LSU coach Ed Orgeron is known for his grit and toughness. After hearing about more of his upbringing, it’s easy to see why.
Orgeron was the featured guest on the Pardon My Take podcast Monday, and he revealed some of what made him who he is. Not surprisingly, it started with his parents.
“My parents always worked,” Orgeron said. “Every day my mom would get up at 4 o’clock in the morning. Cook breakfast. Clean the house. Have three meals on the table. And same with my father.
“And then in the summer they’d put me in a shrimp shed shoveling shrimp. And it was gritty. But I learned it. I learned the responsibility. I learned accountability and it made me a better person.”
From there, Orgeron became a star football player at South Lafourche High School and earned a scholarship from LSU. However, he left school after two weeks when he became home sick and coaches wanted him to switch from defense to offense.
After a summer of digging ditches back home (more grit!), Orgeron eventually landed at Northwestern State University. He played out his career and then immediately went into coaching.
“I tried out with the Memphis Showboats. I didn’t make the team. I had to borrow my friend’s car, and I called my dad on the way back and said ‘I’m gonna start coaching.’ I went to the coaches [at Northwestern State] the next day and they said ‘I don’t have much.’ I took a cot out of the dormitory and I moved it into the visitor’s dressing room and I worked there for free for a year.
“They had a graduate assistant job come on open [the next year] and they picked someone else. So, I left with my coach Bill Johnson and went to McNeese State as a graduate assistant and I worked at a recreational complex from 5 to 9 to make my money.”
The following year, Orgeron finally landed a paying job at Arkansas as the assistant strength coach, where he says he was paid $25 every two weeks. Even by 1986 standards, that’s not much!
Eventually, he broke through. He was the defensive line coach on Miami’s staff from 1998-92 and won two national titles in that stretch. After stints at Nicholls State and Syracuse, he moved on to USC where he was the assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator.
Now as the coach at LSU, the school he grew up rooting for, Orgeron is able to pass on the definition of grit that he’s compiled over the years.
“[Grit is the] relentless pursuit of what you’re after,” he said. “Having to focus on a goal. You know stuff is gonna happen. You’re going to face adversity. We say around here, you’ve got to block out the noise. Don’t listen to the people outside. Let’s focus on the task at hand and get it done.”