Patrick Queen has a routine, one he’s had for years. After every football game, he walks out of the locker room and finds his father, Dwayne. The two lock eyes, hug, and without fail, Dwayne asks his son this every single time:
“Tell me which plays you left on the field?”
And Patrick, whose parents describe him as a quiet, humble sort, graciously nods.
“Yeah I know, dad,” he says, “I know.”
Once they get that out of the way, Dwayne tells Patrick everything he did well. This routine has lasted for a decade. This snippet of their relationship is as good as any to explain why Patrick developed so quickly in 2019, a season when he didn’t become a full-time starter until game No. 4 but was still encouraged to declare for the 2020 NFL draft.
At 20 years old, Queen is one of the youngest players in the NFL draft, the latest in a long line of speedy, hyper-athletic off-ball linebackers from LSU. Devin White, Kwon Alexander and Deion Jones have used their speed and instincts to become three-down linebackers in the league, and to Patrick, the fact that he’s set to join them feels surreal given everything he had to do to cultivate the speed that will likely make him a first-round pick on Thursday night.
“Coming up,” Patrick told Yahoo Sports, “I wasn’t always the fastest kid.”
One person who isn’t surprised at Patrick’s quick rise is Dwayne, who made sure his son earned every bit of the juice that will soon make him a millionaire. From their torturous backyard workouts to the tough-love approach that occasionally concerned other parents, Patrick has developed into a heck of a football player under Dwayne’s watchful eye.
Dwayne takes lots of pride in this, of course, but he insists that it would not be possible without Patrick’s mother, Mary Sue, who often served as Patrick’s sounding board.
“Mom was a calming influence in his life,” Dwayne said. “Whatever he needed, whenever he needed to talk and he was upset with me, mom was there. She’s what kept it together. No doubt.”
There has always been a sense of destiny surrounding Patrick, Dwayne insists, even dating back to his conception.
“Everybody that knows him and what we went through to have him,” Dwayne said, “they all call him the miracle baby.”
Why Patrick Queen was a ‘miracle baby’
Growing up in Port Allen, Louisiana, which is located only five minutes from LSU’s campus, it was Dwayne’s dream to be an LSU Tiger. He was a good high school player, a cornerback, but even though he had to settle for a scholarship to Nicholls State, he still had LSU in his blood.
Dwayne dreamt of being a professional football player, but real life got in the way. His girlfriend at the time got pregnant with their first child when he was in college, and when his transfer attempts failed, Dwayne, haunted by his own childhood memories of growing up without a father, says he started working to provide for his family and never stopped.
“If I’d had a dad in my life, I guarantee you I would have been playing professional football,” said Dwayne, who grew up with his mother and three sisters. “I would have had somebody to sit me down, talk to me and keep me in school.”
So Dwayne deferred his own dream, hoping he’d have a son. More than a decade later, he was still son-less despite trying for three-plus years with his wife Mary Sue.
“That was a hard time, you know,” Mary Sue told Yahoo Sports. “We were just trying and trying, just trusting God, trusting the process. And I knew I was getting older, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t have that much time left.’”
Then, a family friend advised Dwayne and Mary Sue to let a pastor pray over her. They did. And within a couple weeks, she got pregnant.
“That’s why we call Patrick a miracle baby,” Dwayne said.
And when Patrick’s birth finally came on Aug. 13, 1999, and the doctor passed the boy into Dwayne’s waiting hands, Dwayne looked at the boy whose deep hazel eyes would one day look so much like his and felt a proclamation well up in his soul.
“I held him up to the sky, blessed him and thanked the Lord for letting me have a son,” Dwayne said. “And I told him — his destiny was to play college football at Louisiana State University.”
Mary Sue, meanwhile, looked at her husband quizzically.
“I looked at him like, ‘What are you doing?’” Mary Sue said with a hearty laugh. “At the time, you’re thinking, ‘Is he crazy’?”
Dwayne was not crazy — he had a plan. It wouldn’t be the last time someone wondered that about Patrick Queen’s father.
