Can’t miss him: Cowboys discover uses for TE

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, August 25, 2021

At 6-foot-7 and weighing 247 pounds, Jamal Pettigrew stands out in any crowd.

Add shoulder pads and a helmet, and with the body that looks chiseled out of stone, he even stands out among the other hulks on a football field.

Yet last spring, during the seven-game McNeese State season, the tight end often seemed missing, especially early when the offense struggled to get out of its own way.

But that perception wasn’t reality. In fact, Pettigrew, a transfer from LSU, was quite productive as the Cowboys finished 3-4.

“He had a really good spring,” said McNeese head coach Frank Wilson. “We used him in a lot of ways, especially blocking.”

Pettigrew was forced to stay in on passing plays during those early games of the spring as the offensive line struggled with injuries and opt-outs. It wasn’t what was expected of him when he made the move from Baton Rouge.

“You always want to catch the ball and have it thrown to you,” Pettigrew said. “That’s the fun part of the game, but you have to do what is best for the team on each play.

“Blocking is a big part of my game. If that is what I have to do for us to have success, then that is what I will do. It’s about what is best for the team.”

To be clear, Pettigrew had solid numbers in the spring. He started all seven games, finishing tied for third on the team with 18 catches for 132 yards.

That is an average of 7.3 catches and 18.9 yards per game. He also had one touchdown grab. In that light, Pettigrew’s numbers don’t seem so bad.

“We made some plays in the spring,” Pettigrew said. “I think it was a learning season for us. We got better as the spring went on.”

Considering the Cowboys had no fall and few workouts, maybe a learning curve should have been expected. Now he is expecting bigger things.

“I think we will have a big year and I want to be a part of that,” he said. “We have a lot of weapons, but I think I’ll get my balls.”

Quarterback Cody Orgeron knows how big an option Pettigrew can be this fall. He saw him play for his dad’s 2019 national champion Tigers. That season Pettigrew played in all 15 games for LSU but caught one pass.

“Jamal is a very big target, somebody I need to look for in big spots,” Orgeron said. “I think he is a real weapon for us, especially on the goal line. I got to just get the ball close to him and he’ll come down with it.”

During McNeese’s two August scrimmages, Pettigrew has a short touchdown catch and has a 2-point conversion grab. He is also a proven winner, having been part of LSU’s championship club.

“We need to find ways to get him involved,” Wilson said. “He can be a big weapon for us. He is hard to stop and a very good athlete.

“But he is a big part of our team in the locker room. He knows what it takes to win.”

There was talk after the spring that maybe Pettigrew would not return, but the graduate student said that was never in question.

“I wanted to come back because there is still more to do and for me to learn,” Pettigrew said. “We got things going at the end of last season and I think we can do the same this year.

“Also, we have been through a lot and I want to be a part of this.”

Pettigrew said he is taking the season one game at a time, starting with the Sept. 4 opener against West Florida. But one has to think he has one eye on the following week when he returns to LSU for a game against the Tigers.

“We can talk about that that week,” Pettigrew said.

You can bet that during the game in Tiger Stadium Pettigrew will want to stand out.