Remarks by President Trump Welcoming 2019 College Football National Champions: Louisiana State University Tigers

East Room

11:05 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Well, this is an exciting day in the White House. We have very exciting days — more than most Presidents, I would say, times 10. (Laughter.) We like to keep it that way. The coach likes to keep it that way. But we really do. We just had a — I was just telling the coach; I said, “I know I just made some additional money. We just had another all-time high for our stock market. Just hit.” So that will be 149 times in less than three years. That’s not bad. Coach, that’s good, right? (Applause.)

COACH ORGERON: It is.

THE PRESIDENT: Steve, that’s good. We’ll take that, Coach. Right?

COACH ORGERON: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: But today, it’s about the coach and the team and that unbelievable quarterback, unbelievable players.

It’s really my great privilege to welcome to the White House the College Football National Champions: the Louisiana State University Tigers. (Applause.)

And, Coach, we have a lot of politicians out there. So many I won’t really mention all of them. Well, there’s one I have to. Hello, Bill — your senator. But we have a lot of great politicians out here and some football players. The politicians — I have — I really respect the football players a lot more — (laughter) — to be honest.

We’re joined by many loyal fans of the purple and gold, including Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, who just did our great deal. Where’s Robert? Just did our great two deals. We just made the two largest trade deals in history: one with China and the other one with Mexico, Canada. (Applause.) And with China, we’ll be taking in $250 billion a year. And with Mexico, Canada, we’ll be taking in hundreds of billions of dollars a year, Bill. So that’s pretty good, right? And it makes our country stronger and better.

And you did a fantastic job. You could almost stand up here. Mentally, you could; physically, I don’t think you have what it takes, if I must be honest. (Laughter.)

And again, Senator Bill Cassidy. Bill, you’ve been a tremendous supporter of the team and your state. And we appreciate your being here very much. Thank you very much.

Steve Scalise, a special man. Got a lot of courage. You know, I went to the hospital. (Applause.) Coach, I went to the hospital. He had a problem — you know that problem. And I went to the hospital and the doctor was saying, “It doesn’t look good, sir. It doesn’t look good.” And he looks better now than before the accident. (Laughter.) It’s a hell of a way to happen, but Steve Scalise got a lot of guts, I’ll tell you that.

COACH ORGERON: Fights like a Tiger!

THE PRESIDENT: He’s a tiger. He fights — he “fights like a Tiger” is right. (Applause.)

And Mike Johnson. Mike, you’re around here someplace. Mike? Good, Mike. Thank you very much for being here. And Garret Graves. Thank you very much, Garret. Thank you for being here.

Also here with us are Louisiana’s Attorney General — terrific guy — Jeff Landry, and Secretary of State Ardoin. You know that, huh? (Laughter.) Where is — where’s — where are you? Yes. Thank you very much. Thank you, folks.

To all of the incredible coaches and players and — this team, your head coach. I watched him on television. I said, “Man, that guy is all — he’s all man. He’s a big, strong-looking guy.” (Laughter.) I didn’t know if he had laryngitis or was that his real voice? (Laughter.) It’s true. I think it was a combination of both. It was tough to start with, and then he had a little laryngitis. But, man, whatever the hell it was, Ed Orgeron — and, Ed, it worked. It really worked. You did a job that few people will ever be able to do again. The team is said to be one of the greatest teams — maybe the greatest team in the history of college football. Right? (Applause.) And that’s pretty amazing.

As well as interim President of LSU, Thomas Galligan. Where’s Thomas? Thomas?

MR. GALLIGAN: Right behind you.

THE PRESIDENT: Behind me? You’ve done a good job. Interim. I think we got to make him permanent. Forget about it. (Laughter.) That’s a hell of a job you’ve done, Tom.

MR. GALLIGAN: Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Pretty good job.

Your football program has inspired countless fans across the country, and it’s not just for what you have done on the football field — which is true.

In the face of a heartbreaking tragedy, you rallied together behind Offensive Coordinator Steve Ensminger. Where is Steve? Steve? Come up, Steve. (Applause.)

MR. ENSMINGER: (Inaudible.) (Off-mic.)

THE PRESIDENT: This guy. This guy. Come up here. Come up. Okay.

I mean what — your whole story — the whole — tragedy, and yet, so incredible the way you handled it. And the coach said you never wavered. The coach was just talking to me about it. You never wavered. So I want to thank you very much for being here. Thank you for everything you’ve done. Very inspirational, Steve. (Applause.)

This team showed the world what it means to look out for one another. And Steve is a real case study in that. But I want to thank you.

