Forty years ago, Steve Ensminger liked motivating teammates.
“I run around a lot, congratulate linemen and others for good play,” said Ensminger at the start of his senior season in 1979 as an LSU quarterback in Tigers’ coach Charles McClendon’s two-QB system.
Ed Orgeron was a 6-2, 245-pound LSU football signee who left after two weeks because he preferred playing defense and the coaching staff wanted him to be a center.
“I made it all the way to media day,” Orgeron said. “They gave me jersey No. 54, which is the only day in my life I wore No. 54.”
D-D Breaux was LSU’s second-year women’s gymnastics coach trying to build a sport in football country.
“We were fighting, scratching and scraping and worrying about the quality of our events,” Breaux said. “We wondered if people who went to a meet would come back.”
Tiger Rag was in the second year of existence with a publisher, editor and a staff writer named Ron Higgins.
Now, hop in the time machine and fast forward to the present.
Baton Rouge native Ensminger, 61, is LSU’s offensive coordinator dialing up plays for Heisman Trophy frontrunning quarterback Joe Burrow, who fires up his team by taking hits and bouncing up like it was nothing.
Larose native Orgeron, 58, is the head coach of the No. 1 ranked and unbeaten Tigers through eight games. After being fired in his first head coaching job at Ole Miss in 2007, he’s in the midst of writing one of college football’s most memorable comeback stories.
Donaldsonville native Breaux, 66, is starting her 42nd season leading her powerhouse program that is annually considered a national championship contender. Still motivated and enthusiastic, she is the longest tenured coach in any sport in SEC history.
And that Tiger Rag staff writer Ron Higgins, now 63?
After eight jobs in three states, he finally got enough experience to be promoted to editor of Tiger Rag.
Yes, there’s no doubt what goes around comes around. It just takes longer for some folks.
In all seriousness, which is not one of my strong suits, it is an honor to be named the new editor of Tiger Rag, which is now a multi-media enterprise thanks to the business savvy of owner Jim Engster.
Jim, like myself, is a graduate of the LSU journalism school.
I graduated a year or two earlier than him, which might be another reason he hired me. He likes the fact he’s no longer the oldest guy in the room. Now, I’m the one who recalls attending the first LSU football tailgates involving horses and covered wagons.
To some readers – excuse me while I borrow from The Beatles – “the act you’ve known all these years.”
For the rest of you, I’m Baton Rouge born and raised, a 1974 graduate of Baton Rouge High, a 1977 graduate of Angelina Jr. College in Lufkin, Texas where I played basketball and a 1979 graduate of LSU where I worked as a student assistant in the sports information office.
I’m a son of the late Ace Higgins, who was LSU’s sports information director from 1954 to 1968. It gave me a ringside seat to every LSU sport and afforded me a historical perspective that I’ve put to good use in my career.
When my dad worked in his Tiger Stadium office on Sundays after Saturday football games, my older brother Johnny (still a season ticket holder and devout tailgate host) and I would kill three hours in the same way each weekend.
First, we’d kick field goals through the goalposts, careful not to land the ball on the freshly washed LSU game jerseys that were laid across the top of the end zone hedges to dry.
Then, we’d walk the stands. This is where I learned Jack Daniels and Jim Beam were close companions of many Tigers’ fans.
Finally, we’d find a golf cart that still had a key in it, race up and down ramps until we found a concession stand that had its Coke dispenser turned on. Then, we drank Coke until we were almost sick.
Dad died at age 45 of a heart attack when I was 12. But he had already left me his love of sports writing, which I have been fortunate to do since I was 14 when Ted Castillo of the then-Baton Rouge Morning Advocate sent me out to cover high school football games.
Since then, it has been a heckuva ride. I’ve covered every major sporting event imaginable, from the Olympics to Super Bowls to college football national championship games to NBA Finals to Final Fours.
Many people have advanced my career, such as Castillo, Mike McKenzie, Cassy Burleson, Paul Manasseh, the original Tiger Rag Steves (Myers and Townsend), Gerry Robichaux, Nico Van Thyn, Butch Muir, John Stamm, Marvin West, Steve Ehrhart, Stan Tiner, John Adams, Jimmy Hyams, Tommy Hicks, Joe Biddle, Pete Cordelli, Herb Vincent, Mike Slive, Steve Richardson, Jim Kleinpeter and Jimmy Smith.
Now, I have the great fortune to circle back to where it all started for me. It couldn’t come at a better time because LSU athletics are on fire.
Orgeron, through smart staff hires, tireless recruiting and his unabashed love for his homestate Ti-gahs, is building a perennial SEC and national championship challenger. Will Wade is doing the same in men’s basketball. Paul Mainieri, as good a coach and human being as I’ve ever met in college athletics, is in his 14th year of having the baseball Tigers annually in the College World Series hunt. D-D Breaux is still fighting the good fight chasing that elusive national title in women’s gymnastics.
Plus, new LSU athletic director Scott Woodward, a Baton Rouge native, who found his way home like me after building an impressive resume at Washington and Texas A&M, has the entire athletic program poised for greatness.
So much excitement awaits, so many good stories to tell.
Tiger Rag has told them all for 42 years and we’re not stopping anytime soon.
One more thing. Jim Engster, can you give me a key to the office? The one I kept from 1979 doesn’t seem to fit.