Little Rock Touchdown Club Ed Orgeron Part 4

Little Rock Touchdown Club Ed Orgeron

Published on Sep 29, 2014

Ed Orgeron speaks to the Little Rock Touchdown Club.


Coach O did a great job speaking at our luncheon on Monday.

Former USC, Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron enjoys being with family after years on the road

Ed Orgeron, center, is happy to be back home with his family (Cody front left, wife Kelly front right, Tyler back left and Parker back right) on a consistent basis after the grind of coaching football. (Photo courtesy the Orgeron family)
By Pat Mashburn, | The Times-Picayune
on June 15, 2014 8 a.m.

For those who are gritty enough to last more than 20 years in the football coaching profession with their sanity intact many likely will tell you it would not have been possible without family.

Yet, on one Saturday evening during the 2013 college football season Ed Orgeron was celebrating a triumphant moment in his career – without his family.

Orgeron has endured the rigors of the profession, experiencing it all, including being part of three national championship coaching staffs, and twice a college head coach. Most recently, he took over as interim head coach at USC after Lane Kiffin was let go three games into the 2013 season. Orgeron guided the Trojans to seven victories in nine games, including a 20-17 upset of fourth-ranked Stanford on national television.

As Orgeron reveled in the moment after the win over Stanford, perched high atop the ladder with a sword in his hand, leading the Trojan marching band in a postgame celebration, there was something missing – his family.

Orgeron leads the USC band after a 20-17 upset of fourth-ranked Stanford.(file photo)

His wife Kelly, and sons Tyler, Parker and Cody were back in Louisiana cheering him on. It was a bittersweet moment.

“When they weren’t at the games, it was a very empty feeling,” Orgeron said. “Going into the stadium, I always wanted them to be at the games. So, when they weren’t there, it was lonely.”

Despite Orgeron’s success, USC and athletic director Pat Haden opted to go in a different direction when the 2013 season concluded and hired another former USC assistant, then-Washington head coach Steve Sarkasian to lead the football program.

It may not have been a fairy tale-type ending for Orgeron at USC – a place he liked enough to join the staff twice in his career – but the silver lining seems to be a family-tale ending Orgeron desired.

Orgeron, a Louisiana native, is back with his family. He’ll still be off to the side watching football during the 2014 season, only it will be his son’s games.

The Grind

The consistencies of Orgeron’s coaching career have been his job mobility, success and USC.

Orgeron’s career began in 1981 with a three-year stint at Northwestern State as a graduate assistant-defensive line coach before shifting over to McNeese State. Before joining the USC staff for the first time in 1998, Orgeron had assistant coaching stops at Arkansas, Miami (Fla.), Nicholls State and Syracuse.

While at USC working under Pete Carroll, Orgeron was part of back-to-back national championship teams that featured Reggie Bush and Matt Leinhart.

Orgeron, who also was a standout recruiter for USC, took over the Ole Miss program in 2005 and coached the Rebels for three seasons. He and the family then moved back to Louisiana, where he took a position as defensive line coach with the Saints under Sean Payton. After one season with the Saints (2008), Lane Kiffin brought Orgeron with him to Tennessee, where they spent a year, before Kiffin headed back to take over the reins at USC and brought Orgeron with him again.

Ed Orgeron coached the Saints defensive line in 2008.( | The Times-Picayune file photo)

While coaching is by its nature a transient profession, the family decision was made to remain in one place when Kiffin was hired as the head coach at Tennessee. The family went into it with eyes wide open.

“Initially when we made the decision to live apart and keep the boys here in this community, we had the mindset that we were going to make this work,” Kelly said. “Each one of us made our own sacrifices and pulled our own load. It was hard at times, because especially, teenage boys need their father.”

As Orgeron thrived in his career the past several years, behind the scenes he battled inner conflict. He lived in hotel rooms while his family was miles away in another state. There were dinners alone many times, and the empty silence of a room at night. The career that brought the passion and fire of competition was balanced by the constant push and pull of the love and desire to be with family.


During the 2013 season, Kelly surprised Ed on October 19 in South Bend, Ind. at the USC game against Notre Dame, his second game as interim head coach. His sons were at the final game of the regular season, a 35-14 loss in the Coliseum to crosstown rival UCLA. Kelly stayed behind for an extra day while the boys flew back to Louisiana.

“That Sunday morning when we put Tyler, Cody, and Parker on the plane, I told Kelly that whatever happens, I don’t want those boys on the plane by themselves. I want our family back together. That’s enough separation.”

When USC made its decision about the future of its football program and it didn’t include Orgeron, the die was cast. Another major life transition was set in motion and it gave Orgeron and his family a much-needed break and an opportunity to evaluate their next move.

“I wanted us to regroup as a family and just take some time,” Orgeron said. “To spend five years in a hotel while at Tennessee and USC, it’s tough. You’re looking basically at 27 years of coaching, waking up at 5 a.m. and coming home at about 11 p.m.”

Back home

In what seems like a very short time in the few months since leaving USC, Orgeron’s days have not gotten any shorter, but he wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s also opened his eyes to what he wasn’t able to see while in California.

“By me being home for six months, it’s amazing the job Kelly did by herself,” he said. “Just thinking about everything that goes on on a daily basis, this is work, and the boys did a good job of listening to their mother. She played the role of mother and father, doing a tremendous job. No many women could do what she did. No way. She never complained, not one time.”

Things have definitely changed.

One of the more difficult parts in the past was the end of the summer, when Orgeron would leave his family and get back on a plane to go back to Knoxville or Los Angeles. Once he got back to football season, Orgeron and his family would get back into their separate daily routines.

Now the routines are aligned.

In the past, when college football season concluded, Orgeron got to see most of Cody’s tennis season at Mandeville High, because it was in the spring. That wasn’t the case when it came to seeing Cody’s twin brother Parker play football for the Skippers because that conflicted with college football season.

The longest the family went without seeing each other was two to three months, but texting, SKYPEing, and phone calls filled part of the void of being apart.

Now, that void no longer exists.

“He’ll help me stretch before a match,” Cody said, “but, he won’t coach me. He’ll just sit back and watch me play. It’s great just to have him there.”

Orgeron’s eldest son, Tyler, is well on his way to following in his father’s footsteps, currently serving as student assistant for player personnel and in the same capacity coaching receivers at LSU. Being the oldest, there were heavy expectations, and he delivered.

“Tyler was a great big brother to Cody and Parker when they were growing up,” Orgeron said. “He rose to the occasion, and I’m so proud of him.”

Being around the football culture growing up, it seemed only natural that he go in that direction, and didn’t need any nudging from his dad.

As much as he’d learned in his life, there is nothing like having his dad home again.

“Now, I have somebody to work out with,” Tyler said. “He’s got that old man strength and he whipped me into shape when we went across the street and did the rope wars. We’ve really missed him and we know he’s missed us.”

There is only a short time before football season starts, and this year, for the first time, he’ll get to see all of Parker’s games. Then, as the college season develops, there will be jobs that come open. As far as the future is concerned, there’s no need to rush.

“I think we’re in a good position because we’re about to see what jobs come open,” Orgeron said. “If there is interest in me becoming a head coach, that’s obviously an advantage. I’m not opposed to going back to college and being a defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator, and I’m not opposed to going to the NFL. I’m young (53) and I think things will work out for a reason.”

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