Love him or hate him, you can’t deny Ed Orgeron knows how to entertain.
That’s never been more obvious than in the “60 Minutes” episode that aired on Sunday during a story the extreme south Louisiana native told about Arkansas and the start of his coaching career. Decades before he sounded like a man who gargles crawfish shells amid mid-field celebrations as the head coach of the national champion LSU Tigers, the world’s most famous Cajun coach was a Razorback.
It all started in 1986, a little while after Orgeron had graduated from Northwestern State in Louisiana. He’d spent a couple seasons after that as a small college GA while moonlighting as a shoveler in the hull of a shrimp boat.
He was in the middle of one of those 5 a.m – 10 p.m. shifts, shovel in hand, when his Arkansas friend Brad Scott gave him a call that would change his life.
“He goes, ‘Hey, man, they have an assistant strength coach job at Arkansas. Do you want it?,’ Orgeron recalled on “60 Minutes.”
“I went, ‘Hold on.’ I took the shrimp shovel — shoomp. I threw it in the bayou. And I said, ‘Hell yeah.’ He said, ‘Okay, man. You gotta be here by Monday.'”
“I said, ‘I got one question for you.’ He said, What?’ I said, ‘Where the hell is Arkansas, man?'”
After dropping out of Louisiana State University, Ed Orgeron transferred to Northwestern State. After graduation, he took volunteer coaching jobs while moonlighting on a shrimp boat. https://t.co/qfA5LpwlzI pic.twitter.com/VzqaO9rES5— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) September 21, 2020
Ed Orgeron In Arkansas
Orgeron picked up on the rest of the story in a 2014 Little Rock Touchdown Club talk. He said he made the 11-hour drive to Fayetteville and arrived in northwest Arkansas the next day.
There, he befriended the Chris and Jay Bequette, part of the Razorback Bequette lineage that extends from George Bequette to Jake Bequette (the son of Jay). “Chris was my roommate, we’re not going to talk more about it, and Jay was a graduate assistant,” Orgeron recalled. “Those guys really helped me out. They’re good friends. They’re great people.”
Orgeron started out in Wilson Sharp dormitory and making $25 every two weeks — “bringing in the big money, man.” He especially remembers discovering white gravy for the first time while ogling the buffet in the Wilson Sharp cafeteria.
On the job, he earned the nickname “Hip Sled Ed” for the equipment he would force the players to push around as punishment on Friday mornings.
“They had this one gentleman that frequented my little session on Friday morning, and his name was Stephen Jones.”
“I can tell the story because we’re good friends — I would be whooping his tail. And the beads of sweat would come out through him. And I was rougher on him than anybody. And someone asked me: ‘Hey, coach. You know who that is?’ I said, ‘Yeah, he’s an outside linebacker named Stephen.”
“He goes, ‘No. That’s Jerry Jones’ son.'”
“I said, ‘Who’s Jerry?'”
It didn’t take long for Orgeron to find out that not only was Jerry Jones the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, but the North Little Rock native had also been a teammate of Hatfield on the 1964 Hogs national championship team. His son, Stephen Jones, is now the CEO of the Cowboys and father of current Razorback John Stephen Jones.
Ed Orgeron, the Ladies’ Man
As you can see in the enormously large ’87 media guide image above (h/t Jim Rasco), Orgeron worked for George Williford, then the head strength and conditioning coach.
One week, Orgeron decided he really wanted to head down with the team to a game in Little Rock. But he was told the team bus that traveled south on Friday didn’t have room for him.
George Williford had an idea. He told Orgeron about a bus that left from campus on Saturday morning instead. Williford had some advice, too: “Now Ed, if I were you, I’d come in and get you a good workout, put on your Razorback coaching gear, get on that bus, get all fired up and have a good trip down there.”
Orgeron followed to a tee.
“I’m putting on my Razorback stuff for the first time. I put my Hog on there, I’m fired up. Big white collared shirt, about touch your ears. I’m going on the bus, right? I walk on the bus. This is what’s on the bus — the cheerleaders, the dance squad and the Razorback belles. Yeah!”
Check out more Arkansas memories from Orgeron below:
For another story on why Jack Crowe didn’t hire Orgeron as a Hogs defensive line coach (despite Frank Broyles wanting him), keep going:
Orgeron stayed two seasons at Arkansas and credits former Arkansas defensive coordinator Fred Goldsmith with helping him hone his craft.
Since Orgeron had played lineman in college, Goldsmith had him impersonate an offensive tackle during defensive drills. “Goldsmith had me play the offensive tackle, veer release, breech, arc, base,” he recalled. “I learned every blocking scheme of the option. I learned Coach Hatfield’s option. What that did was that enabled me to become a defensive coordinator, become a defensive coach, and able to stop the option nowadays which is prominent today in college football.”
Indeed, Orgeron learned defense well enough that he became a GA in 1987 and the next year left for Miami to join former Razorback Jimmy Johnson’s national powerhouse as defensive line coach. A few years into that stint, however, he considered returning to Arkansas.
Jack Crowe, who coached Arkansas 1990-1992, brought Orgeron back to Fayetteville to interview him for the Hogs’ defensive line coach position.
Crowe asked him to explain his defensive philosophy. Orgeron, in turn, opts for the hands-on instruction. “He says, ‘Coach, just line up. Just go ahead and line up. He proceeds to line up over me. He’s spitting as he’s talking to me,’ Crowe recalled in a different Little Rock Touchdown Club meeting.
Then Orgeron started jabbering. “Once he gets really going fast, it’s so Cajun I can’t even understand what the hell he’s saying,” Crowe said.”Then, he gets so fired up he starts sweating. He takes his shirt off. From the top up, he’s naked. Anyway, I put an end to that as quickly as I can.”
Afterward, then Frank Broyles asked Crowe to stop by his office and chat about how it went. “Frank says, ‘I like that guy. I like that guy.’ I say coach, ‘I can’t hear ya.’ He said he’s going to be a great defense line coach. I said, ‘Yeah, he’s going to be a great defense line coach but I can’t manage that maniac.’
So Crowe didn’t hire Orgeron, and “Coach O” never did coach for the Hogs again. But he sure made his time in Fayetteville count while he had it.
For the rest of his story, see this great “60 Minutes” interview: