Scooter Hobbs column: Kelly finds his voice

Published 11:06 am Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Brian Kelly is making progress at LSU.

It only took the Tigers’ new head football coach eight months to lose the “Louisiana accent.”

Maybe that early failed attempt at “fitting in” with his strange new neighbors, which was widely ridiculed after he attempted some awkwardly mangled Southern dialect during an introduction at an LSU basketball game, taught him a lesson.

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Hey, we all make mistakes. Lesson learned.

But Monday when Kelly kicked off the latest SEC Media Days, his first appearance at the gala, it was probably a lot clearer what LSU is getting in its latest head coach.

If it wasn’t in focus already, well …

Ed Orgeron doesn’t live here anymore. Neither does Les Miles.

So you didn’t have the SEC’s stenographers sweating furiously to translate Coach O from his coarse Cajun into legible English. Missing too, were the Mad Hatter’s disjointed summaries of a recent Miles Family Vacation, complete with the misadventures and hijinks therein.

High entertainment, it usually was. Both were generally much anticipated side shows at SEC Media Days.

Both styles also won national championships for the Tigers, with general agreement that their quirky personalities fit perfectly in a Bayou State (and perhaps nowhere else) full of fun-loving football lunatics.

But, as much fun as it could be, neither business model turned out to be sustainable.

So, Kelly was carted out front and center in Atlanta Monday as the latest new plan for LSU football.

First impressions?

There’s a full-grown adult in charge now, a proven winner at Notre Dame and far more challenging programs, with a business-like approach long on fundamentals and perhaps a little lacking in “what in the world will he do next?” entertainment value.

It’s an interesting concept for LSU.

Still, Kelly’s first grilling from the SEC’s media tribunal seemed to focus a whole lot on how this foreigner — you’d have thought he was from Mars — would “fit in” with Louisiana’s nuttiness and the SEC’s fanaticism.

He would not, for instance, take the bait when a Monday questioner asked him to affect  his new-found Louisiana accent to comment on which of Louisiana culinary oddities had most caught his fancy.

“I’ve got a Boston, Midwestern and now Louisiana accent now,” he said. “So it’s three dialects in one.”

Two out of three, maybe, But at least it no longer involves “FAM-uh-LEE.”

Still, it may take a while to live the faux accent down. The SEC Network even trolled him during his podium time, identifying him as “Southern Accent Expert.”

But while he didn’t come out and say it, when it comes to fitting in at LSU, the SEC or most anywhere else, there’s a universally accepted language.

It’s called winning. In LSU’s case, winning big. Preferably consistently.

Accent is optional, multiple choice.

His way evidently will be short on song-and-dance, but long on fundamentals to take advantage of the state’s available talent (a major reason, he said, he was willing to leave a perfectly good job at Notre Dame) to butt heads with the likes of Alabama and Georgia.

It will likely be a no-nonsense approach.

For some reason, I thought one comment was telling about what his style will be – he was asked how he goes about gaining the trust of his new players.

“I think trust is a two-way street,” he said. “They’re earning my trust, too. I think it works both ways.”

It sounds like a guy not willing to cut corners nor curry favor from underlings just to be accepted.

Do that, and he should fit in just fine.

“I don’t think that needs to be geographical in a sense,” Kelly said of the pressing problem that everybody but him seems obsessed with.

“I’ve gotten to love where I’m at in Baton Rouge. I love the people. They love football. They love family. They love food. That fits me really well.”

Oh, and by way, he did weigh in —with no fake accent — on his favorite Louisiana delicacies thus far.

No. 1 would be crawfish etouffee, followed closely by char-broiled oysters.

“Try that,” he said. “That will get your cholesterol level up high pretty quickly.

“I guess I should have been in the South all along.”

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at