‘He was a natural’
The training of Patrick Queen started at 5 years old, with a basketball. Before Patrick was allowed to shoot, Dwayne made him learn how to dribble with both hands. He picked that up in a week, Dwayne says, and was bigger than all the kids, 2 to 3 inches taller than most of them, and more coordinated.
“He was a natural,” Dwayne said.
Once Patrick turned 8, their backyard training sessions at their Ventress, Louisiana, home started including baseball and football drills. Hitting off a tee, Patrick started driving baseballs over the fence. And to improve his football agility, young Patrick endured intense ladder and cone drills.
He also pulled a sled, sprinted with a parachute on and ran up the levee of the nearby Mississippi River, all in hopes of lengthening Patrick’s stride, a necessity for cultivating SEC speed.
“He didn’t like running the levee, so I stopped doing it with him,” Dwayne says with a laugh.
All this was hard for Mary Sue to watch. She can laugh about it now, but at the time, she thought the workouts were a bit much.
“At times, Patrick, he’d look at me like, ‘Say something, do something,’” Mary Sue said. “Dwayne and I would never argue or fuss about anything but when it came to sports with Patrick, it was like, ‘OK, enough’s enough.’ Then I’d have the neighbors calling like, ‘Hey, Dwayne’s gonna kill that kid.’”
Those workouts gave Dwayne a compass of just how hard he could push his son. During one fifth-grade game, Patrick carried the ball around the corner, absorbed a blow near the sideline and stayed on the ground after the hit. Sensing something off, Dwayne, the offensive coordinator of Patrick’s team, walked over to his son, lifted him up with one arm and told him to stop acting like he was hurt and get back out there and play.
Other parents didn’t get it. Two of them, Dwayne says, even ran up to Mary Sue at the concession stand and told her what happened. Mary Sue fumed on the car ride home; when Patrick got out the car, she unleashed.
“She lit into me about what these people were saying,” Dwayne said.
Dwayne reminded her that he’d spent so much time with the boy, he knew when Patrick was really hurt and when he was faking. The proof bore out over the rest of the game.
“Once I did that ... he was running over everybody on the field that day, nobody could stop him,” Dwayne recalled. “Because I embarrassed him in front of his friends and he was mad, he took over.”
Getting the last laugh as an LSU linebacker
By the time Patrick reached high school, the benefits of his labor began to show. He became a starter for the varsity football and baseball teams at Livonia High School as a freshman, and while Dwayne had stopped coaching his son by then, the training continued (sans the levee and sled runs Patrick despised).
By then, Mary Sue had also begun to understand everything Dwayne had done to position Patrick to earn a college scholarship. So when there were sacrifices for Patrick to make, like spending his weekends at football camps instead of hanging out with friends, she was on Dwayne’s side.
“[We were] just talking to him and letting him know, ‘Hey, you want to be a great baseball player, you want to be a great football player, this is what it takes,’” Mary Sue said. “You have to just go through it.”
Dwayne says that Patrick’s performance in those camps, with Mary Sue’s urging, helped put him on the map.
“When she started pushing him, I mean, it took off,” Dwayne said. “Junior year in high school, he became a different person. He exploded onto the scene.”
Another bit of motivation didn’t hurt, either. When Patrick was in 10th grade, Dwayne says an assistant coach at his high school told Patrick he doesn’t have SEC speed, so he’ll never play for LSU.
Dwayne used this, plus Patrick’s inability to crack a 4.6 40-yard dash at football camps over the next year, as an opportunity to persuade him to get back to the drills he hated.
“That’s what made him decide he needed to do it,” Dwayne said.
Patrick eventually got the last laugh his junior year, when LSU finally offered. And although he’d harbored a brief flirtation with Ole Miss, Patrick accepted immediately, fulfilling his father’s proclamation for his son 17 years prior as he became the first player from his hometown to earn an LSU football scholarship.
“When Patrick makes up his mind to do something,” Dwayne concluded, “you can’t stop him.”
Second string to first-round NFL draft pick in one year?
