Before every home football game at LSU, fans gather along a sloped stretch of road known as Victory Hill, waiting to greet players and coaches as they make their way to Tiger Stadium.
The team members made that familiar journey down the hill, past the purple-and-gold-clad crowd once more Saturday morning. This time, however, they were riding on floats in a parade — a sort of hero’s welcome for the new reigning national champions of college football.
It began with an audacious promise from a still unheralded quarterback of an untried offense: The team would score 40, 50, even 60 points per game.
Just like on gamedays, the team’s arrival on Victory Hill was heralded by the Golden Band from Tigerland playing “Touchdown for LSU.”
One float in the parade, ridden by Gov. John Bel Edwards and his wife Donna, resembled a New Orleans streetcar. Then followed a few more less-elaborate floats — pickup trucks pulling trailers decked out with banners reading “National Champions” — with players and athletics staff aboard.
People shouted and held their hands out, hoping for Coach Ed Orgeron and his team to toss strings of plastic beads their way. Some of the players smiled as they held their cellphones aloft, taking photos and videos of the enthusiastic fan base that has supported them on their journey to the championship game.
Some fans showed up early to make sure they had a good position to watch the parade roll past. Others got in line to enter the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, where an event celebrating the team took place later in the day.
Many fans were still in awe of the season that came to an end last week with LSU’s 42-25 victory over Clemson in New Orleans.
“I don’t know how you put together what all happened,” said Claudia Adley, of Bossier Parish. She noted that the team had several major accomplishments this year besides winning the national title, such as LSU quarterback Joe Burrow receiving the Heisman Trophy.
Allyson Bombet, of Baton Rouge, said she believes the team’s success came from having good chemistry.
“They worked well together,” she said while waiting for the parade to begin with her mother, Louann Bombet. “When they interviewed after, especially Joe (Burrow), it was always about the team, never them. It was never one person doing it.”
Inside the assembly center, where the stands were packed, Coach Ed Orgeron’s remarks had a similar theme.
“This is all about the players,” he said, speaking on stage with the championship trophies sitting nearby. “They did it. … They had discipline, but the biggest thing that this team had was want-to. When you want to do something, you can accomplish anything in your life.”
Burrow spoke about how he, his teammates and their coaches worked hard to get ready for games throughout the 2019 season.
“It’s like having the answers to the test when you walk in there,” he said, when the team is prepared and confident.
Winning the national championship has especially deep meaning for players who are from Louisiana.
“I grew up watching LSU, and just to be a part of this, it’s special,” said center Lloyd Cushenberry III, who is from Carville. “I’ll never forget this.”
The victory means a lot to average people in the state too, said Orgeron, who himself is a Louisiana native. When he returned to Baton Rouge after the championship game in New Orleans, he recalled, he saw that “people were proud in the state of Louisiana.”
For all the joy the 2019 season has brought Tiger fans, some nevertheless have a bittersweet feeling that they’ll never see anything quite like it again.
“I know we’re going to set our sights high, but I don’t think we’re going to have another season like this,” Louann Bombet said. “I think this is truly a one-in-a-million, one-in-a-lifetime kind of season.”
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