Three years ago, when LSU needed a head coach, they considered choosing someone younger. You’re a pretty young guy, right? Younger? That’s discrimination. You could sue them for that. (Laughter.) See, nowadays, you sue if you hear that. They want younger? Let’s sue them. (Laughter.) They made the right choice — that, I can tell you. And some might say a little bit less gruff. Does that make sense? And yet, to me, if I was casting a movie — I told him today, that’s my football coach. (Laughter.) There’s nobody in Hollywood that can play the role better than this guy. Right, Coach?

Instead, they put their faith in a hometown boy from Lafourche Parish. (Laughter.) Ed Orgeron did not let Louisiana down in any way. And today — Coach “O”, as they call him — you may well be the most beloved coach anywhere in the land. And we have some great coaches. (Applause.) We have some great coaches. And you played against a great coach, who was here last year. He’s a great coach. But we have great coaches. But the job you’ve done is incredible.

On the road to the title, this team overcame a brutal schedule. And I had no idea how brutal until I looked at these numbers: You defeated seven teams in the top 10, four in the top 5, and beat the national champions of the past four years. So what did you do? You get the schedule and you look at it. What did you do when you first saw the schedule, Coach? You weren’t happy.

COACH ORGERON: “Hopefully we have a great quarterback.” (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Now, think of that for a schedule. You know, you get your schedule and you say, “Wait a minute. Every team is like a great team we have to play.” You didn’t have too many easy weeks.

But your explosive offense pushed every opponent from the breaking point and to the breaking point. And 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. (Applause.) It’s really rare. And it’s amazing how seldom you see that, Coach, right? It’s really — it’s a hard thing to do.

But your opponents did not make it easy for you. In late October, number nine Auburn — really great football school, great school — headed to Death Valley, as they say, hoping to put a stop to the LSU juggernaut.

It was all tied up at the start of the second half when Auburn took the lead for the third time that game. An LSU touchdown in the third quarter put you on top. And from that point until the championship, you never trailed again for a single second in a single game. Although, I must tell you, in the championship you did. I was getting a little bit concerned. (Laughter.) You were a little behind there. I said, “Hey, what’s going on over here?” Must be a pretty unusual feeling, right? He didn’t — he didn’t know that feeling.

The next game, I was in the stands in Tuscaloosa where you beat your archrival Alabama in another great game — (applause) — and that was for the first time in eight years. Alabama also, great coach, great team. LSU was unstoppable, and soon you faced Oklahoma in the opening round of the playoffs. And Oklahoma had a great season.

You shut the Sooners down from the very first drive. LSU held Oklahoma to their lowest total yards in a single game since 2015 — I’m sure they weren’t happy — as wide receiver Justin Jefferson had 14 receptions for 227 receiving yards and four touchdowns. (Applause.) A college football playoff record.

Where is Justin? (Applause.) He’s going to be so rich. (Laughter.) Oh — we’re looking at money. (Laughter.) And this guy, Chase, wherever the hell he is, he was catching — (laughter) — where the hell is Chase? He was catching balls all over the place. You guys are going to make so much money. (Laughter.)

And I don’t think your quarterback is going to do too badly, Coach. I don’t know. (Laughter.) Right? I don’t think going to do too badly. You beat Oklahoma 63 to 28. That doesn’t happen to Oklahoma.

Then it was on to New Orleans. You needed one final big win against a truly great team. And one last time, LSU learned that its star quarterback, Joe Burrow, was something very special.

After breaking a bone in his hand playing at Ohio State, Joe sat on the bench and wasn’t happy about it. I heard he was not thrilled. (Laughter.) That was not your happiest moment.

MR. BURROW: Not my best one.

THE PRESIDENT: He didn’t like it. I heard stories. He was going a little crazy. Then the coach took charge and took a change [chance] and brought him to LSU.

Joe soon became the best quarterback in all of college football — and not close — because he set an NCAA record with 60 touchdowns — I’ve never even heard of that, 60 — in a single season, averaging a touchdown every quarter, and won the Heisman Trophy by the largest margin in the history of the Heisman Trophy. (Applause.) That’s incredible.

And as he received the trophy, Joe fought back tears. I don’t know, I don’t think he’s ever cried in his life. I don’t believe it. Did you actually fight back tears?

MR. BURROW: A little bit. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: A little bit. (Laughter.) It’s like the coach: If you told me he cried, I — I don’t believe it. Maybe when he was a baby, but I doubt it. (Laughter.)

He dedicated it to the kids in his beloved hometown of Athens, Ohio — a great state. Within weeks, Joe’s heartfelt speech raised over a half a million dollars for the Athens County Food Pantry. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, Joe.

And, Joe, I want to say, on behalf of the country, that you make our country very, very proud. You’re really an inspirational talent and all of that. But you’re an inspirational player and you’re an inspirational person. And you have a heart that’s incredible, and you have a team that respects you so much.

