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Louisiana pride evident as fans flock to Ed Orgeron's first LSU radio show

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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Listen to Ed Orgeron speak for a few sentences, and it will become crystal clear where he's from. Everything about the man screams Louisiana, which is part of the reason fans crammed into a Baton Rouge barbecue restaurant Wednesday to watch Orgeron handle his first call-in show as LSU's interim football coach.

He literally speaks their language. When local attorney Kent DeJean started the Q&A portion of the show by asking Orgeron in Cajun French, "Comment ça va?" ("How are you?") Orgeron naturally knew to respond, "Ça va bien." ("It's going well.")

Nothing against Les Miles, whom Orgeron replaced Sunday. Miles was an extremely popular coach in his own right, but "Coach O" has something Miles could never have. His deep roots in this unique part of the world mean something special to the prideful people of South Louisiana.

Having one of their own leading the football program at the state's flagship university? It would be an understatement to say that's cause for excitement.

"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," DeJean, who goes by the nickname "Evil Twin" when he calls in each week, cracked to Orgeron during the show, drawing a round of laughter from the crowd.

"This is the first place that I've coached that they don't think I have an accent," Orgeron replied in his gravelly Cajun drawl.

For years, fans clamored for Miles to add Orgeron to his staff, and Miles finally gave them what they wanted in 2015 when he named Orgeron defensive line coach. Orgeron added recruiting coordinator to his responsibilities upon Frank Wilson's departure earlier this year and helped the Tigers reel in the No. 3 recruiting class in ESPN's team rankings.

And when athletic director Joe Alleva opted over the weekend to fire Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron after the Tigers' disappointing 2-2 start, Orgeron was the natural choice to take over as interim coach.

For starters, he has done this before, having served as a head coach in the SEC for three years at Ole Miss and as interim coach at USC in 2013, when he led the Trojans to a 6-2 mark after Lane Kiffin was fired. And it certainly didn't hurt that Orgeron is enormously popular among fans in the region.

This is his home and theirs, after all.

When a caller Wednesday offered Orgeron some crawfish étouffée next time he visits Lafayette, Orgeron said he would be happy to accept, adding that he eats the stuff for breakfast.

"If you look up Louisiana native, he's probably the example there, because he is," said Chris Blair, LSU's radio play-by-play announcer and Orgeron's co-host on the call-in show. "All the time when you hear jobs are open, people say, "This guy wins. This guy has success. Can he assimilate into the culture? Does he understand what it's like to be there every day, not just on game day?' It's obvious that the fans understand he's their guy. He's one of them. In this day and age, how many schools can you say that?"

Not many, and never before with a Cajun at LSU.

Orgeron is already well aware of that unique place in LSU football history.

"It makes me proud," Orgeron said. "It's something I've always wanted to do here. I'm 55 years old, I'm ready to do this job, ready to represent the state of Louisiana."

Orgeron has been the Tigers' coach for only a few days, but he realizes Wednesday's excitement will quickly disappear if Missouri hands him a loss Saturday in his first game at the helm.

He hopes to fare well enough as Miles’ replacement to earn the job long term, but he needs to do more than kiss babies, speak French and sign autographs at his radio show to have the interim tag lifted. Orgeron's Cajun heritage is unquestionably a point in his favor, but the on-field product will be the deciding factor.

"All that [novelty is] going to go away when I walk into Tiger Stadium," Orgeron said. "We've got to produce, and we've got to win, and I fully understand that."