LSU legend Tyrann Mathieu starts the video by saying that anyone can be a star, make a few plays and win a few games.
"But to be an icon," he says, "that's a different story altogether."
By now, you've probably had at least one of the 3.5 million views on LSU football's Joe Burrow Heisman hype video. As the narrator, Mathieu talks about how an icon builds his own future and that legacy remains forever, Burrow b-roll transforms into Burrow's explosive highlights with Lil Boosie's "Set It Off" playing in the background.
The video finishes with Burrow explaining how he'd been told he wasn't good enough since he was a high school prospect, and with Mathieu welcoming him to the club of undervalued recruits who worked and turned themselves into Heisman finalists.
And it wouldn't have come to fruition without the team of Will Stout, Cody Worsham and Derek Ponamsky.
He Has Set College Football Off— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) December 9, 2019
A Name You Will Never Forget pic.twitter.com/PN7cif69v2
"We do have a cool brand, and we know that," said Ponamsky, LSU's special assistant to the head coach and, essentially, the director and executive producer of LSU's hype videos. "We want to take that cool brand and continue it in everything we do, on the field, off the field, digital."
Worsham is LSU's digital media reporter who writes the scripts. Stout is an LSU junior who only a few years ago started making hype videos for Catholic High School's football team for fun, a test to gauge his interest in football videography more than anything.
One in particular for the state championship was so well done, it caught the eye of LSU's athletic department. The combination of editing, music and what Stout was able to put together stylistically -- there was something different about it.
So different that Stout parlayed that video into a job with the Tigers. He is one of the main cogs behind LSU's exciting, extremely well thought-out hype videos throughout this season.
The videos created so much buzz, they generated 4.4 million interactions on social media between Dec. 8 and Dec. 27, when the College Football Playoff teams were announced, according to digital design company SkullSparks. That's double the metric of the next-highest playoff team, Ohio State, which had 2.2 million interactions in the same span.
In fact, from September to December, the account's videos have totaled over 48 million views and 265 million impressions, according to TwitterSports.
"Will just knocked it out of the park. The musical score that he put together on that with Lil Boosie and putting his own twist on it, I've probably watched that one 50 times," Worsham said. "I have two young kids. I'd wake up after a three-hour night of sleep, be dragging, have my coffee and say, 'I'll watch this video to get myself going.'"
Stout put in extra work to produce that video, not just because of the subject, but because he wanted to make sure it created the type of buzz it deserved -- doing everything from cutting the highlights together, to timing up Mathieu's narration and building the excitement, all the way to getting permission to use Lil Boosie's track in the video.
This type of project requires permission from the artist to use the song, so Ponamsky gave Stout the green light to include "Set It Off" as long as Stout received clearance. Stout returned to Ponamsky's office roughly 45 minutes after that meeting with permission in hand and got to work producing the video.
"I contacted DJ SupaMike. He's a radio host down here in Baton Rouge, he knows a lot of people and he produces music for Lil Boosie, so he was one of the first people I reached out to," Stout said. "I contacted him and he said, 'Call this person, this person and this person.' I did and eventually got in touch with Boosie's attorney and we got it cleared, which is crazy."
The team combined to produce 20 videos in total this season, and while most major programs are producing this type of digital content, LSU did it bigger and better than anyone else thanks to that team and the team that plays the game on Saturdays.
"There's a sign on the wall in my office, it says, 'LSU, Let's Stay Unique.' In these creative meetings, if we ever have somebody who says, 'I saw such and such do this,' I'm going to tell them to get their stuff and get out of the office," Ponamsky said. "I want you to come in and say, 'I have this idea.' It doesn't matter how ridiculous it sounds, if you can pull it off, we're going to give you the access to do it."
"I have two young kids. I'd wake up after a three-hour night of sleep, be dragging, have my coffee and say, 'I'll watch this video to get myself going.'" LSU digital media reporter Cody Worsham on the Joe Burrow Heisman hype video
Each video must have a theme, and according to Ponamsky, it largely has to do with what coach Ed Orgeron wants to hammer home.
"If Coach O is talking about finish, then I'm going to tell Cody, 'Hey Cody, for the A&M week, it's the last game of the regular season, we got a chance to go undefeated in the regular season, we gotta finish,'" Ponamsky said. "We're making sure the message from our head coach is communicated not only to our players, but to our fans. That way when we talk one team, one heartbeat, we're all on the same page and we know that we're all clicking at the same time. All of our cylinders are hitting."
Visually, that theme is displayed on screen, but Worsham has to put words to it and ensure the message is written properly to invoke the right emotions. Every detail is dissected. They want to make sure that no matter who's watching -- whether it's a recruit, a college student or a 50-year-old alum -- there is as much excitement as possible.
Their videos aren't just meant for games. Say a recruit visits LSU that week and they want to make a video to appeal to a specific prospect. If an offensive lineman from Texas will be on campus that week, the team might consider putting in an offensive lineman, or player from Texas, in the video to catch that recruit's eye.
Part of what has made the videos so unique is the use of a different -- and well-known -- narrator to help tell the story. That idea started last season when the creative team put together a video for the Alabama game, which was narrated by former LSU player and current ESPN analyst Ryan Clark.
The video opens slowly, panning around the stadium with voices in the background, eventually leading to Clark speaking inside the stadium, building the energy and excitement through music and highlight clips, ultimately ending with goosebumps and Clark exclaiming, "We coming, and we ain't backing down."
🗣 WE COMIN'... AND WE AIN'T BACKING DOWN! pic.twitter.com/sUcv2I8k9x— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) November 1, 2018
Even if you're not an LSU fan, it's difficult to watch the video and not feel your heart beat a little faster.
They got Shaq to hype up this season's Alabama matchup, and that video earned 1 million views, 6,400 retweets and over 17,000 likes on Twitter. Their SEC championship hype video, narrated by Tim McGraw, garnered 841,000 views, 7,300 retweets and 22,900 likes.
Their most recent video, which Anthony Mackie narrates and features "Swag Surfin" as the soundtrack, came out late Thursday afternoon and has 5.4 million views, 36,000 retweets and over 108,000 likes.
A Swag You Have Never Seen— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) January 9, 2020
This Is Our Time. pic.twitter.com/NuPaWdVM16
The trio of Stout, Worsham and Ponamsky understands that a big part of college football, recruiting and the business side of the sport is seizing the moment. Nearly every major program produces videos.
But nobody has capitalized more than them.
"If it were just about the team doing well, we wouldn't feel the pressure we have to put something out there to match the standard of what the team is putting out there on the field," Ponamsky said. "When you're in the playoff, playing for a national championship and a Heisman winner, the guys on the digital side, they've got some pressure on them, because we know we have an opportunity here we can't squander because the attention of the college football world is on us right now."