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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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“O” what a night for Coach O as community honors one of its own

“O” what a night for Coach O as community honors one of its own

Larose's favorite son returned home to a triumphant welcome as the new LSU head coach was honored at the "Coach O" Day celebration at the Larose Civic Center Pavilion Friday evening.

The rainy weather didn't dampen anyone's spirits as over 1,500 people crowded into the pavilion to hear dignitaries and former athletes praise Ed "BaBa" Orgeron for his accomplishments.

"I thank God," Orgeron said. "I thank the people on the bayou. This is where I was born and raised. This is where I learned how to compete. This is the place that made me who I am."

Asked what it was like to be Larose's favorite son, Orgeron said, "I want to stay that way. It's an honor, but I understand we have to uphold the tremendous tradition at LSU and that's what we're here to do."

Orgeron's wife, Kelly, a native of Arkansas, said she was "overwhelmed."

"It's amazing," she said. "To feel the love here, to hear the stories of how he was raised here, to meet all the people on the bayou, it's just amazing. I'm just in awe, 'cause you can feel so much love here."

Numerous dignitaries and local athletes spoke about how important this was for the area.

Larose-native Ronnie Estay, who was a star defensive tackle at LSU and had a 12-year career in the CFL, spoke about how important football is to the area.

"It's exciting, he said. "It's exciting cause we love football. If someone from here gets one of these big things, you can see, they don't have any more room to seat everybody."

Former Gov. Edwin Edwards, who received a standing ovation, was still quick with the quips.

"I keep telling everyone that it's nice to finally have an LSU coach without an accent," he said.

Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre presented Orgeron with a ceremonial "key to the jail."

Former NFL and South Lafourche quarterback Bobby Hebert, who introduced the members of South Lafourche's 1977 championship team, which included Orgeron, said Orgeron was more than just a teammate.

"My mom's mom and his mom are first cousins," Hebert said. "We were on the '77 team together, and we were roommates for three years. So it's a lot more than just being teammates."

Orgeron's number 77 jersey from South Lafourche was retired at the ceremony.

Herbert acknowledged that he may no longer be the best known football personality from Lafourche Parish.

"I was," Hebert joked. "But I don't mind passing the torch. Coach O is the man now, the head coach at LSU."

Raceland-based NFL analyst Mike Detillier said the Orgeron hiring was a good move for LSU.

"Getting the right coach is like getting the right players," Detillier said. "You're looking for the right fit. They could have gotten an outsider, and he might have been successful, but those guys are few and far between. You've got to know the area, know the players, know the coaches. Ed's a good fit for this job. He's known as a great recruiter. And if you're a Cajun, you're hard headed. But you've got to learn how to delegate, and Ed's learned that."

Media director for the event, Larry Weidel, said the response was far greater than originally expected.

"We're thrilled to death," Weidel said. "When we started this, we wanted to sell 20 corporate tables and have 350 people at the event. We have over 1,500 people here. It's just amazing."

All proceeds from the event will go to local charities, as per Orgeron's request.