It's no secret that football is big business in Louisiana.
But just how big?
Well, at Thursday's Louisiana Statewide Business Summit in Baton Rouge, guess who introduced keynote speaker Gov. John Bel Edwards?
LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron.
The two Louisiana natives struck a friendship shortly after Orgeron was hired full-time after the 2016 season, when a mutual friend connected them at a duck-hunting camp in South Lafourche.
“(To) exemplify so much about what’s special in Louisiana, I just think it’s a great fit (for LSU and Orgeron),” Edwards told The Advocate in October.
But who better to connect with an audience fatigued by hours of panel discussions than the energetic personality and face of a Tigers football program that made $55 million in net profit in fiscal 2018?
You're probably familiar with Orgeron's legendary reputation as a recruiter. On Monday, LSU jumped to the top-ranked recruiting class for the 2020 cycle.
"Recruiting, to me, and business are the same thing," Orgeron said. "When you're going in to make a deal, you have to identify the champion. He's the decision-maker. Or she. And a lot of times it's the mother. Most of the times, it's the mom."
Orgeron gave the summit audience a little insight into his recruiting process, breaking it down into three parts:
1. Identify the talent
2. Recruit the talent
3. Evaluate the talent
A couple of varsity basketball players were holding a dunk contest when the Muskegon High football team's starting right tackle lumbered into …
The Larose native then divulged into a recruiting story of 2019 defensive tackle signee Siaki Ika, a Salt Lake City, Utah, native whose family is from the Kingdom of Tonga.
Orgeron said he and LSU safeties coach Bill Busch had dinner with Ika's family. The table was spread with food. On one end, there was a raw fish with its head still on. On the other, there was some rice. Between, there was some cabbage and some sort of meat wrapped in aluminum foil. Orgeron took the meat, placed it on his rice and ate. He had another helping.
After the night was over, the coaches returned to the truck, and Busch smiled and asked to Orgeron's shock: "Hey Coach, how'd you like that sheep?"
"Anything it takes to get that player," Orgeron said as the audience laughed.
"Now, recruiting at LSU, we always want a great quarterback. Right, guys?" Orgeron continued. "OK, I got this quarterback I found. He's from Amite, Louisiana ... Let me put up a slide please?"
On the projector screen, a video played of Edwards, an Amite native, inside the LSU indoor practice facility, wearing No. 11 in the gold noncontact jersey worn by Tigers quarterbacks.
Edwards rolled out and completed a few passes in the video.
"Look at the concentration on the ball!" Orgeron said. "How about that spiral? Right on the money."
Orgeron then turned the presentation over to Edwards.
"What his relationship to LSU and what he does for our football team is like no other governor before," Orgeron said.
"You surprised me with that," Edwards said.