The beauty of sports are that they unify people and unite them for a common cause.
They’re maybe the only thing in our world that can bring all people — of any race, religion or creed — together to pull for something or to believe in a greater good.
It’s no secret by now that LSU won the National Championship on Monday night — the cherry atop a magical season that fans will never soon forget.
But in our sweet, precious bayou, this victory and season is about more than football. It’s about more than a trophy. It’s about more than beating Alabama or being No. 1.
It’s about pride and love for one of our own. It’s about redemption. It’s about respect. It’s a lesson to all young men and women in our community that literally EVERYTHING is possible and can be accomplished … NO MATTER HOW FAR you’ve fallen or NO MATTER HOW DIM the light currently looks in your life.
Ed Orgeron embodies all of those things and is literal proof in the power of second chances, personal development and triumph.
THE JOURNEY WAS FILLED WITH BUMPS
The Coach O we see today is a byproduct of the mistakes and lessons of his past.
He got started in the 1980s, then ascended to the University of Miami in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
But there were personal problems, issues with alcohol and an eventual arrest. Instead of continuing to climb the ladder, Orgeron was sent back to the bayou for a one-year hiatus and some time searching his soul.
Orgeron credits this time as saving his life, saying he needed time in our area to find humility and too refocus.
In 1994, he got back into the game, coaching with at Nicholls. He then catapulted back into the big-time, going to Syracuse (1995-97), then to USC (1998-2004).
At USC, Orgeron became a household name — one of the best assistant coaches in the country. He helped build some of the best teams in the history of the sport.
Others took notice. After flirtations with a couple schools, Orgeron became a head coach in 2005 with Ole Miss.
It didn’t work out.
At Ole Miss, Orgeron tried to do too much. He micromanaged and put too much on his plate. He recruited well, but was spread too thin. On the field, the Rebels lacked attention to detail and he failed. They won just 10 times in 35 games and he was fired after 3 years.
After his dismissal, Orgeron didn’t quit. He said he worked tirelessly to study his tenure at Ole Miss to determine what went wrong.
He coached for the Saints (2008), Tennessee (2009), then went back to USC (2010-2013).
At USC, he got a second chance, becoming the team’s interim head coach, turning the team’s season around and showing his growth and maturity.
Ed should have gotten the full-time position at USC, but didn’t.
That’s a mistake the athletic department in Southern California will never forget making, because he then (after one-year hiatus) returned to coaching and came to LSU in 2015.
After first working under Les Miles, Orgeron got another chance at being a head coach in 2016 when administration fired Miles and gave Orgeron the interim position mid-season.
Like he’d done at USC, Orgeron turned LSU’s season around on the fly and made swift, but effective changes.
Also like he’d done at USC, there was a great chance that he’d be bypassed for the full-time job with some boosters and athletic officials favoring guys like Tom Herman or Jimbo Fisher for the job, instead.
But the stars aligned and Orgeron got the LSU job, and there’s been no looking back.
There have been bumps in the road. A loss to Troy in 2017 changed the program’s culture. A shutout defeat against Alabama in 2018 was bitter and a 7-overtime loss at Texas A&M last fall wasn’t good, either.
But all the scars built strength and the 2019 title run the team enjoyed this fall.
EMBODIMENT OF THE CAJUN SPIRIT … A SIGN OF OUR FIGHT
With the history lesson out of the way, I am writing to tell you all that Orgeron’s story is a microcosm of life in Cajun Louisiana.
In our area, we’re often overlooked, often have a long, bumpy road and are often taken for granted.
But despite that, we love Louisiana, love our culture and love to help others in their time of need.
Our Bayou needed this run from the LSU football team.
Our economy is struggling. Oil prices continue to be low. Small businesses are hanging on by a thread and are trying to find some hope that change is coming and better times are on the way.
Sure, a football game will not change our economy. To say that would be irresponsible, but Orgeron and LSU’s triumphs should be a source of inspiration and a constant reminder that NO MATTER HOW MANY bad days there are, there’s always a chance of bright light on the other side.
Just as long as long as you put in the work and keep the faith, all things are possible and every problem has a solution.
Our Cajun people are strong. We’re battle tested. We’re scarred.
We will get out of these economic problems and come out to the other side.
I have absolutely no doubt in my soul that the future of our community is bright. It’s why I choose to live and plant roots here — despite opportunities in other areas.
But with all that said, it still feels good to win one and to see a fairy tale come true.
Coach O, we’re so proud of you, and we’re thankful to you for the hope you’ve instilled in our community.
To our business leaders, citizens and youth — lets now ride that wave of momentum and push it ever farther.
We have it in us to do anything we want to do.
That’s how we’ve survived this long, and it’s how we’ll thrive into the future.
We’re a special people — the type that can get up off the mat, wipe the blood off our brow and keep swinging. The type that can be stripped of everything, keep working and become a champion — the best in the country, a national champion.
Posted on Wed, January 15, 2020
by By CASEY GISCLAIR | GAZETTE STAFF