By Mike Pilosof
Photo by Adam Shrimplin
Baton Rouge, LA-Ali Gaye’s meteoric rise from soccer player on another continent to playing in college football’s most powerful conference, can’t be undersold. It’s a journey that took him from the African coast to the pacific northwest, to the midwest and now the southeast. And it was filled with minor setbacks along the way.
But this much is certain: Gaye is set to make an impact in Baton Rouge during his first season in purple and gold, the same way he did for the brown and gold in 2019.
Earlier this week, LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron announced that the former Broncbuster will start at left defensive end in the Tigers’ season opener Saturday vs. Mississippi State.
“This journey has been crazy,” Gaye said. “I never thought I’d be in this situation, having the opportunity to play at Washington and now at LSU.”
During his one season in Garden City, Gaye was named an Honorable Mention All-American, transforming himself from a former futbol player who stood just 5-5 when he landed in the states as an 8th grader, into the nation’s No. 1 JUCO defensive end. He totaled 44 stops, including 7.5 for loss, two sacks, a forced fumble and two blocked kicks. His best game came against Hutchinson, where he tallied eight tackles and a blocked extra point in a thrilling 20-19 victory.
“Coach (Tom) Minnick and Coach (Jerry) Dominguez gave me an opportunity at Garden City,” Gaye explained. “If it wasn’t for those guys and the countless other people along the way, there is no way I’m where I’m at today. Junior College was definitely a steppingstone for me.”
Gaye joins an LSU team that’s coming off its first National Championship season in 14 years.
“Being here has been an unbelievable experience,” Gaye added. “The coaching staff, the strength coaches, everyone has been unbelievable. It’s felt like home ever since I stepped foot on campus.”
Born in Gambia, a small African nation on the western edge of the continent, Gaye moved to Seattle, WA. a year before he started high school. And that’s when he first picked up a football, quickly transitioning into one of the top defensive linemen in the country. As a three-star recruit, he committed to Washington. But a low SAT score prevented him from passing through the NCAA Clearinghouse. That’s when he joined forces with Minnick, first at Arizona Western; then at Garden City.