When Patrick left for LSU in 2017, Dwayne and Mary Sue prayed over him constantly, day and night, knowing the challenge that awaited him in Baton Rouge. They even sent prayers to him via text every morning before he woke up, and he’d text them back to let them know he read them.
Dwayne also wrote out everything they wanted Patrick to accomplish in college and placed it on their refrigerator. Like earning a starting job and becoming an All-American, for example. It wouldn’t come easy for Patrick at LSU, as his speed, now down to a 4.49 which is great for his position, wouldn’t be enough to be a great linebacker in the SEC.
Patrick didn’t play a ton of linebacker in high school, which meant he’d have to develop his eyes and mental processing to flourish in college football’s fastest league. Additionally, he’d have to get over his shyness and command the defense, a prerequisite for a middle linebacker in defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s system.
After a freshman year in which he barely saw the field, he upped his preparation in 2018, getting in extra studying with White, the starting middle linebacker and an All-American.
All of it paid off this past season. Queen seized a starting spot after the first three games and finished with 85 tackles (12 for loss), two pass deflections and an interception during LSU’s run to the national championship.
One highlight, for both Patrick and Dwayne, came during and after LSU’s thrilling 46-41 road win over Alabama in November. Patrick opened eyes with a seven-tackle performance against the Crimson Tide in which he showed off his motor, speed and cover ability, intercepting Heisman contender Tua Tagovailoa.
And it was there, in Tuscaloosa, where Patrick told his father that he realized why he’d been pushing him so hard all his life.
“He walked out of the dressing room, and he came up to me and he said, ‘Man, I really appreciate what you did, you pushing me,’” Dwayne said. “‘I didn’t understand back then, but because of everything everybody’s telling me, the talent I have, and what you did for me to achieve it. Thank you for pushing me, thank you for not giving up on me.’”
Dwayne largely kept his composure, reminding his son to keep listening to him. And of course, they also went over the plays that Patrick left on the field. Later, Dwayne let his son’s words wash over him.
“It meant the world,” Dwayne said. “I didn’t let him see, but it actually brought tears to my eyes. Because it’s the first time he ever thanked me for being hard on him.”
And now, nearly three months after Patrick, fresh off a national championship, declared for the draft, all that hard work is set to pay off in a big way.
Patrick Queen still proving people wrong
Over the past several months, Patrick has become a highly rated prospect. While his size (6 feet, 229 pounds) may fall within most teams’ benchmarks for the position, it still may not be ideal to consistently bang in the trenches against the run.
“It’s a big man’s league,” one scout recently told Yahoo Sports.
This knock has not been lost on Patrick, who insists he continues to add every log of doubt to his competitive fire.
“I still hear some of that same talk coming into the NFL, I see it on the media all the time, and that’s motivation for me,” Patrick said. “My size, that's a problem with some people. At the end of the day, I have the heart to be able to stop the run.”
He used to screenshot media criticism and use it as wallpaper on his phone so he’d see it everyday. Just like he had the heart to prove the coach who said he couldn’t play at LSU wrong.
“It was always a dream of mine to be in the NFL,” he said.
And Dwayne’s too, of course. And just like he made a proclamation about his baby boy nearly 21 years ago, he’s ready to make another one. The New Orleans Saints need a linebacker, you know, and they pick 24th, right around the range most expect Patrick to be taken.
Patrick is not choosy about where he lands. He’s just grateful to get drafted, and to have two loving parents who invested all they could to make his dream possible.
“It will mean the world,” Patrick said. “I’m just so thankful to have them in my corner.”
Dwayne assures that they always will be, too. While Mary Sue talks to Patrick multiple times per day, he gives his son more space than he used to.
Wherever Patrick is taken, you can bet that Dwayne plans to keep talking to him after every game, asking about the plays he left on the field. And even if Patrick isn’t a future Saint, Dwayne believes that Patrick’s other goals — like having a long, healthy, prosperous NFL career — can be spoken into existence and are meant to be.
Just like the birth of their “miracle baby” was 21 years ago.
“Trust me — it will come to pass,” Dwayne said. “It will come to pass.”
More from Yahoo Sports: