If you were asked to name a player or coach who personified the Southeastern Conference, who would it be? There are certainly many fantastic choices.
Bear Bryant would be a popular answer. His tough, grumbly, humble (but confident), country-brilliance embodies the South in general. But Bear is old school; the SEC — and football in genera — has changed a lot since his time.
Tim Tebow is another fine example. He’s a hard-working, team-first, devout Christian whose winning ambition was only rivaled by his kind nature. But Tebow is almost too good to be true, really. The guy’s only vice is he has no vice. He is literally Superman. It’s difficult for the rest of us to relate to a human like that.
Two players many may mention are Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel. Newton’s size, speed and athleticism were all SEC-esque. Manziel was a cocky, brash, slippery human highlight. And, like the SEC, Newton and Manziel had some gray-area reputations during their careers. While both were unreal talents, I am not sure they would be considered the prototypical poster boys for the league.
All of the options above would be great choices in their own way but they each have their faults. No, the one guy who would check practically every box in being “Mr. SEC” tragically passed away last week: Kentucky’s former quarterback Jared Lorenzen.
Lorenzen embodied the Southeastern Conference. He was a larger than life, passionate, athletic, down-home passing phenom. Lorenzen had the body of John Hannah, the feet of Barry Sanders and the fearless attitude of Brett Favre. When he took snaps, you sometimes wondered if he and the center shouldn’t swap places.
Lorenzen is what we all try to be when we quarterback in the backyard. Oh, we can pretend to be Tebow, Manziel or Newton, but those goals are unreachable. We all can relate to Lorenzen, though.
He was every man’s every man. An approachable, fun-loving, shockingly-nimble guy next door. If he were your neighbor, he would be the guy who came over for a cold beer every Thursday for a decade before letting you know he won a Super Bowl ring.
And, like most of us Southerners, Lorenzen had a plethora of awesome, chicken-fried, well-earned nicknames — The Pillsbury Throw Boy; The Battleship Lorenzen; The Hefty Lefty; The Round Mound of Touchdown; Quarter(got)back; The Abominable Throwman; He Ate Me.
What made Lorenzen even cooler was he embraced the comments and funny monikers from fans and detractors alike. He knew he was overweight; that was certainly not lost on him, but he didn’t allow that issue to hold him back. He played the game like a man 1/3 his size anyway and was very effective doing so.
Sadly, Lorenzen’s weight and subsequent health issues recently caught up to him. He was trying to get control of his disorder but he was facing a serious uphill climb. He will truly be missed.
After about a week’s worth of watching past highlights of Lorenzen’s time in football, it made me appreciate him as a player and person. It also made me realize of all of the SEC icons to choose from, Jaren Lorenzen may be the most SEC player in league history.