AUBURN, Ala. — Ricardo Louis could never play another down for Auburn and still be remembered forever.
A tipped, go-ahead touchdown catch to help the Tigers beat one of their biggest rivals — as his 73-yard score against Georgia did on Nov. 16 — will see to that. But Louis still thinks there are more memorable plays in store for him.
After all, that’s why he was brought to Auburn in the first place.
“I dreamed all the time about making big plays in big games,” he said. “I believe that’s my legacy.”
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While that game will always be defined by its signature play, it served as far more than that for Louis. It was the breakout game the sophomore had been seeking for the better part of two seasons. Even prior to his 73-yard highlight reel grab, he had already combined for 124 yards (66 rushing, 58 receiving), far and away the best performance of his collegiate career.
The receiving yards are part of his job; it was the rushing output that may have registered as a surprise. But after the team’s bye week, the coaching staff told both Louis and Corey Grant they would become more involved in running speed sweeps to expand more of the offense — and help out Nick Marshall and Tre Mason, too.
“(We) try not to rely on those guys and put pressure on them to force them, in their mind, (to) think they have to make (every) play,” Grant said. “They know they have other guys around them that can do just as good as they can.”
Gus Malzahn thinks that Louis has proven that. The Miami native ranks second on the team in receptions (26) and yards (297) and has a pair of touchdown catches to go along with his 204 yards on the ground.
The coach believes that’s only going to get better.
“(When) we recruited Ricardo Louis we felt like he could be an unbelievable impact player,” Malzahn said. “(Receivers) Coach (Dameyune) Craig has done a great job with him. Each week he has gotten more confidence. He didn’t play wide receiver in high school. He’s got a chance to be really special.”
Rhett Lashlee echoed this sentiment, saying Louis hasn’t even come close to reaching the peak of his powers.
“Ricardo's going to keep coming. Ricardo's still got loads of ability,” Auburn’s offensive coordinator said. “You can see flashes of it. We're going to keep bringing Ricardo along, keep trying to find ways to get him more involved, get him the ball. I've got a lot of confidence Ricardo's going to reach his full potential before it's all said and done.”
One teammate thinks Louis’ time on the Plains is just the beginning, though.
“Ricardo, I can see him playing in the pros,” Mason said. “He’s made some great catches this year, but (he has) made a statement running the ball also. He runs strong, like he was a running back. I can see him making plays on Sunday.”
A pro career can wait.
As Louis would attest, there are still far too many things he wants to accomplish as a Tiger. That includes adding to — and in a way, moving past — his catch-for-the-ages against the Bulldogs. Louis would be the first to admit that’s easier said than done. But if he is to add more indelible images to his Auburn portfolio, he will have to relay the same message to the team that he did moments before his miraculous catch.
It's a simple, if not strikingly direct, request.
“Just put the ball in my hands,” he said. “I’ll be ready for it.”