My Rouses Everyday, September/October 2017

Former Saints Quarterback Bobby Hebert talks to LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron

Bobby Hebert, the future Cajun Cannon, first played football with his friend Ed Orgeron in high school more than 40 years ago. Together, the pair brought home a state title for the South Lafourche High Tarpons in 1977. Later, they were teammates again, at Northwestern State in Natchitoches, LA, where they also roomed together. Hebert, of course, went on to play quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. After a long career in collegiate and professional football, including a stint as the Saints’ defensive line coach, Orgeron was named Head Coach at LSU in 2016. Decades after the two veteran athletes first met, they got together to shoot the breeze about Cajun accents, Grandma’s white beans with bell peppers, and a life’s worth of lessons from the football field.

BOBBY: I gotta address one thing, first off: People say you have an accent. You’re from Larose. I’m from Cut Off. I don’t think you have an accent.

COACH O: I’m proud of this Cajun accent.

BOBBY: They think it’s thick now, Bé Bé — they shoulda heard you back in the day!

COACH O: Both of our accents are nothing compared to what they were. You listen to someone from South Lafourche, it’s like they’re from another country.

BOBBY: I can’t speak Cajun French, but you can.

COACH O: My parents taught me. I remember, when I went to college, I was going to take French. I thought, oh, I know French already. But Cajun French is not true French. It’s a spoken language as opposed to something that’s written down. Guys invent words. If this word sounds a little like a true French word, we think we’re good.

BOBBY: When you go down the bayou you can hold conversations. You can talk to my dad in Cajun French.

COACH O: One thing about Cajuns, everyone has a nickname … Bobby J. Your son is T-Bob. I’m Bé Bé.

BOBBY: I’m not sure people know we are cousins.

COACH O: My dad and your grandma were first cousins — down the bayou, you have a lot of cousins.

BOBBY: You think about where they grew up. Back then, you got maybe four or five choices for who you gonna marry. If it’s not your first or second cousin, well then, alright.

BOBBY: We played on the same South Lafourche High School football team. We brought home a state title for the Tarpons in 1977. Bé Bé, what do you remember most about when we were in high school, the year we won the championship?

COACH O: The team. The character of the team and how we all came together. We had some tough players. We had great coaches. We had great assistant coaches. We had Coach Bourgeois and Gribbuoy — and Roland Boudreau, the offensive line coach.

BOBBY: He was actually married to my dad’s sister.

COACH O: Playing for South Lafourche was an honor. Didn’t you think so? It was a big deal to play for Coach Ralph Pere.

BOBBY: If you played for the Tarpons, you were expected to win District. Then it was, what can you do in the playoffs? Can you get past the Catholic league?

COACH O: Senior year was your first turn at quarterback. One thing about you — and I mention this to all of my quarterbacks — you did everything with a smile, but you could chew a guy’s ass out if he wasn’t blocking right. Everyone respected you.
BOBBY: State championship, it’s 4th and 17 …

COACH O: You threw it to Daryll Reynolds. Daryll tipped it, it hit a defender from Bonnabel, and Scott Bouzigard, he’s on his knees in the end zone and he catches the ball. HE CATCHES THE BALL.

BOBBY: We’re tied 20-20.

COACH O: Here comes “Big Foot” Keith Crosby … I played right tackle, he came in as the tight end. Now look, this guy took a pirogue to school. His foot was as wide as it was long! I loved this guy. Well, Big Foot, he’s hooting and hollering, ‘Woooooh! We’re gonna win the game.’ I said, ‘Big Foot, step down!’ ‘Woooooh.’ I said, ‘Big Foot, step down!’ ‘Woooooh, we’re gonna win the game.’ He didn’t step down. Steve Deery steps over my leg and blocks the extra point. The ball rolls over the cross bar, and we win the game.

BOBBY: Two miracle plays.

LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron & Bobby Hebert

BOBBY: When I was in 9th grade, I was 5 foot 8, 115 pounds. Then all of a sudden I’m like 6 foot 2, 190 in three years. Bé Bé, you were a man at 15 years old. You were starting on varsity for three years. You were the only 10th grader who played on varsity.

COACH O: I played offense and defense. I never got off the field.

BOBBY: You were recruited by LSU from Day One. Me, I was just trying to get a scholarship. I was lucky we won State and the recruiter from Northwestern saw me. So you go to LSU, and it doesn’t work out, and you end up with me at Northwestern.

