Ed Orgeron still remembers the exact moment he wanted to become the head football coach at Louisiana State University. The Lafourche Parish, Louisiana native was six years old, watching television with his late father when he proclaimed his lofty goal.
“You can do it, son,” the now 59-year-old Orgeron recalled his father saying.
The words of encouragement echoed through 12 coaching stops in seven states. In 2016, nearly 50 years after he promulgated it, the Cajun son of Louisiana known around the Bayou as “Coach O” was appointed head football coach at LSU.
“When I walk through the goalposts I raise my hands up, and I feel like I’m connected to 102,500 people in the stadium,” Orgeron told 60 Minutes. “It’s the best feeling I’ve had in the world.”
Orgeron invited 60 Minutes and correspondent Jon Wertheim to Baton Rouge for an inside look at how college football’s reigning national champions are preparing to defend their title.
“He’s a charming homespun guy,” Wertheim said to 60 Minutes Overtime describing Orgeron. “He commands authority, but he’s very approachable.”
Around the sport, Orgeron built his reputation as a gifted recruiter. His prowess for luring the nation’s top high school talent to Baton Rouge was full on display for Wertheim. While standing on a balcony that overlooks the LSU campus, Orgeron made his pitch to the correspondent.
“Here’s what I tell `em,” Coach Orgeron said to Wertheim. “That’s where you gonna live. A five-star apartment. Have your own washer and dryer, big beds where you can sleep. That’s where you’ll go to school. That’s where you’ll get a great degree. That’s where you’re gonna network, meet some tremendous people. This is where you’re gonna train, best facility in all the world. That’s where you’re gonna develop. Best coaches. And that’s where you’re gonna shine on Saturday.”
Orgeron told 60 Minutes that LSU begins its recruiting process with a list of roughly 500 high school players before whittling it down to about 25 athletes who are given scholarships to attend the university and play for the Tigers.
Coach O is intimately involved in the recruiting process. He told Wertheim the COVID-19 pandemic afforded him the opportunity to watch film on every LSU recruit. The coach said the key to his recruiting success is being honest, personable, and in constant communication.
The latter has been a staple for the LSU coaching staff during the pandemic. Altered NCAA recruiting rules allow coaches to communicate with recruits more often. In Baton Rouge, Orgeron and his staff routinely FaceTime with dozens of recruits in a rapid-fire event the team calls “power hour.”
“I want them the feel the energy,” Orgeron said when talking about his recruiting video calls. “I want them to see me. You know, I’m working out man, I’m sweatin’ as a regular human being, somebody they can trust. But I do believe that the more we talk to them on a daily basis, the more we’re gonna get to know them, the more they’re gonna get to know us. And I do believe that the energy supplied by all the coaches in the room, and the noise, makes it different than other coaches.”
Energy is one thing Orgeron does not lack. Known as a master motivator, Wertheim asked three of LSU’s star players to describe one of the coach’s idiosyncrasies. Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Shelvin, and Derek Stingley all highlighted Coach O’s tendency to punch himself in the face before a big game.
“The unusual thing I’ve seen him do is when he’s talking to you, when he’s serious, he takes his fists and he punches his jaw,” Shelvin told 60 Minutes.
Shelvin and Chase, key performers during LSU’s title-winning campaign, have opted out of the upcoming season.
Orgeron told Wertheim his punching ritual began in 2017, before a game against the University of Florida.
“Every time we walk in the stadium, we’ve got to have our hands up…” Orgeron said lifting his fists to cover his face. “Any time you have your hands down, they’re gonna punch you in your face.”
LSU beat Florida that day and Orgeron said, “We’ve been punching ourselves ever since.”
The video above was produced by Keith Zubrow and Sarah Shafer Prediger. It was edited by Sarah Shafer Prediger.
Footage of Coach Orgeron before the LSU-Alabama game courtesy of CBS Sports.