With Joe quarterbacking, and a team of unrivaled talent right alongside him and beside him, LSU had to beat the reigning champions — a team that was here last year, and nice guys and they were very large. (Laughter.) You know, we served them a lot of food. They ate so much food, we didn’t know what the hell to do. (Laughter.) They kept eating and eating. A team that had not lost a game in 741 days, the Clemson Tigers. They really are really special, right? Amazing.

Before the game, the First Lady and I were honored to walk out on the field escorted by the ROTC cadets from both schools. We then joined tens of thousands of proud, patriotic Americans to watch the battle of the titans. This was a great game. This was a tremendous game. And, Coach, they had tremendous ratings on television. The ratings came in, they were — not surprisingly, but they were tremendous — beyond what normally would be for even a championship game.

On your first drive — I think you might have had something to do with that, (inaudible), I don’t know. Although these two guys maybe too, but you had a lot to do with it.

On your first drive, the celebrated LSU offense was pinned back at your own goal line. I watched it. I’ve never seen — I bet you haven’t been pinned back that many times, because every time I saw you, you were on the three-yard line like — (laughter) — what happened? It was just, like, constantly. But you kept doing just fine. You did just fine, Coach.

COACH ORGERON: We were rope-a-dope —

THE PRESIDENT: You were — right, that was a rope-a -dope. (Laughter.) That’s true. The first time you got the ball — and then you made that great play and they called it back, as usual. You made the great pass. He’s all over the place. He’s — he was going to be tackled four times, like, on the first play.

And you threw the ball and everybody was excited, and then they said, “There’s a flag on the field.” Too many flags, Coach. Right? (Laughter.) Too many flags. You know, the referees, they want to get themselves in the limelight, but — (laughter) — that was a play that should have not been called back, but that’s all right.

You punted after a rare three and out, and soon Clemson struck first with a touchdown and for the first time. All season they were behind. Then, Ja’Marr Chase — that’s the man; I was watching him — caught a 52-yard bomb from Burrow to tie it up. By the end of the game, Ja’Marr had nine catches and two touchdowns, setting a playoff championship record with 221 receiving yards. That’s phenomenal. (Applause.) Come here, Ja’Marr. Come here. (Applause.)

I said, “You got to say something.”

MR. CHASE: How y’all doing? How y’all doing? I’m just happy to be in the White House, to be honest. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: That was very good. (Applause.)

Hey, Coach, if I practiced, could I beat him in a race? What do you think? Could I beat him in a race? (Laughter.)

COACH ORGERON: You may need — may need a little head start. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: (Laughs.) A little head start, right? I think I might need a head start.

Midway through the third quarter, it was a tight three-point game. You increased your lead with a touchdown. Then in the fourth quarter, Terrace Marshall stretched out and caught a beautiful 24-yard pass in the end zone, and LSU went up 42 to 25, and all hope of a Clemson comeback — and they were used to winning games. It was — they won, I think, 28 in a row or something, Coach. It’s a pretty unusual feeling for them too. Shows how great a team you have.

But all hope of a Clemson comeback came to an end when LSU forced a fumble. The ball was picked up by a true freshman cornerback who had spent the game shutting down Clemson’s offense — that’s for sure — on his side of the field: Derek Stingley, Jr. Where’s Derek? (Applause.) That was a good feeling, Coach. With that play, the game was over.

With an eye-popping 628 yards, the most passing touchdowns in a playoff championship game, and the SEC’s first-ever 15 and 0 season, LSU became the College Football National Champions.

And Coach Orgeron said after the game, “God had a plan…All I did was follow the plan.” The fact is God had a great coach here. This is a great, great coach. I really mean that, too. (Applause.) And the truth is, with a great coach, an outstanding quarterback, an entire team filled with heart and skill and hope, and courage and passion and strength, and unbreakable will to win — that’s what they have; they have an unbreakable will and confidence. They went into that game against a team, 28 and 0. They went into the game; I don’t think they had a doubt about what was going to be happening, I don’t think. Did you ever doubt?

MR. BURROW: No.

THE PRESIDENT: Not even a little bit? (Laughter.)

MR. BURROW: No.

THE PRESIDENT: Huh? (Laughs.) That’s — oh, he’s going to be so rich. (Laughter.) Looks sort of like a young Tom Brady. Does that make sense to you? We call him “young Tom Brady.”

This LSU team will long be remembered as one of the greatest in college football history. And I just want to say congratulations, and go Tigers! (Applause.) Go Tigers. (Applause.)

