Grambling State wide receiver Mario Louis, left, grabs a touchdown pass while Southern cornerback Virgil Williams defends him Saturday during the Bayou Classic in New Orleans. / AP

NEW ORLEANS — Mario Louis, primarily a basketball player growing up in New Orleans, played some football at local parks and playgrounds, but none for L.W. Higgins High School.

Grambling’s senior receiver certainly made up for lost time Saturday, though, with MVP honors in the Tigers’ annual Bayou Classic in the Superdome.

“My plans were to come and try to put on a show for my family and friends who all came out to watch me — and not only them, but all the fans in New Orleans, my home crowd,” he said. “It was beautiful.”

Louis caught four passes for 76 yards and three scores in the Tigers’ 36-12 victory. The New Orleans native had caught two touchdowns in four different games this season and three against Mississippi Valley State, but coach Doug Williams said the venue and the circumstances are what set Saturday apart.

“This was one of the biggest game of the season, on national TV, that makes a difference whether we go to the championship or not,” Williams said. “What it says is no matter what’s at stake, Mario is ready to perform.”

The 6-foot receiver stopped quickly in tight coverage, turned and leaped over a defender for GSU’s first touchdown from 27 yards out in the first quarter, then added a 33-yard one-handed grab with his south paw in the opposite end zone in the second quarter. The local product completed the hat trick in the third quarter with a diving 12-yard snag on a quick slant to cap his game MVP honors.

“Mario doesn’t really surprise me anymore because I’ve seen him do it since I’ve been here,” said freshman quarterback D.J. Williams, who hit Louis on each score. “I know he’s going to do something spectacular every game.” D.J. Williams and senior linebacker Cliff Exama said Louis had talked during the week about his desire to show up big on the home stage.

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