Demon Legend, LSU coach Orgeron
'Geaux Tigers! Fork 'em Demons' - Demon legend, LSU coach Orgeron
Doug Ireland/Sports Information Director
May. 06, 2017 Demon Football
NATCHITOCHES – It's nothing unusual for LSU football coach Ed Orgeron to immediately be flocked by fans when he enters a room, but Friday afternoon, the first people waiting for him were fellow former Northwestern State players.
As Orgeron and his wife Kelly walked into the new Chateau Saint Denis Hotel, he veered to bear-hug J.P. Dunbar, Gary Morgan and Petey Perot, who were already reliving stories from their Demon days, and about the bold Cajun they know as "BeBe."
It kicked off an evening filled with reunions and excitement as NSU featured Orgeron at its sixth annual Legends Gala supporting the Demons Unlimited Foundation. It was difficult to tell who was more delighted – Orgeron, or everyone else.
He proudly touted the fact that he earned his NSU degree while playing for head coaches A.L. Williams (1980-82) and Sam Goodwin (1983), and began his coaching career under Goodwin in 1984.
"What a great night, huh?" he said. "Go Tigers! And Fork 'em Demons!"
Orgeron explained that his career is rooted in the coaching connections he developed from his college days. Goodwin, 73, was on hand Friday. His Demon staff included then 27-year-old defensive coordinator John Thompson, who went on to run defenses at Arkansas, Ole Miss, Florida and South Carolina, and defensive line coach Bill Johnson, who quickly moved to the University of Miami and has been in the NFL for almost 30 years, now with the Los Angeles Rams.
"What an honor it is to sit here as a graduate of Northwestern State University. Those were special years," he said. "The thing I loved most was my teammates. We had a great time here. Natchitoches was a great place to grow up in, and become a man.
"The biggest thing was I got my degree and I got networked in college coaching. I got to Arkansas because of Coach Goodwin and John Thompson. I got to Miami because of Bill Johnson, and on my career went, so I'm forever grateful to Northwestern State."
Goodwin took over the program for Orgeron's senior season. At that time Orgeron was a talented and productive defensive tackle who played with tremendous passion, but was admittedly adventurous off the field. Goodwin asked him to set a better example when he wasn't wearing a helmet.
"I always wanted to be a leader for Coach Goodwin. He sat me down, his first year here, and told me about my role, and it was a leadership role. He came in and demanded a lot of respect, and he got it. I'd always been a leader wherever I played, and I was just glad to be a leader for him," said Orgeron.
"We have some great, great memories here on the field, off the field. It was just a great time in our lives."
He ticked off a few football highlights against rivals such as McNeese, UL Monroe, Stephen F. Austin and Nicholls, but nothing compared to the game he had as a senior against arch-rival Louisiana Tech. Goodwin recalled Orgeron on a fourth-and-one play, gesturing to the Bulldogs as they approached the line, exorting them to test his side of the line.
"It was fourth-and-one on the goalline, and I wanted them to run my way. They did, and they didn't make it," he said, grinning broadly. "I had two and a half sacks. There must've been 40,000 people there in Shreveport. A.L. Williams, who recruited me here, was on the other sideline with several of the coaches who had been at Northwestern, so the game was very, very special. It was a nice atmosphere."
Orgeron's pride in being the LSU coach oozes out of him at every turn.
"They needed a Louisiana man to run this program, and I'm glad it was me," he said. "Since the moment I started coaching, I wanted to be the head coach at LSU."
His pride in Demon football was equally obvious Friday.
"We had Bobby Hebert, Joe Delaney, Mark Duper, Petey Perot, Gary Reasons, Sidney Thornton, all guys who had good to great NFL careers. We followed Petey and Sidney and we tried to uphold that tradition. I don't know if they had recruiting ratings in those days, but the coaches here did a great job of identifying talent and players who could develop, and then bringing them along," he said.
But despite a productive playing career with NSU, Orgeron quickly found his career path didn't involve pro ball and coaching would require sacrifice.
"I went to try out for the Memphis Showboats, and my name wasn't even on the list when I got there. I went home, told my dad I was going to coach, and called Coach Goodwin and asked for a chance. I lived in the visitors' dressing room, slept on a cot," he remembered. "That was some interesting times, I promise you.
"Coach gave me the opportunity and I learned from him, I learned from John Thompson, from Bill Johnson, and away I went."
Throughout his coaching career, Orgeron said he's always kept tabs on two programs.
"All the time I've been watching the Demons, keeping up with them, who is coaching, who are they recruiting, and I did the same with LSU. When I was at Miami, when I was at Syracuse, when I was at at USC, I always kept up with the Demons and the Tigers," he said. "I have tremendous pride in being the football coach at LSU, and I have tremendous pride in this program, this university, this beautiful community."