As far as good stories go, you can’t go wrong when Ed Orgeron, Lane Kiffin and a helicopter are the principle characters.
During Wednesday’s SEC coaches teleconference, Orgeron shared the tale of how the helicopter became a recruiting tool during he and Kiffin’s one year together at Tennessee in 2009.
The issue was Atlanta, which was proving itself to be both a solution and a problem. The city is overloaded with football talent and has long been one of the nation’s most fertile recruiting grounds. The problem? It’s also overloaded with cars and has long been one of the nation’s worst cities to drive in — if you can even call it driving. It’s more of a rolling stop.
Though he still had his famous Hummer, Orgeron wasn’t going to be able to off-road through urban landscapes. So Orgeron presented his boss with a novel solution: a chopper.
“In Atlanta there were so many games to see and the traffic, we couldn’t figure it out,” Orgeron said. “So I figured, ‘Let’s just get a helicopter.'”
It’s an idea that could only come from the mind of Orgeron, and perhaps only so enthusiastically embraced by the quirky Kiffin.
It also provided a wonderful opportunity for showmanship, which is right up Orgeron’s alley.
“‘Let’s circle around the stadium twice,'” Orgeron recalled telling the pilot. “The other coaches at on the ground the game told me, ‘What a great idea.'”
But for Orgeron, it was mostly about practicality.
“It does give the wow factor when you show up,” he said. “But it was more or less a means of getting around to games in a big city.”
Orgeron still uses a helicopter on occasion at LSU. In September, he flew to New Orleans to check out a game between Class of 2018 wide receiver Devonta Jason and Class of 2019 cornerback Devin Bush.