September 21, 2013

Welcoming an old friend


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Zach Mettenberger has been gone from Athens now for the better part of three years.

But as the Oconee County native - who led LSU to a 35-21 win over Auburn - gets ready to make his return next Saturday when the sixth-ranked Tigers visit No. 9 Georgia in next week's nationally televised game, it promises to be one of the more surreal experience for all parties involved.

"I'm happy for the success he's had so far. I know he wants to come in here and obviously win, for more reasons than just playing for LSU," tight end Arthur Lynch said. "But I don't know, I expect him to have a big game. I also expect us to do what we've got to do. If we're able to execute on certain levels I think we'll be able to win the ball game."

Unless you've just waking up from a coma, Mettenberger's story is a familiar one to Bulldogs fans.

Mettenberger was released from the Bulldog program in April of 2010 following his arrest in March of that year in Remerton (near Valdosta) where he was charged with underage possession/consumption of alcohol, disorderly conduct, obstruction and two counts of providing false identification.

After leaving, he signed with Butler Community College before landing back in the SEC with Les Miles' LSU squad.

"I believe in stories of redemption, stories of guys coming back from making mistakes and that kind of thing," Richt said last week. "If somebody makes a mistake, you want them to turn it around while they're here at Georgia but sometimes that happens at another school, and that's fine with me. I've realized that those kind of comeback stories can happen at schools beside the one they started out at. I'm really happy for these guys. I want all the guys that we sign to realize their dreams."

Aaron Murray, who was part of the 2009 signing class with Mettenberger and battled it out with the former four-star performer for the starting role, admits it will feel very surreal.

"It will be interesting to see him on the other sideline wearing an LSU uniform," Murray said. "We've all stayed in contact. Last night I roomed with Artie (at Lake Lanier) and we were going back and forth, asking how Auburn was, wished them good luck, that kind of things. It's going to be fun."

Lynch and Mettenberger have remained best friends.

"I talk to Zach nearly every day. He was one of my close friends ever since I got here," Lynch said. "I'll be happy for him. As I texted him last night, ESPN was finally giving him some credit, and I told him no one deserves it more than you.

"He stuck it out through a tough situation out of that spring break … I don't want to get into that, because I hold my opinions for me and him privately … but I think he was put in the negative side of things. I think of that kid like a brother, he was always good to me; he's a close friend of mine."

Lynch said he can only imagine how Mettenberger will feel once he steps on the Sanford Stadium sod for the first time since the 2010 G-Day game.

"He's going to be emotional, he's going to be hyped, but he's also going to play with a chip on his shoulder. He's got that moxy about him. But I believe that everything happens for a reason in life," Lynch said. "It's one of those things, I'm happy for him. It's been a blessing in disguise for him."

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