Some folks still like to make sport out of the way Ed Orgeron talks, but you can say this for LSU’s coach no matter what you think of his verbiage:
He’s the king of the sound bite. And the catch phrase.
Actually, there are three of them that have become his stock phrases this season, as identifiable as that unmistakable South Louisiana crushed shell driveway voice of his:
“One team, one heartbeat.”
“It’s not about me.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find a college football coach ever who was so eager to deflect attention from himself and reroute it toward his team. Or even more so, toward his coaching staff.
So we’ll play along. And string them along.
LSU's leading rusher could be fully recovered in time for the national championship game, Tigers coach Ed Orgeron said.
The Tigers will go (all the way to the CFP National Championship Game) as one team with one heartbeat and it’s not about the coach, Ed “14-and-O(rgeron).”
That is, it isn’t about him until it is. In one unique way that no other LSU coach has quite been able to duplicate.
LSU has won its three modern college football national championships under three different coaches. Each have had chances for more, or in Nick Saban’s case there could have been more had he not availed himself of so much of late Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga’s money. But with Paul Dietzel in 1958, Saban in 2003 and Les Miles in 2007 there’s been a definite one-off quality to their championships, like a New Year’s Eve firework exploding in a thousand glittery streaks, never to be repacked.
As identified in their time as they became with Louisiana’s most-prominent college football program, none were native sons. Coincidentally, all three had ties to Ohio, like LSU quarterback and Athens native Joe Burrow.
Dietzel grew up in Mansfield, Ohio, about 60 miles south of Miles’ hometown of Elyria, just west of Cleveland. Saban, from Fairmont, West Virginia, played his college football at Kent State, just east of Akron.
But Orgeron is as Louisiana as boudin and bad roads. Born in Larose. Played his high school ball at South Lafourche in nearby Galliano. Played his college ball at Northwestern State after a brief stay at LSU that fueled a long unrequited love with the school. And now he’s LSU’s coach, about to lead the Tigers into the CFP National Championship Game on Jan. 13 in New Orleans.
“Growing up, I always wanted to be the head coach of LSU,” Orgeron said Tuesday during a CFP-pre championship week teleconference.
LSU holds this annual event called Boys from the Boot, focusing Orgeron and his staff’s potent recruiting laser beams on the always ample crop of in-state talents. But in this sense, with this championship showdown looming against Clemson, Coach O is the ultimate boy from the boot.
“It is special, no question,” Orgeron said Tuesday on a CFP teleconference. “Of all the other schools (where he coached), I always kept my eye on LSU and always pulled for them and watched what they were doing. I remember the times that they played in the national championship and know what a big day it is in the state of Louisiana, how it affects everybody in Louisiana.
“So am I proud to be part of that? Yes. But …”
Here it comes …
“As you know, it's always going to be about the team and the players and all of us together on one team, one heartbeat. It will be a very proud day for our players to represent LSU, and it will be a very proud day for the people of the state of Louisiana.
“But they'll only be proud if we win, and we understand that. Although we're 14-0, we did a lot of great things, this is a monumental game for us. It's a game that we have to play well to beat Clemson.”
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Man, does Orgeron get his audience.
In a state bereft of sugar sand beaches and purple mountains majesty, we put great stock in the self-generated pursuits — our politics, our festivals, our hunting and fishing.
And our football.
So much of Louisiana’s self-worth is tied up in how our teams do, from the Saints on down to South Lafourche. All you must do as a coach is win every game and they’ll love you forever. Just remember you have to do it again and again, please.
In the modern era of college football, since LSU got in on the ground floor in 1933 with that dividend-producing stock known as the Southeastern Conference, LSU has only managed to win ‘em all once — in 1958. Saban’s BCS champions in 2003 went 13-1. Miles’ champs in 2007 lost a pair of triple-overtime games and finished 12-2. So this chance doesn’t come around much. Maybe, if LSU’s past national championship-winning coaches are guides, only once in a lifetime.
Wrap it all up in the Louisiana-ness of Orgeron, and there’s nothing that compares.
For a guy who was widely and understandably doubted when he went from LSU’s interim to full-time coach in 2016, the potential transformation is huge. From second-guessed to unsurpassed.
Records are made to be broken — well, maybe not some of Burrow’s passing records this season — but being the first, the only to do something can’t be overstated or outdone.
In this case, Coach O, it is about you. And there’s nothing wrong with that.