National champion LSU visits the White House

Giving newly-crowned national champion LSU effuse praise and his congratulations punctuated by a “Go Tigers!”, President Donald Trump hosted head coach Ed Orgeron and the Tigers in a ceremonial visit to the White House on Friday.

LSU became the second college football team in more than 100 years to finish 15-0 when it beat defending national champ Clemson 42-25 in the College Football Playoff championship game Monday night in New Orleans.

“With a great coach, an outstanding quarterback, a tired team filled with heart and skill and hope and courage and passion and strength and unbreakable will to win,” Trump said, “this LSU team will long be remembered as one of the greatest in college football history.”

Trump particularly commended Louisiana native Orgeron and LSU’s Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Joe Burrow.

“To me, if I was casting a movie, that’s my football coach, Trump said of Orgeron. “Nobody in Hollywood that can play the role better than this guy.

“Ed Orgeron did not let Louisiana down in anyway. Today, Coach O, as they call him, may be the most beloved coach anywhere in the land.

“Coach Orgeron said after the (Clemson) game that `God had a plan, all I did was follow the plan.’ Fact is, God had a great, great coach here.”

Trump made Orgeron and everyone in attendance laugh with his opening remark about Orgeron.

“I didn’t know if he had laryngitis or if that was his real voice,” Trump said. “I think it was a combination of both. Whatever it was, it worked. You (Orgeron) did a job few people will ever be able to do again.”

Orgeron, as always, gave all the credit to his staff and team.

“One team, one heartbeat,” Orgeron said citing his team’s mantra. “This is about the men behind me and the men in front of me. You guys set out with a plan last January 17 that you were going to win the national championship. You never talked about it. You went about it through hard work, dedication.”

Trump mentioned Burrow’s accomplishments on and off the field.

“He set an NCAA record of 60 touchdowns (passes). . .60. . .I’ve never even heard of that in a single season, averaging a touchdown every quarter,” Trump said, “and he won the Heisman Trophy by the largest margin in the history of the Heisman Trophy.

“He dedicated it to the kids in his beloved hometown of Athens, Ohio. Within weeks, Joe’s speech raised over a half million dollars for the Athens County Food Bank.

“Thank you, Joe. I want to say on behalf of our country, you make our country very, very proud. You’re an inspirational talent, an inspirational player, an inspirational person, you have a heart that’s incredible. The team respects you so much.”

Burrow said it was an honor to be at the White House.

“Thank you for having us so soon after the game so the seniors could be here,” Burrow told Trump. “It means a lot to us. This truly is a moment we’ll never forget. It was a great season, and this is a great way to cap it off.”

Trump singled out offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, whose daughter-in-law Carley McCord was killed in a plane crash just hours before LSU’s CFP semifinal win over Oklahoma.

Ensminger called one of the best games of his long career in the Tigers’ record-setting victory.

“A tragedy and yet so incredible the way you handled it,” said Trump, who walked over and gave Ensminger a hug and heartfelt words. “The Coach (Oregron) said you never wavered. . .very inspirational Steve.”

Trump pointed out the toughness of LSU’s schedule in which the Tigers beat seven Top 10 teams, including Clemson and Alabama who had accounted for the last four national titles.

“I had no idea how brutal (the schedule was) until I looked at these numbers,” Trump said. “But your explosive offense pushed every team to its breaking point.

“For the first time since the legendary coach Paul Dietzel, a name we all know, and the Fighting Tigers of 1958, LSU had a perfect undefeated season. So rare.”

Trump reviewed part of LSU’s season, pointing out the Tigers’ wins over Auburn, at Alabama and the playoff wins over Oklahoma and Clemson.

Trump noted the individual record-setting performances of receivers Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase in the Tigers’ CFP wins over Oklahoma and Clemson respectively, Burrow’s season and cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. for his fumble recovery that killed Clemson’s final drive.

“You guys are going to make so much money (in the NFL),” Trump told Jefferson and Chase, “and I don’t think your quarterback going to do too badly. You’re (Burrow) going to be so rich.”

Burrow and Jefferson are projected as first round picks with Burrow as the possible first player chosen. Chase, who just completed his sophomore year, isn’t eligible to enter the draft until after his 2020 LSU season as a junior.

When Trump asked Chase to say a few words, Chase stepped to the microphone and said, “How y’all doing? I’m just happy to be in the White House, to be honest.”

At the conclusion of the 25-minute ceremony before Trump extended an open invitation to the Tigers’ team and traveling party for a photo op behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office, Burrow presented Trump, the 45th U.S. President, with a LSU traditional white home jersey with a number 45 and his name on the back.

“I thought he was going to give me the Heisman Trophy,” Trump joked.

The visit to the White House started LSU’s celebratory weekend.

Saturday, there’s the national championship parade on the LSU campus. Weather permitting, it starts at 11 a.m. at LSU’s School of Music, which is located on the north side of campus on Dalrymple Drive.

It culminates at noon inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. In the event of severe weather, the parade will be cancelled, but the celebration will still take place at noon inside the PMAC.

The parade will include all members of LSU’s team as well as the Golden Band from Tigerland, the LSU cheerleaders and former LSU football players and dignitaries.

The celebration inside the PMAC will include the presentation of the national championship trophy by College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock, along with remarks from Governor John Bel Edwards, Mayor Sharron Weston Broome, Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey, Interim LSU President Tom Galligan and Board of Supervisors Chair Mary Werner.

Orgeron will address the crowd along with Burrow and other team captains.

Seating inside the PMAC is general admission and is free. Fans will enter through the two ramps on the south side of the PMAC. Floor seating will be reserved for guests of LSU football and the university.

Fans are encouraged to tailgate along the parade route. Campus will open for tailgating at 8 a.m. on Saturday.

Doors to the PMAC open at 9:30 a.m. when Parish County Line will begin performing outside. Food and beverages will be available for purchase both inside and outside the arena.

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Ron Higgins

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