Jim Gazzolo column: Right place, right time for Orgeron

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, November 18, 2021

Cody Orgeron is not the best quarterback to ever play at McNeese State.

He doesn’t have the biggest arm.

He doesn’t have the fastest feet.

He doesn’t have the best of touch.

Yet it can be argued that Orgeron is the most important quarterback in the program’s history. Certainly in recent of history.

That’s not because of his numbers, which do appear often among the school’s leaders. Nope, it’s because of one simple fact: he has come to work every day for six years.

Orgeron was here when he didn’t have a scholarship and was sixth on the depth chart.

He was here when the football program went on NCAA playoff suspension for academic reasons.

He was here through three head coaches, three offenses, two hurricanes and a pandemic.

And he was here, taking a beating, when his offensive line was patched together with tape and bandages.

On Saturday, Orgeron’s career will come to a close in the season finale against Northwestern State. While he won’t be taking a victory lap, he deserves a badge of honor. A lifetime achievement award of overcoming adversity.

“It has been a roller coaster of emotions,” Orgeron said. “Putting that jersey on for one last time, I don’t know how easy it will be to take it off. I want to make the most of it and remember it all.”

By the time the Cowboys are back to playing night games, when the crowds return, the fields are fixed and playoff games are again expected along with conference championships, Orgeron will be a footnote in the media guide.

But those who have watched for the past half decade plus will remember. For them the Cody Orgeron era will be impossible to forget.

“Cody brought stability not just to our program but to our university and our community,” said McNeese President Dr. Daryl Burckel. “His commitment to our program and our university never wavered. He represents everything that is good about our university and what type of people we want representing it.”

He also became the face of the football program. Part of that is the name, his father Ed was among the most notable of personalities in the state when it comes to college football. As the head coach of LSU, the spotlight in Louisiana was always on the family.

That has been a blessing and a curse, most likely, considering the same name that opens doors also can lead to lofty expectations and tougher critiques. Yet Orgeron has stood tall though all the ups and downs, never failing to answer the bell or the questions.

“Cody has been the most constant, most stable person in this program,” said McNeese head coach Frank Wilson. “That’s not just on the field. He has been out in the community, being a major part of this post-hurricane rebuild.”

When things were at their toughest he found his best.

In the spring, during a three-game losing streak, Orgeron and the rest of the Cowboys were struggling.

When talk of a quarterback change began, Orgeron responded with the best three-game streak of his career and said he “never listens to outside noise.”

Maybe that’s why, when transfers were a common as wearing a mask the last 10 months, Orgeron never considered moving on.

“That never crossed my mind,” he said of the idea of transferring. “Lake Charles became my home. This was my team and my school. I would never have wanted to play anywhere else.”

When pressed on what his staying says, Orgeron responded; “I think me staying proves how much this community means to me.”

How much he has meant to the community is hard to gauge.

Since taking over the starting job on Oct. 27, 2018, and leading the Cowboys to a 23-21 comeback victory over No. 13 Central Arkansas, he has been the glue to a program in turmoil.

No program has come close to going through what McNeese has. Yet their tennis-playing quarterback has been the stern captain guiding them through rough waters.

And keeping the Cowboys afloat has not been easy.

Orgeron will leave McNeese having never played in a playoff game, never winning a conference championship and having posted a 13-18 record since that night against Central Arkansas heading into the finale.

“There was a lot we all went through but I believe there is a reason for everything that happens,” Orgeron said. “And maybe there was a reason for me being here. I would like to think so.”

Timing is everything and maybe Orgeron’s time at McNeese wasn’t the greatest after all.

But for the Cowboys’ future and what we all had to go through it may have been the most important of all.

It’s why he won’t go down as the best Mc-Neese quarterback every, just perhaps the most important.

Jim Gazzolo is a freelance writer who covers McNeese State athletics for the American Press. Email him at jimgazzolo@yahoo.com