INDIANAPOLIS _ This is one 2019 LSU national champion the Bengals have no chance to get after the last two drafts they raided Baton Rouge for Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase with franchise-changing first-round picks.
A big reason cornerback Derek Stingley, Jr., is a projected top ten draft pick is because of those daily practice confrontations with Chase during that perfect season.
"That was a fun matchup," said Stingley, whose face lit up with the memory during his Saturday media availability at the NFL scouting combine. "He made me better. I'm sure I helped him a little bit. He's a strong receiver, fast, he gets in and out of his breaks."
Stingley, who says he's nearly 100 percent recovered from the Lisfranc fracture he suffered in his left foot in the fourth game, had one of the greatest freshmen seasons a cornerback has ever had in the Pro Football Focus era. With Chase sharpening him up Tuesday through Thursday, Stingley allowed just 29 catches on Saturdays his way to consensus All-American.
Like Chase, Stingley grew up near campus. Unlike LSU's other starting cornerback, Kristian Fulton, who played with Chase at New Orleans' Archbishop Rummel, Stingley played against Chase when he was at The Dunham School in Baton Rouge. When they ended up together at LSU, they always made sure they drew each other in practice.
"Whenever we could, we would go against each other," said Stingley, who was far from surprised when Chase lit up the NFL with a rookie-record 1,455 yards. "Not at all. He's Ja'Marr Chase. I've seen that from high school."
Stingley is adamant. He was asked who is the best receiver he's gone against in his three seasons of paying in the high-wire SEC.
"Ja'Marr Chase," he said and that was it.
The 6-1, 195-pound Stingley is a straight shooter. His media session went an unvarnished eight minutes that got right to the point with no slants or go balls. And after a sophomore season that wasn't rated as highly and an injury-shortened junior year, there are questions.
"I feel like I was just as good my sophomore year as I was my freshman year," Stingley said. "My freshman year I had over 90 targets. My sophomore year I had 30. That should just say I'm doing my job.
"When I'm the best version of myself, I am (the best cornerback on the board)."
The pundits would seem to agree. Heading into this week the PFF big board had him No. 3 overall and the web site's latest mock draft had him going with the seventh pick to the Giants.
That's more than significant. Here's the other time his face lit up Saturday.
"Do you know anything about the 1973 draft?" Stingley was asked.
"That's when my Grandpa got drafted," he said of Patriots wide receiver Daryl Stingley.
"Do you remember what pick?"
"Nineteen. It looks like you'll get in front of him."
"I hope to get the chance," Stingley said. "I hope so."
For anyone who saw Jack Tatum's paralyzing 1978 hit on Darryl Stingley as it happened in a preseason game in Oakland, the memory is still jarring. Derek, 20, doesn't have many memories of Darryl. He passed away at age 55 when his grandson was five, but Derek has just enough that he brought Darryl's No. 84 Patriots jersey to the national title game.
"It means a lot," Derek said. "I'm continuing the Stingley name. Hopefully I can live up to it."
If that doesn't make you want to pull for him, this will. He enjoyed watching the Bengals 2019-like magical season with his buddies Chase and Burrow at the forefront and made sure he texted congratulations after big wins.
"That was a good thing to see," Stingley said. "(The Super Bowl) was a good game. A real good game."
Someone asked if he saw Chase beating the great Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey on the last play.
"Yeah, but you know," Stingley said, "it's football. Things happen."
The next thing that's going to happen is his pro day workout a month from now.
"I'm on schedule," Stingley said, "to do everything."
On schedule for another Stingley to go in the first round. But too soon for the Baton Rogue Bengals to make it three straight.