If Mickey Joseph’s father had bought into what Pete Jenkins was selling, perhaps Mickey’s college career would have been different.
The New Orleans native would have stayed in-state, attending LSU instead of Nebraska from 1987-91. His mother loved Jenkins, the Tigers’ current defensive line coach who was then an assistant under Mike Archer, and advocated for Mickey to stay home.
In fact, when Mickey spoke to his mother at 6 a.m. Thursday — four hours before he was to be introduced as LSU’s next receivers coach — his mother had a question.
“Is coach Jenkins still on the staff?” she asked him.
“I said, ‘Yes, he is, mom,' " Joseph answered.
Joseph elected to leave the state to play for Tom Osborne and the Cornhuskers, averaging 10 wins in the five years he was there.
His time at Nebraska wasn’t like it would have been at LSU, where his family would have waited outside the locker room for him after games. It’s part of the reason he decided to get into coaching with a specific interest in his home state.
He's had coaching stops at Desire Street Academy in the mid-2000s, Tulane, Nicholls State, Grambling and, most recently, Louisiana Tech.
The love for Louisiana will be part of the pitch Joseph uses to recruit New Orleans and River Parish high school prospects with the Tigers.
“I can tell kids, ‘Hey, sometimes leaving home is not always good.’ But if you've got to go out of state to bring them in, this is a good place to be. This is a good place to be — Louisiana," he said.
Joseph can relate to the elite Louisiana players LSU often recruits, having gone through the experience of being one of the most highly rated high school prospects in America. As a quarterback at Shaw, he was a first-team Parade All-American and a Gatorade Player of the Year. His connections to New Orleans, including with the city’s high school coaches, are strong, Ed Orgeron said.
“He’s already been calling coaches, making connections that he already has, and he’s going to be a tremendous asset to our football team,” Orgeron said. “He’s always going to be a great mentor to our young men.”
Recruiting has certainly changed since he was a player, Joseph said — especially with the influence of social media. But his message to the players he targets is timeless.
“I tell kids like this: ‘You've got to find somebody that wants you. You go to go somewhere where you’re celebrated, not tolerated. And here, if we identify you, that means we’re going to celebrate you,’ " Joseph said. “So you've got to make sure that when they pick a school, they pick a school that’s best for them. Have a little input from your family members, but at the end of the day, you have to walk through those hallways and on those practice fields.”
Tommie Robinson once rotated five running backs during a game.
Joseph acknowledges this is the biggest coaching challenge of his life, considering it to be the "top job in America." But he appreciates the support system around him, including his brother Vance, head coach of the Denver Broncos, and his cousin Terry, defensive backs coach at North Carolina.
Mickey said he was part of the reason his brothers got into coaching, as Terry was playing minor league baseball and Mickey was working at Coors Light before switching careers. Mickey could have joined his brother in Denver, he said, but he decided to remain in college.
And when Orgeron — a man he’s known for 30 years — offered him a job at LSU, Joseph didn’t hesitate.
“When he gave me the call, it was, ‘Yes.’ Not worrying about anything else,” he said. “I said, ‘Coach, I’m coming. I got your back. One thing, I’m going to be loyal to you. I’m going to do what you ask me to do. It’s all blood sweat and tears.’ Like coach said before, we’re family. We’re brothers.”
Mickey Joseph understands the top priority of his new job as LSU's receivers coach.