By Alex Maminakis
NEW ORLEANS — This year’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game features two unbeaten powerhouse teams, each led by very personable head coaches, both beloved by their respective fan bases.
There’s a reason both Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and LSU coach Ed Orgeron are so popular and, perhaps, so successful — it’s clear the two coaches have always stayed true to themselves. What you see is what you get.
That was evident again on Sunday morning in New Orleans as the two head coaches met for one final joint news conference ahead of Monday night’s national championship game (8 p.m., ESPN).
“I just think you have to be genuine and be transparent,” Swinney said. “If you just speak the truth, you don’t have to remember what you say, and speak from the heart. And sometimes people don’t like that, but at least you know it’s the truth to you, so that’s all that matters.
“Somebody asked me a question yesterday, and they were talking about coach O and myself, about I guess how we handle ourselves or something, and I just — I don’t know how to be somebody else. All I know how to do is be myself.”
Swinney’s genuine personality has been evident since he took over as Clemson’s coach in 2009, and it’s resonated with his players and coaching staff ever since, too.
Orgeron, of course, isn’t lacking personality either, as the coach with the low, rumbling voice has embraced he and his team’s spotlight this season in the midst of a stellar 14-0 championship run.
Orgeron is a native son of Louisiana and of Cajun descent, and although he said he knows his voice and strong accent get plenty of attention, he’s proud of his family’s history and very proud to be the coach of his home-state’s football team.
“You know, being Cajun, I’m very proud of being Cajun,” Orgeron said Sunday. “My grandparents didn’t speak English, and my mother and father spoke Cajun French at the table, and then when they wanted to talk about me they spoke Cajun French, so I learned Cajun French. So I’m excited to be at LSU, at home, where we’re proud of our Cajun heritage. We’re proud to be from Louisiana. I just feel at home here. People that made fun of my accent before, I thank them. That gave me internal motivation to do better, so I thank them to be motivators of my career.”
Swinney joked he’s told people that he’s Cajun, too, when people have asked where the name ‘Dabo’ comes from.
“Sometimes you meet people along the way and they’d say, ‘Where do you get a name like Dabo?’” he said. “So sometimes I just didn’t want to tell, so I’d say, ‘Well, I’m Cajun — D-A-B-E-A-U-X, Dabeaux, and I just go about my business.”
Both coaches are easy to root for — humble and honest men who have worked hard for years to get where they are today in their respective careers. Their personalities only make it even easier.
Only one will take home the national championship on Monday night as the two teams of Tigers battle it out at the Superdome, but regardless of what happens in the game, the two coaches have a lot of mutual respect for one another and will surely provide for an entertaining game as their teams go back and forth.
“Just being genuine in everything that you do, and man, that’s what I love about coach O, and have for a long time, not just since he’s been at LSU,” Swinney said. “He’s one of the most genuine, passionate people that you see in this business, and it resonates with his players. That’s why he’s been so successful.”
“I think he’s a model of other coaches that have been interim coaches and had success,” Orgeron added of Swinney. “He’s a friend of mine. I have a lot of respect for him, a lot of respect for his football team.”
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By Alex Maminakis