NATCHITOCHES — Tell St. Thomas More High School football coach Jim Hightower that his career mirrors the ideals of the Acadiana area where he lives, and he takes it as a compliment.
With that said, it’s fair to say Hightower’s induction to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame is perhaps the ultimate compliment to the coach and a culture he has embraced.
“I’m so proud of the Acadiana lifestyle and the way the people live there,” Hightower said. “We’re proud of our sports. It’s such a big part of the lives of so many people, and I’m proud to represent that area.”
Hightower was part of an 11-member group honored during the 57th annual hall of fame induction ceremony Saturday at the Natchitoches Civic Center.
Entering the 2016 season, Hightower has a 386-119-1 record, a victories total that ranks 18th on the national list of winningest high school football coaches. He is No. 2 on Louisiana’s all-time wins list and won a state title in 1979 at Catholic-Pointe Coupee.
One other statistic speaks to Hightower’s consistency: He has never had a losing season.
Other inductees included longtime Tulane baseball coach Rick Jones, Louisiana-Monroe and Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Ben Sheets and two Winnfield natives, ex-Louisiana Tech and NBA standout P.J. Brown and former Michigan and NFL running back Anthony Thomas.
Three inductees were honored posthumously: Louisiana College women’s basketball player and coach Janice Joseph-Richard, Negro League baseball standout “Gentleman” Dave Malarcher and LSU/Southeastern Louisiana coach Arthur “Red” Swanson.
Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award winner Dr. Julian Bailes, a renowned neurosurgeon and concussion expert, and two winners of the Distinguished Service in Sports Journalism award, longtime LSU broadcaster Jim Hawthorne and sportswriter Bob Tompkins of Alexandria’s The Town Talk, completed the 2016 class.
Hightower’s induction marks the third straight year that a high school coach has been inducted. He joins Catholic High-Baton Rouge track coach Pete Boudreaux (2014) and St. Augustine football coach Otis Washington (2015).
The STM coach thanked family, assistant coaches and players during his acceptance speech. Before the ceremony, he said the experience prompted him to reflect on his career in ways he hadn’t before.
“Something like this makes you look back on all the people that have touched your life,” Hightower said. “In life, you get so busy going through things day to day, you don’t always take time to realize the good fortune you’ve had.”
Hightower is the lone Acadiana-area inductee in 2016. He said he might have fit in better with the 2015 class, which included Jake Delhomme, Yvette Girouard and Kevin Faulk.
But Hightower’s credentials and consistency stand alone.
“I guess the thing I’m the most proud of is I handle my business the right way,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’ve done anything that brought embarrassment to my schools or the staffs I’ve worked with. I feel like I’ve done things for the right reasons and with the right mindset.”