden’s own L’Jarius Sneed.
“I always knew Sneed was going pro. I always thought he was a first-rounder,” said the fifth overall pick of the 2019 draft from LSU of the eventual 2020 fourth-rounder from Louisiana Tech.
“I could be biased because we’re close, but I’m not biased because he had a skillset,” White continued. “When we were growing up, when we played football and I had an off week in high school, I always went to his game to watch him play.
“He was a crazy-good wide receiver. He was just a playmaker. He played defense (safety) as well and he was a ball hawk.”
Sneed has indeed developed into a star in his debut season. The Kansas City Chiefs cornerback snagged a 39-yard interception return in the very first game of the NFL season during the defending Super Bowl champion’s win over the Houston Texans on a Thursday night season opener.
Since then, he has recorded 41 tackles (31 solo), two sacks, three interceptions, seven passes defended on a season that was severely disrupted when a broken collarbone in Week 3 cost him nearly two months of play.
Sneed’s performance has caught the attention of many, earning the 2019 Second-Team All-Conference USA honoree PFWA All-Rookie recognition – the same honor bestowed on the 22-year-old White last year.
The recently-turned 24-year-old (Jan. 21) has made an impact during the postseason too, including 11 tackles (7 solo) and two sacks – one in each of his two playoff games.
But none of Sneed’s success is a surprise to White, who recalled his days facing off with Sneed on a different playing field.
“He was one of the main guys on [Minden’s] basketball team, and I was one of the main guys on my team so we always went head-to-head,” said the Second-Team All-Pro. “He went to a great school, a school right up the street from where we are from, Louisiana Tech. They put out great players and he was a star for them.
“To this day, I don’t understand how he fell to the [fourth] round” claimed White. “So Kansas City got a steal because he was first-round talent. He tested well, his tape was well and I know he’s got football IQ, what more could you ask for in a player?”
With both players set to make their Super Bowl debut on Sunday (Feb. 7) when the defending champions travel to Tampa to face the Buccaneers in Raymond James Stadium — a league first where a participating team is also the host — opportunity is knocking and that’s something Sneed has already proven to make the most of this season.
“He’s a guy that didn’t complain,” said White of Sneed’s draft status. “First round? Second round? Third round?
“We always talked when you get your opportunity you make the best out of it. And somebody got hurt and he started the first game, and he’s still starting and [the Chiefs are] finding ways to put him in position to make plays because that’s what he is – a playmaker!”