College Sports

What’s so special about a gold mouthpiece? Everything to this one linebacker.

N.C. Central senior linebacker De’Niro Laster, right, sports his lucky gold mouthpiece last weekend against Gardner-Webb.
N.C. Central senior linebacker De’Niro Laster, right, sports his lucky gold mouthpiece last weekend against Gardner-Webb. NCCU Athletics

Athletes and coaches can be pretty superstitious, and N.C. Central linebacker De’Niro Laster is no exception.

When Laster, a graduate transfer from Kentucky, recently reached into his football bag full of stuff like socks, gloves and undershirts, he pulled out a gold mouthpiece. It was not the standard NCCU maroon mouthpiece, but one he had purchased himself from Dick’s Sporting Goods during his time in Lexington.

The last time he wore it was against Alabama in October 2016, in what would turn out to be his final game for Kentucky. On his first play of that game, Laster, a reserve, recovered a fumble and went on to have four tackles before suffering a season-ending knee injury.

So after he transferred to N.C. Central in May after earning his business degree, he wasn’t sure if he’d wear that gold mouthpiece again. Being superstitious, he didn’t want to deal with any bad luck that came from the it.

But he took a chance last Saturday against Gardner-Webb, because before his injury, he’d had a good game against Alabama.

Against the Bulldogs, Laster, just like he’d done against the Crimson Tide, scooped up a fumble, forced by N.C. Central defensive end Kawuan Cox, on his first play of the game and returned it 11 yards.

Laster, a backup who’s sixth on the team in tackles with 27 total and 20 solo, finished with nine tackles in the 24-17 win over Gardner-Webb.

“It seems like I’ll be wearing that mouthpiece for every game from here out,” Laster, the 6-4, 240-pound linebacker from Cleveland, said with a laugh. Laster said the mouthpiece has “been all over the place” since he moved from Kentucky to North Carolina. So before the Gardner-Webb game he washed it off with some hot water, popped it in and had his best game yet as an Eagle.

“I wanted to take a risk,” Laster said. “I had gotten injured the last time I wore that mouthpiece so I was a little nervous about wearing it again, but I thought it would be good. I’m glad I wore it.”

Jonas Pope IV: 919-419-7001, @JEPopeIV

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