Walker: Cody Orgeron’s decision to take up tennis pays dividends _lowres

Mandeville's Cody Orgeron

Cody Orgeron has football in his blood.

But tennis is in his heart.

So fours ago as he was heading into the seventh grade, he gave up the shoulder pads and helmet to concentrate on playing with a racket.

It was an easy decision for Cody to make.

But it wasn’t quite so easy for his dad, Ed Orgeron, the former head football coach at Ole Miss, interim head coach at Southern Cal and ex-defensive line coach of the New Orleans Saints, to accept.

Well, not at first anyway.

“At first, my dad was a little iffy about it,” Cody said. “Well, heartbroken actually, because I used to play quarterback and my brother plays receiver, and I would just throw it to him every play. My dad really enjoyed that. But I remember him telling me he would support me in whatever sport I played and I have been playing it ever since.”

And he has been pretty good at it.

Orgeron, now a sophomore at Mandeville High, won the LHSAA Division I boys singles state tennis championship last week, beating Jesuit’s Jordan Lacoste 6-0, 6-1 in the championship match.

It was his second consecutive year winning a state title after winning a doubles title last season.

His dad, who was busy as an assistant coach at Southern Cal this time a year ago, didn’t get to see his son win that doubles title as a freshman.

But there probably wasn’t a prouder guy watching than Coach O last week.

“It was so rewarding,” Ed Orgeron said. “The most rewarding part was just being there because I couldn’t be there last year.”

Orgeron, who played football at South Lafourche and later Northwestern State, doesn’t take any of the credit for his son’s tennis success.

“He gets that from his mom,” Orgeron said. “She is a good player. But Cody was always a natural. Obviously I wanted him to play football, but I wasn’t going to force him to play football. We sat down and I told him if he wants to play tennis, fine. If he wants to play football, fine. Whichever one he decided, I wanted him to prepare and do the best he possibly can. He works very hard at it.”

Cody Orgeron has always been an athlete. He played football, basketball and baseball growing up. He started finding a love for tennis when the family lived in Oxford, Miss., and he would tag along behind his mom, Kelly, for practice.

“I would just hit around when she had lessons,” Cody recalled. “Then I got really into it when I moved to Mandeville, and it really just took off from there.”

Away from school, he fine tunes his tennis skills working with Walker and Ray Sahag, a couple who teach tennis at Franco’s Athletic Club in Mandeville.

Walker Sahag, who has taught Cody for five years, says she noticed Cody’s athleticism right away.

“Cody is a superior athlete, but he also has a very high athletic IQ,” she said. “He is competitive. But the best thing is he knows how to be a teammate. He brings that understanding from other sports and he applies it really well to tennis.”

Sahag especially notices Cody’s football skills and how they have translated to the tennis court.

“He has a great arm,” she said. “You can see it in the accuracy on his serve, the placement and the changing speeds. And he sees the court more like a quarterback would. Most kids see side to side, but Cody sees short and deep. It’s like drawing a linebacker up and going over his head for a touchdown. I’m sure he has spent billions of hours watching football game film with his dad, so he knows the game.”

Football is still a big part of the Orgeron household.

Cody’s twin brother, Parker, is a standout receiver at Mandeville and will surely draw plenty of recruiting interest from big-time college football programs. His older brother, Tyler, is a student at LSU who works with the recruitment department. And his dad says plans to return to coaching in the fall of 2015.

And Cody still gets that itch every now and then on Friday nights to return to the field and toss TD passes to his brother.

“Yes, I do (miss it) sometimes,” he said. “My brother is out there and all of my best friends are on the team. I have grown a lot (from 5-foot 4 in seventh grade to 6-foot tall now), so they joke with me about how they want me to go play football. But I am going to stick to tennis.”