Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Coach Ed Orgeron leads LSU to national title as part of God's 'better plan'

A little more than three years ago, LSU promoted Ed Orgeron from interim coach to official head coach after he went 5-2 in taking over for Les Miles five games into the 2016 season. During the press conference announcing the hire, Orgeron, a native of Louisiana, stated that the LSU job was the one he always wanted. All the other assistant and head coaching gigs he held were a step in the process of becoming a better coach to better lead LSU when he got the chance.

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He also stated his bold expectations: “My goal is to build a championship program fast, very fast,” Orgeron said on Nov. 26, 2016. “I understand the expectations at LSU and I invite them because I have the same expectations of myself and my staff.”

On Monday night, with his No. 1-ranked Tigers taking on defending-champion Clemson in LSU’s home state (in New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome), Orgeron made good on his word. The LSU Tigers topped the Clemson Tigers, 42-25, in the College Football Playoff National Championship.

“I grew up wanting to be the head coach at LSU,” Orgeron told ESPN immediately following the game. “I’m so proud of the state of Louisiana. We’ve had great support from the governor, from the president, from everybody that loves LSU. I’m just so happy for the people of Louisiana.”

The star of the game was senior LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, the 2019-20 Heisman Trophy winner. He completed 31 of 49 passes for 463 yards and five touchdowns Monday night, and he also ran for 58 yards and another TD. He became the first major college quarterback to throw 60 touchdown passes in a season

“He’s one of the greatest players in LSU history,” Orgeron said after the game. “He’s done so much for the state of Louisiana and LSU. We are so grateful to Joe Burrow.”

Nine of those completions went to receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who finished with 221 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore, who won this season’s Biletnikoff Award for the nation’s best receiver, broke the CFP single-game receiving record.

On the defensive side, junior linebacker Patrick Queen led the champs with eight tackles and half a sack. He was named Defensive MVP of the game.

But with tears in his eyes and his wife, Kelly, by his side on the field after the game, Orgeron was arguably the happiest man in New Orleans. Every coach says they want to build a championship program, especially for their home state, but few are able to follow through like Orgeron did Monday night. And to think, he was almost passed over for the job.

He wasn’t LSU’s top choice for the position in 2016, and he actually thought he had missed out. He had already been passed over for the USC head coaching role in 2013 despite being the Trojans’ interim coach and going 6-2. When he learned he wasn’t getting the permanent job, he told Kelly, “Besides the day I buried my father, this is the worst day of my life.”

His wife refused to believe that. Firm in her faith, Kelly told Ed, “God has a better plan.” To which Ed said he responded, “Whew! It better be good.”

“God definitely has been good to our family,” Kelly told a group of pastors in 2017. “We’ve had trying times just like any family does … but we have God as our foundation.”

Speaking at the same event, Ed recalled the night before learning his fate with LSU in 2016.

“I got on my knees and said my prayers,” he said. “Kelly looked up and asked, ‘Why do you look so sad?’ I said, ‘It don’t look good.’ But she says, ‘It’s OK.’ I said, have you looked at the TV, woman?’ Here’s what she said: She goes, ‘You’re going to wake up tomorrow, and you’re going to be the next head coach at LSU.'”

LSU athletic director Joe Alleva called the next morning at 5:30 a.m.

In a statement announcing the hire, Alleva said, “This is a great day for LSU and for all of Louisiana. We got our man and he’s been here all along. Coach Orgeron has demonstrated his ability to run this program with excellence, even under difficult circumstances. … Coach Orgeron took us step by step through every aspect of his plans for this program and there was no question that he is the man to lead LSU football.”

Three seasons later, the right man working his dream job gave LSU a perfect season.

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