So, Coach, there’s another coach that I respect a lot. His name is Bill Belichick, right? Do you respect him? Yes. Everybody respects him. He has a lot of respect for you. I talked to him; he has a lot of respect for you. And he thinks you’re a great coach, and we know that. The results speak louder than anything — or anything I can say.

I just want to congratulate you. It’s great to get to know you. You have a real friend here.

COACH ORGERON: Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: If I can ever help you with rescheduling, like next year, where we give you a little bit easier schedule. What do you think? (Laughter.) Bill, we’ll work that out. But let’s have the coach say a few words. Boy, does he deserve it. It’s great to have you in the White House. (Applause.)

COACH ORGERON: Thank you, President Trump. What an honor to be here at the White House. I speak on behalf of our football team and our great assistant coach and staff. I do have the best organization in the world. One team, one heartbeat.

This is a player-driven program. It’s about the men behind me and the men in front of me. You guys did it. You guys set out on a plan, last year, January 17, that you were going to win the national championship. You never talked about it. You went about it through hard work, dedication, and you did it. And we’re so proud.

I’d like thank my wife Kelly, and my boys and my family, who are here to be with me. (Applause.) And all the coaches’ wives. I’d like to thank Scott Woodward, (inaudible) the administration, for all the great things that they did for us. One team, one heartbeat. Go Tigers! (Applause.)

At this time, I’m like to bring up our interim President, Tom Galligan.

MR. GALLIGAN: Thank you, Coach. Good morning.

AUDIENCE: Good morning.

MR. GALLIGAN: On behalf of everyone at Louisiana State University and the entire LSU Tiger family, I want to say what an honor it is for us to be here today at the White House representing our great university as national champions.

Now, while a trip to the White House is traditional for national champions, Mr. President, I don’t think you have ever had a team quite like ours visit before. The achievements of Coach O and these young men are truly historic. If I were a poet, I would say they are absolutely epic. This group will forever be known as one of the best to ever take the field in college football.

Now, as I’m sure you’ve heard and seen, there is no group of supporters more passionate and dedicated than LSU’s. And I can tell you that our entire university, our community, and our state take immense pride in what this team and what you all have done.

At LSU, we are champions on the football field, and we are champions in the classroom, in the laboratory, on the stage, in the art studio, in the Moot courtroom, and more.

Our state gives much to this great nation: from commerce, to culture, to cuisine, and always character. Now we have given the country what we believe is the greatest college football team ever. (Applause.)

Mr. President, Coach O and this team represent not only the best of LSU, but the best of Louisiana. Thank you, and go Tigers! (Applause.)

It’s now my privilege to introduce — originally from Athens, Ohio, but now we claim him in Baton Rouge, Louisiana — the most decorated player in college football history, the Heisman Trophy winner, and a man who is already rich, because he is a recent LSU graduate, Joe Burrow. (Applause.)

MR. BURROW: I’ll keep this short and sweet, because I’m sure Mr. President has some more pressing matters to get to. (Laughter.) But, no, I just want to say it’s truly an honor to be here. And thank you for having us so soon after the game so the seniors could be here. That means a lot to us. This is a moment we’ll never forget, and it truly does mean a lot that you — that you did that so soon. So thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.

MR. BURROW: Um, yeah, it’s so awesome to be here. It’s a moment we’ll never forget. It was a great season, but this is a great way to cap it off. So thank you so much. And we got — we got a little jersey for you right here. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I thought he was going to give me the Heisman.

MR. BURROW: Sorry, you can’t have my Heisman. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: I thought he was going to give me the Heisman Trophy. (Laughter.) He’s just giving me a jersey.

(A jersey is presented.) (Applause.)

So, Joe, I just told the coach, we don’t normally do this, but I’m doing it for this team: Anybody who would like to come with me to the Oval Office, we’ll take pictures in the Oval. It’s a special place. There’s no place like the Oval. They come from all over the world, they have their own big offices and everything; they go into the Oval and they say, “There’s no place like this.”

So, Coach, if you’d like, we can take whoever wants to come to the Oval Office. We’ll take pictures behind the Resolute Desk. It’s been there a long time. A lot of Presidents — some good, some not so good. (Laughter.) But you got a good one now, even though they’re trying to impeach the son of a bitch. Can you believe that? (Laughter.) Can you believe that? Got the greatest economy we’ve ever had, Joe. We got the greatest military. We rebuilt it. We took out those terrorists like — like your football team would have taken out those terrorists, right? But we’re doing good.

So we’re going to go to the Oval Office with some of the players — and all of the players, I guess.

And again, I want to just congratulate the team. I want to congratulate your great representatives, all of you. You’ve been fantastic all season long — before they went on this big streak.

And it’s an honor to have everybody at the White House. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)

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