COACH O: I was digging ditches for Latelco (Lafourche Telephone Company) when you called me. I went because I knew you’d show me the ropes.

BOBBY: We lived together in the football dorm. I was a great roommate. I used to wake you up for class.

COACH O: Your grandmother would come for these games and she’d bring us white beans with some bell peppers in it. Big chunks of bell peppers on some white beans. God, that was good!

BOBBY: That was my Grandma Birdie, my dad’s mom … Your dad and Mangus Arceneaux would come and celebrate and have like a boucherie on campus at Northwestern. Everyone wanted to be a part of it.

COACH O: We brought South Louisiana to Natchitoches. They loved it.

BOBBY: Then, senior year, you break your arm.

COACH O: The next day I became a graduate assistant coach.

BOBBY: After Northwestern, you went to McNeese State with Bill Johnson, who’d also been a GA at Northwestern. He was the defensive line coach at McNeese …

COACH O: He was the defensive line coach for the Saints for eight years, too.

BOBBY: After you left McNeese, you went to Arkansas. There was a pause in there, though …

COACH: I was actually shoveling shrimp in Grand Isle at Johnny’s Shrimp Shed and the phone rang. Someone yelled ‘Bé Bé, you got a call from Arkansas.’ It was Brad Scott, who I was GA with at Northwestern. He said, ‘Hey man, do you want the assistant strength coach job here at Arkansas?’ I said, ‘Hold on.’ I had my shrimp boots on. I had a shovel. Pshhhhh, I threw the shovel in the bayou. I said, ‘Hell yeah, I’m coming, man — just give me the directions!’ I lived in the dorm. I made $25 every two weeks. The first time I went down to the cafeteria and saw white gravy, I said, ‘What’s that?’ and someone said, ‘Oh, that’s gravy.’ And I said, ‘No it’s not, gravy is brown.’ I was GA for a year. I coached the six technique. I coached Wayne Martin, who became All-Pro with the Saints.

BOBBY: How did you end up at Miami?

COACH O: Miami had just won the championship and I was home, getting ready to go back to Arkansas. I called somebody in Arkansas to pick me up, and they said, ‘Don’t come, it’s snowing.’ So I’m sitting around and I think, let me call Bill Johnson. So I called Miami. Tommy Tuberville answered the phone, and I said, ‘May I speak to Bill?’ and he said, ‘Bill just got a job at Louisiana Tech.’ I said, ‘Y’all got a GA job open?’ He asked me if I wanted it and I said, ‘Hell yeah.’ I’d met him one time. He knew me through Bill. Psssssssh, down to Miami I went. How ’bout that?

BOBBY: How hard is the transition from assistant to head coach? Everybody wants to be a head coach. You should aspire to that. Now, sometimes, it doesn’t work out like that. You look at Wade Phillips; he’s Bums son, he’s an outstanding defensive coordinator, I think a Hall of Fame defensive coordinator, but maybe not a head coach. You got the head coach job at Ole Miss …

COACH O: I learned this aggressive, get-after-it style of coaching at Miami. I brought that to USC and Pete Carroll loved it. And we had a lot of success with it. I was the hard-ass on the staff. Then I go to Ole Miss and I try it as head coach. You can’t do it as the head coach. You can’t coach the quarterback like I coached Warren Sapp. You can’t coach the wide receiver. But I did. And you can’t coach the staff like that. It’s just too hard.

BOBBY: What else did you learn from Ole Miss, and your time as head coach at USC?

COACH O: Two things: The players need to know you care about them. If they don’t think you care about them and it’s all about you, you don’t stand a chance. So I wanted to make sure the players knew I cared about them. Second thing, I let the coaches coach their positions. If we have a big meeting tomorrow on how I expect you to coach your position, how I expect you to manage your position, that’s the only time I’m going to discuss it; after that, I won’t talk about it again.

BOBBY: In other words, have the confidence in their ability and delegate authority because you trust them.

COACH O: I thought when I went to Ole Miss I could hire coaches and I could develop them. But coaches in college, they feel like they’ve arrived and they’re good at what they do, so you’ve got to let them do it.

BOBBY: You learned some of that from Sean Payton.

COACH O: I was with the Saints the year before they went to the Super Bowl. Sean Payton let us coach. Everyone was the manager of his position. And everyone was held accountable.

