#ItMightMeanTooMuch: Papa Orgeron denies the ultimate in-home recruiting visit, Mizzou fans bike to Athens
For some, the idea of crossing state lines is an exciting, wild adventure into the great unknown. Some jump at the chance to see something new and enhance their world view.
For others, the idea of crossing state lines is simply an open-and-shut issue. They’d rather stay local than venture outside their comfort zone.
The two stories in this week’s #ItMightMeanTooMuch show those differing perspectives, but both were decisions made in the name of SEC football.
Let’s start with the guy who will have all eyes on him Saturday afternoon — Ed Orgeron. He has become as LSU as it gets. Orgeron was born and raised in Louisiana, and once upon a time, he started his college football career at LSU (he transferred to Northwestern State after his first season).
But what happened when Paul “Bear” Bryant wanted to come pay a young Orgeron a visit to try to bring him to Alabama? As we found out this week, Papa Orgeron stepped in and delivered the bad news to the legendary coach.
“Bear was going to come to my house. My daddy said, ‘Nope,’” the LSU coach said with a laugh.
“That’s the way it should be. I wish it was like that today.”
The legendary Bear Bryant was once set to visit Ed Orgeron’s home, but Daddy Orgeron was having none of it. pic.twitter.com/FUPzbVvP3M
— Jacques Doucet (@JacquesDoucet) November 4, 2019
On the surface, that might not sound that crazy. Plenty of recruits turn down interest from elite coaches when they have their minds made up.
But picture being a high school kid in 1979. Bear won his fifth national championship in 1978, and he’d go on to win his sixth and final title in 1979. He dominated the SEC all decade and was universally considered a living legend. That guy calls your house and says he wants to come to small-town Louisiana to see you and talk to you about playing for him.
Bo Jackson once said that when Bear called him, he had all the people in the neighborhood come to his house and look at the phone. Why? Simply because Bear was once on the other end of that phone. For a recruit back in those days, getting a phone call from Bear was the closest thing to talking to God.
Now imagine telling the college football version of God, “Nah, we’re good. Don’t come by.”
I’m not sure if Orgeron’s dad dealt with telemarketers the same way, but it wouldn’t surprise me. The only thing that would’ve made this better is if we knew that Bryant actually showed up at Orgeron’s house and was given the same treatment as a door-to-door knife salesman.
It didn’t ultimately matter for Bear, who beat LSU on an annual basis. He continued Alabama’s 11-year winning streak against the Tigers, which is still the longest in the history of a rivalry that began in 1895.
Who knows if Orgeron’s path back to Baton Rouge would’ve changed had his dad allowed the Bear to set foot in their Larose, La. home.
Go figure that 40 years later Orgeron has a chance to deny Nick Saban a path to what would be his seventh national championship … which, if he got it, would pass Bear for good.
Biking in the name of football
It’s one thing to take a cross-country road trip. Long hours in the car takes energy, patience and a sense of wonder that not everyone has.
But it’s a totally different ballgame to take a cross-country biking trip. That takes a different kind of energy, patience and wonder.
For Alan Marrs and Buck Brooks, that was the endeavor that they began four weeks ago.
I became aware of this story when I saw this tweet about a couple of Mizzou fans who arrived in Athens for this weekend’s game against Georgia … via bikes:
They made it pic.twitter.com/2IL6l8Udwv
— Gabe DeArmond (@GabeDeArmond) November 6, 2019
As I learned from this story by Rivals Mizzou writer Gabe DeArmond, there’s much more to it.
(You should totally read the full story. I’m gonna link it again here because it’s that good.)
Marrs and Brooks, both Mizzou fans, mapped this plan out last spring. The idea to bike to a road game was something Marrs always wanted to do, and now that he was retired, he had the time to make that a reality.
But with the way Mizzou’s schedule set up, the guys set out to make it worth their while. They essentially followed the team for its month-long stretch of road games.
The bucket list ride began by going to Mizzou’s homecoming game against Ole Miss on Oct. 12. After that game, they biked at night to Brooks’ house in Jefferson City, Mo. They then biked to Nashville for the game against Vanderbilt the following week (roughly a 480-mile ride), and Lexington was the destination the following Saturday for the game against Kentucky (roughly a 250-mile ride). With a bye week in between the Kentucky and Georgia games, they had two weeks to bike from Lexington to Athens.
Obviously they stopped and ate meals, checked out tourist destinations and stayed at hotels. They took days off, but after their 80-mile average to get to Nashville, they averaged 40 miles a day for the remainder of their trip. Their buddy, Bruce Bielby, drove a support vehicle and was at the ready with water, Gatorade, extra clothes and whatnot.
So why do it? Well, both of them are Mizzou fans, and for Brooks, the Vandy trip was his first Mizzou road game. Even better, they’re raising money for Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Columbia.
Mizzou players and Barry Odom got wind of the trip, calling it “a selfless act” and “crazy.”
(That’s crazy in a good way.)
They’re right. It’s quite the journey to make in a car, much less on a bike. Hundreds and hundreds of miles racked up across the Southeast will commence in Athens with Mizzou’s final leg of this three-game road stretch.
The only negative that has come of this? Well, Tigers fans know it all too well.
Mizzou has been a train wreck in these road games. Losses to Vandy and Kentucky spiraled a season that once had the Tigers in the AP Top 25. Mizzou is a three-score underdog against No. 6 Georgia, which would clinch the SEC East this weekend with a win and a Florida loss.
But who knows? Crazier things have happened. Shoot, crazier things have happened inside Sanford Stadium alone this year.
Perhaps the ride of a lifetime will conclude with the ultimate exclamation point.