Thursday, 10 March 2011 16:02

Ex-Saint Abramowicz Overseeing LSU's Zach Mettenberger

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LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger hopes the protection while he is in the pocket is as good as coach Les Miles and numerous Tigers officials are providing now.

Miles is not allowing the junior college transfer from Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan., to be interviewed and school officials are tight-lipped about him.

The No. 1 junior college prospect in the nation begins spring practice with the rest of the LSU football team on Friday as a sophomore.

Mettenberg, who originally signed with Georgia in 2009, as the No. 11 pro style quarterback in the country, is expected to compete for the starting quarterback job with senior Jordan Jefferson.

Jefferson is the starter going into spring practice and Miles may play two quarterbacks this season. He likes Jefferson's ability to pick up first downs running.

"Zach's a big taller thrower, and it appears to me he ran the offense on the junior college level very, very well and has leadership," said Miles, who rarely recruits junior college players, said when Mettenberger signed with LSU on Dec. 15. He turned down offers from Alabama, Texas A&M, Louisville, Arkansas and Arizona, among others.

"Zach will come in and get an opportunity to start quickly,": said Miles. Miles began re-recruiting the quarterback last summer, shortly after Mettenberger was kicked off the Georgia team in April of 2010 in light of arrest for sexual battery of a woman in a bar in Remerton, Ga., the previous March.

No LSU football signee in history has had as highly a publicized criminal record before entering school than Mettenberger. But Miles never hesitated, He also spoke with Georgia coach Mark Richt about the incident.

Georgia graduate Zachary Cowart said “Zach got punished very severely, He paid a very steep price for one night of going out with his buddies. My perception is he's a real good kid who made a mistake one night."

After pleading guilty to two misdemeanor counts of sexual battery, Mettenberger was sentenced on May 3 to two concurrent, 12-month probationary periods. He was ordered to pay $2,000 and to perform 40 hours of community service.

He paid the fine and did all the community service within a month or two," said Cowart.

"It appear to me there is remorse," said Miles. "It appears to me that he kind of understands how the event took place, I really believe there's an opportunity that he has taken to learn from the mistake. I met his mom and his family. I think there's a great likelihood that he will do all the right things and the things he needs to do."

Mettenberger's father, Bernie Mettenberger Jr., said the night in question may have been the first time his son drank. “He's never been in trouble. He never drinks. Some of his friends took him to a place they shouldn't have taken him."

Bernie Mettenberger Sr., Zach's grandfather, moved beyond the circumstantial spin so Mettenberger's one night out would not become two or three more as in the case of Ben Roethlisberger.

The elder Mettenberger decided to expand the pocket of prevention. He called a childhood friend from Steubenville, Ohio, where he grew up. This guy was an athlete who lived through similar circumstances for years in the NFL and was now preaching about it on EWTN -- the national Catholic cable network. Metterberger had not talked to his friend in more than 40 years, and his friend had never met his talented grandson. But it was worth a try.

Mettenberger called Danny Abramowicz, a charter member of the Saints Hall of fame and a Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductee. Abramowicz, a Saints wide receiver who led the NFL in receptions with 73 in an All-Pro 1969 season and held the NFL record for most consecutive games with a catch at 105 when he retired in 1975.

Abramowicz formed the Monday Night Disciples in New Orleans in 1995, He got back in the NFL as assistant coach under Mike Ditka with the Chicago Bears and as offensive coordinator with the Saints in the late 1990s, but he stayed close to God. He is presently on the board of directors of the “Crossing the Goal” miniseries, and he is an adviser to the national fellowship of Catholic men.

"I knew it was a pretty important call," said Abramowicz."Bernie called me from China."

I hadn't talked to Bernie since college," said Abramowicz. "It was great hearing from him."

Abramowicz, who regularly counsels wayward athletes  at speaking engagements around the country or on his "Crossing the Goal" television show on EWTN, had heard Mettenberger had gotten into trouble at Georgia.

"But I didn't put two and two together until Bernie called," said Abramowicz. "He wanted me to talk to him, and I said I'd be glad to."

Abramowicz told Bernie to tell his grandson that he would be calling soon.

"I thought I'd talk to him athlete to athlete," said Abramowicz.

"Obviously, since you could be the starting quarterback at Georgia, God gave you talent," Abramowicz told Mettenberger. "I've done things like you did in my life, and that's no way to live your life. Your talent is going to take care of itself if you work hard, You're obviously doing well there. (Butler CC). What you need to work on is your character. You need to feel good about yourself as a person -- not just as an athlete. because you're going to run into more guys in college and in the NFL who will try to take you down the primrose path again."

Abramowicz ended the call with joint prayer. "I told him I thought he could turn this stumbling block into a stepping stone," said Abramowicz.

"He just got caught up in the fast lane," said Abramowicz. "Like I did and many others in athletics at the highest levels. He just needed some guidance. I told him he needs the Lord in his life in a bigger way to help him overcome these temptations that surely will be in his life until the day he dies."

"Zach took what Danny told him as a big wakeup call," said Bernie. "When I talked to Zach after he talked to Danny, he was totally devastated. I told him that he'll be surprised that this could work out to be a blessing. He now realizes that, and he's very excited to be at LSU."

"Later, after Danny talked to Zach, I sent an email to tell him thanks," said Bernie.

Abramowicz emailed back with a message: "Tell Zach, I'm watching him."


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by Ed Staton

Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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