BOBBY: You’re obviously considered one of the most successful recruiters of the past three decades. I know one thing: When you’re talking to a family, you’d better convince that momma that you’re looking out for her son.

COACH O: It’s identifying the champion, and the champion is the decision maker. And I recruit them harder than I recruit the recruit. A lot of times, it’s as you say — it’s the momma. Other times, it’s the trainer, or the dad, the coach, the uncle. I don’t promise a bunch of stuff I can’t deliver. I know what they want. They want education. They want the young men to be in good hands. They want them to play good football. They want them to have the chance to develop. I tell them: The way I take care of my three boys, that’s the way I’ll take care of yours.

BOBBY: Your momma, CoCo, is still taking care of you.

COACH O: My momma comes to my house and cooks a bunch. I’ll say, ‘Momma, make me a gumbo’ — I love gumbo, I love anything with rice. The étouffées and the fricassées. Momma will say, ‘I’ll make a gumbo on Saturday and bring it to you on Sunday.’ I’ll walk in the kitchen, and it smells so good. She’s got a gumbo, and all this other food, and she’s baking some chicken in the oven. She’ll say ‘I just want you to have something to eat for the week.’

BOBBY: You cook pretty good.

COACH O: I try to emulate my mother, but I can’t catch up. And you know she ain’t gonna write down a recipe.

BOBBY: Tell me about your recipe for LSU. You overhauled the practice schedule during training camp, eliminating two-a-days.

COACH O: Two-a-days can crush a player like a soda can. Then that’s what you’re playing with. Me, I’m starting with shiny new cans. We meet, we have walk-throughs, the players go home and rest, then we have a full practice, then we watch the film after. We do that every day.

BOBBY: I remember training camp in Hammond; when it was over, we felt like we’d already played the season. Coach Mora now acknowledges that was a mistake.

COACH O: Two-a-days were invented to get players into shape. Now players train year-round. They start out in shape. There’s no need.

BOBBY: You also shortened practices during the season.

COACH O: We went from three-hour practices to an hour-forty, maybe two hours. That’s the way they practice in the NFL. And we move faster, too. There’s no wasted time.

BOBBY: And every day has a theme.

COACH O: I learned that from Pete Carroll at USC. Monday is ‘tell the truth Monday.’ We look at the film. Here’s what we’ve done. Here’s what we need to do.

BOBBY: The big eye in the sky don’t lie.

COACH O: Tuesday is ‘competition Tuesday.’ There’s more individual work. We put our first-team offensive linemen up against our first-team defensive linemen. Wednesday is ‘no turnovers for offense, turnovers for defense.’ The emphasis is on the ball. Thursday is ‘no repeats.’ Friday is ‘focus Friday.’ Think about this: You’re coaching 18- to 22-year-old young men. They’ve got a lot of things on their minds … big games, tickets, girlfriends. I learned this from Pete Carroll. We have a meeting on Fridays, everybody’s suited up. We have a walk-through, first. Then I get the drum. Everybody leans in a little and we beat a drum. It’s the heartbeat. I let it go for about a minute. Everybody focuses in on the drum. We’re together. I say, ‘This is going to be the start of a great weekend for the LSU Tigers … Special teams, ready? Defense, ready?’

BOBBY: We’re both from Louisiana. We know what LSU means to the state.

COACH O: I know the way the LSU Tigers go, the way the Saints go, is the mood of the whole state on Monday morning.

BOBBY: Here you’re from Louisiana and you know what LSU means to the state. Are you feeling the pressure or embracing the circumstances?

COACH O: I love it. I love the competition. I understand the expectations. You and I were born in Louisiana. We understand the expectations. You’re expected to win. I’ve got the same expectation of myself.

BOBBY: I played in Michigan, I played in California, I played in Atlanta … No matter what, there’s nothing like playing for the Saints. I’m representing my community, not only yourself and your family!

COACH O: When I walk down that Tiger Walk, I feel connected. I didn’t feel that at other schools. When I walk into Tiger Stadium, and I see that ‘Welcome to Death Valley,’ I feel connected to every person in that stadium. One team, one heartbeat. This is home. There’s a bigger responsibility. I want to represent the people of Louisiana the best way I can.

“When I walk into Tiger Stadium and I see that ‘Welcome to Death Valley,’ I feel connected to every person in that stadium. One team, one heartbeat. This is home. There’s a bigger responsibility. I want to represent the people of Louisiana the best way I can.”

—Coach O