Ed Orgeron Sr. worked for the phone company in Larose, La., where Bayou LaFourche meets the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. Those who loved him called him Bebe (pronounced Ba-Bay). He was supposed to be the baby of the family, and that nickname stuck even after his parents had a 13th child and made him a big brother.
Bebe always knew how to work. His father ran a vegetable stand. He worked on tugboats before settling in as the foreman of a crew that installed cable for Ma Bell. And by God, if Bebe's barrel-chested oldest son—who got his size from his mama's side of the family—wanted to come home instead of playing defensive tackle at LSU, that kid was going to work, too.
So at the end of the sweltering summer of 1978, Ed Orgeron Sr. put Ed Orgeron Jr. on a crew digging ditches for cable. Everybody knew everybody in Lafourche Parish back then, so some passing motorists couldn't help but point out that a certain member of South Lafourche High's 1977 state title team was on the side of the road with a shovel in his hand instead of getting ready to play Indiana in Tiger Stadium.
You didn't make it.
Junior looked at Bebe.
Bebe said "Dig."
"You can go from the penthouse to the outhouse really fast," a much older Ed Orgeron Jr. says as he sits on a brown leather couch in the LSU head coach's office and tells this story. When he hits the word "dig," it rumbles through his throat and out his mouth in that French-accented foghorn that sounds like he swallowed gumbo made of gravel. That voice is instantly familiar to almost everyone named a top-100 recruit in the past 15 years. Ditto for anyone who shopped for a Hummer in northwest Mississippi between 2005 and '07.
When Orgeron worked at Miami, Syracuse, USC and Ole Miss, he got mocked for that voice. In Louisiana, he's embraced for it. That's why Baton Rouge attorney Kent DeJean, after exchanging pleasantries with Orgeron in French, said this during Orgeron's first head coach's radio show on Sept. 28: "I'm very proud as a resident of Acadiana and a Cajun, for the first time in the history of LSU football, we have a coach that doesn't have an accent."
Junior, or Little Bebe, or Bebe, or Coach O—he's known by many nicknames—has dreamed of this moment for decades. He left LSU as a freshman, but LSU never left him. In those years when he was recruiting for another school and drove across the Mississippi River on Interstate 10 and saw Tiger Stadium standing sentinel, he wondered what it would be like to return. When he did finally get hired in 2015 to coach LSU's defensive line, he wondered whether he, a son of Louisiana, might ever get the chance to lead the entire program.
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