Doug Moreau was the ultimate go-to receiver in a time when pass-catching was an after-thought in college football.
He was a pioneering place-kicker before field goals became an indispensable part of virtually every college football team’s offense.
He was — and is, for nearly four decades — the voice explaining what just happened on LSU’s radio broadcasts.
Few Tigers have left so much of themselves on the landscape of LSU football, which is why, nearly 50 years after playing his last down as a Bayou Bengal, Moreau will be recognized Saturday in Atlanta as LSU’s 2014 representative among the 14 SEC Legends to be acknowledged at halftime of the SEC Championship Game.
For a kid who grew up yearning to be a Tiger — but also thinking all he’d ever do in Tiger Stadium was his Saturday night job of selling programs before games — it’s a highlight in a life filled with professional accomplishment. Moreau is a former district attorney of East Baton Rouge Parish and a former state district judge.
When he got his long-shot chance as a Tiger, Moreau made the most of it, too, not only becoming a integral component of LSU’s mid-1960s offense, an All-American, and perhaps the most deserving MVP in the 121 seasons of football at the Old War Skule.
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The son of an LSU icon, Al Moreau, captain of the famed “Five Man Track Team’’ which won the NCAA championship in 1933 and later the ultra-successful coach of the Bayou Bengals in that sport while working his full-time job as a university horticulturist, Doug grew up just a few blocks from the LSU campus, went to school at University High on the campus, and followed the Tigers avidly.
“LSU was like my home,’’ he remembers.
Putting on the purple and gold, though, or, really, any other color scheme, seemed to be just a boyhood fantasy.
“It wasn’t only me,’’ Moreau recalls. “Nobody was banging down my door to get me to sign.’’
Perhaps the first domino to fall into place was when, before Moreau’s season, U-High coach Vane Wilson suggested making a position switch from quarterback to a pass-catching end, where he thought Doug’s athleticism might attract notice from college scouts.
It didn’t seem to work until, late in the recruiting process, LSU coach Paul Dietzel offered Moreau an official visit — the only one he got from anywhere — to the 1961 Ole Miss-Tigers game. “I couldn’t have been happier if they had flown me to Paris, France,’’ he reminisced of his ecstasy at the invitation. “I wanted to be a Tiger. I would have been happy if they had said they’d let me walk on.’’
That evening, after finishing his pregame duties of selling programs and checking out with the vendor, Moreau raced to Broussard Hall, then the athletic dorm, to meet with the coach overseeing the occasion, before being brought back to the stadium and getting a seat at the end of the LSU bench with the other prospects.
That night, when one of his personal heroes, halfback Jerry Stovall, broke off a 57-yard run to set up a 7-yard touchdown run by Wendell Harris in the fourth quarter of what would be a 10-7 Tigers victory, young Doug couldn’t contain himself, leaping off the bench and yelling his approval.
There was never any doubt Doug Moreau was born to be a Tiger. And he was.
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So what did LSU get in this unheralded athlete? More than anyone, including Moreau, could have imagined. A self-taught kicker, honing his skill by booting balls over a telephone wire near his home, Moreau combined his kicking and receiving talents into an amazing 1964 junior season in which he accounted for an amazing 63 percent of LSU’s total points.
His presence colored the entire season. With a team that could move from 20 to 20 effectively, the Tigers had little red zone punch, forcing LSU to turn to a weapon that was an after-thought in those days: the field goal. Counting a Sugar Bowl appearance, Moreau kicked 14, which set the NCAA record. The following year Charlie Gogolak of Princeton kicked 16, and from then on the field goal became an indispensable part of practically every offense.
In the opening game of 1964, Moreau’s 34-yard field goal was the difference in a 9-6 victory over Texas A&M, and against Rice, a week later, he booted a 28-yard field goal in the final minutes of a 3-0 Tigers win. He kicked one against Tennessee to give LSU a 3-3 standoff (though Moreau remembers even more the two he missed against the Vols).
Against Ole Miss, in another one of those magical Halloween games, LSU recovered a late fumble, scored a late touchdown, then went for two.
Despite the fingertips of a Rebels defender brushing the ball, Moreau made the catch in the end zone with barely an inch to spare before going out of bounds for an improbable 11-10 victory.
He also managed to catch two touchdown passes in a 14-10 nail-biter against Mississippi State.
Clearly, at crunch time, LSU looked to Moreau, who scored 73 of the Bayou Bengals’ 115 points in the regular season.
Against Syracuse in the 1965 Sugar Bowl, Moreau scored LSU’s only touchdown on a 57-yard reception, then kicked a 28-yard field goal with 3:48 to play, to give the Tigers a 13-10 victory.
The question after that season is: Has LSU ever had a More Valuable Player?
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The kid Paul Dietzel took a chance on parlayed his opportunity into a brief pro career. After four years with Miami Dolphins, Moreau returned home and entered law school at LSU. His roommate was a returning Marine — James Carville, who would eventually become the rascally Democratic Party strategist. Moreau became a strong Republican, though he says he was not really that much into politics at the time.
Still, it’s interesting to think of their conversations on the subject. “Yeah, they went about the way you might expect,’’ Moreau says. “But despite our political differences, James is a friend, a good friend.’’
He also played a role in Moreau’s avocation.
A mutual friend of both, Pat Screen, LSU’s quarterback when Moreau played and later the mayor of Baton Rouge, used to be the sideline reporter on Tigers radio broadcasts and report on the freshman team games at a time when freshmen were ineligible for varsity sports. In those days before wireless mikes, Carville would carry the wires around so Screen could move about the sideline.
When the NBA’s Jazz were hatched in New Orleans in 1974, Screen was hired as an administrator of the club. Screen recommended Moreau for his broadcast duties, and soon Carville was carrying the wires so Moreau could tell the stories of the freshman team.
It must have been a successful effort because in 1978, when color analyst Walter Hill retired, the then-voice of the Tigers John Ferguson asked Moreau to join him in the booth for the games. Six years later, when Ferguson stepped back, Jim Hawthorne, the current voice of the Tigers, asked Moreau to be his analyst as well.
That was 36 years ago.
“It’s been a long, long time,’’ Moreau says. “But I’ve loved every day of it. It’s kept me close to the game.’’
And it’s part of the imprint Moreau left on LSU football.