NATCHITOCHES – Eight former Louisiana sports figures were chosen for the 2015 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Inductions Class, which will be enshrined next summer.
The inductees were LSU’s all-time leading rusher, three-time Super Bowl champion Kevin Faulk, UL-Lafayette great and Super Bowl quarterback Jake Delhomme, former NBA champion point guard and Coach of the Year Avery Johnson, along with coaching legends Pat Collins, Yvette Girouard and Otis Washington.
College Football Hall of Fame member Leonard Smith and championship Thoroughbred racing trainer Frank Brothers are also in the Class of 2015 announced Tuesday afternoon by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association, the parent organization of the Hall of Fame.
They will be officially enshrined Saturday, June 27, in Natchitoches to culminate the 2015 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Celebration June 25-27.
Collins coached the University of Louisiana at Monroe football team to the 1987 Division I-AA (now FCS) national championship, highlighting a remarkable eight years as head coach. Girouard developed the powerhouse softball program at her alma mater, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and guided the Ragin’ Cajuns and LSU Tigers to five Women’s College World Series. Washington steered New Orleans’ St. Augustine High School to three state football titles and 106 wins in 10 years, and was Southern University head coach from 1981-86.
Smith was a All-American cornerback and special teams star for McNeese State, then helped Buffalo reach two Super Bowls. Brothers, a New Orleans native, became one of the leading trainers in thoroughbred racing, posting Triple Crown wins in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes among 118 graded stakes race victories by his horses.
Faulk helped the New England Patriots win three Super Bowls and reach two more during his 13-year NFL career. Delhomme, a native of Breaux Bridge, set Ragin’ Cajun records with 9,216 passing yards and 64 touchdowns before his 11-year NFL career highlighted by a narrow loss to Faulk’s Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII. New Orleans native Johnson, a St. Augustine standout, set the NCAA career assists average record at Southern, then played for the San Antonio Spurs’ 1999 NBA champions and coached the Dallas Mavericks to the 2006 NBA Finals.
Brothers was a Thoroughbred trainer for nearly four decades, saddling 2,359 winners at a 22 percent rate, with half of his 10,440 starters finishing in the money while earning $48.9 million in purse money since 1974. He was the leading trainer nine times at Louisiana Downs, five times at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, and at three of the nation’s more prominent tracks – Churchill Downs, Keeneland and Oaklawn Park. Brothers is the first trainer elected to the Hall after seven jockeys and one owner, John Franks, have represented the horse racing industry.
Collins built a perennial Southland Conference championship contender at ULM, going 57-35 (.620) in his eight seasons as head coach. He had been a key defensive assistant in the 1970s for Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame coach Maxie Lambright at nearby Louisiana Tech. His 1987 ULM team, featuring Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame quarterback Stan Humphries, owns the state’s only FCS national championship, posting a 13-2 record, and Collins was named national Coach of the Year by CBS Sports and Football News.
Delhomme posted 20,975 yards passing and 126 touchdowns, completing 59.4 percent of his passes, for three NFL teams. After starring for Lafayette’s Teurlings Catholic High School, then the Ragin’ Cajuns from 1993-96, Delhomme was a free agent NFL signee with New Orleans. He spent three years with the Saints before signing with Carolina before the 2003 season, which ended in the Super Bowl. He led 23 game-winning drives for the Panthers and holds Carolina’s records for pass yards and touchdowns. His last NFL play was a touchdown pass for Houston in 2011.
Faulk, a Carencro native and two-time state Class 5A Offensive MVP while earning USA Today and Parade Magazine All-America honrs, still holds the Southeastern Conference career all-purpose yardage record (6,833 yards at LSU from 1995-98). He was a three-time All-SEC running back for the Tigers, setting the school rushing record with 4,557 yards. The 46th pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, Faulk amassed 12,349 all-purpose yards for New England until retiring after the 2011 season.
Girouard, who grew up in Broussard as the daughter of an Evangeline League outfielder, is a 2005 inductee in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame. She piled up 1,285 wins, fourth-most in NCAA history, in 31 years as coach at UL-Lafayette (1981-2000) and LSU (2001-2011), owning a .755 career winning percentage. Girouard built the Ragin’ Cajuns program from the ground up as its first-ever coach, twice winning national Coach of the Year honors, then was a four-time SEC Coach of the Year at LSU and helped design Lady Tiger Park. She is one of only three coaches to take two different schools to the WCWS.
Johnson, now an NBA analyst for ESPN, played point guard for six teams in the NBA for 16 seasons, averaging 8.4 points and 5.5 assists in 1,054 regular-season contests. He led the NCAA in assists twice at Southern (10.7 per game in 1986-87, 13.3 in 1987-88) while his career 8.97 average set a new national record. His top NBA scoring season came in 1994-95 with San Antonio when he posted a 13.4 average, and a year later was third in assists in the league at 9.6 per game behind John Stockton and Jason Kidd.
Smith, a Baton Rouge native and Lee High standout, was a first-team Associated Press All-America cornerback in 1982 when he was the Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Year for McNeese. He still holds NCAA career records with 17 blocked kicks and 10 field goals, including a record four in 1981. Smith made 14 interceptions, 14 sacks and had nine fumble recoveries while starting 120 of 138 games for Buffalo, making nine tackles in Super Bowl XXV.
Washington established St. Augustine as a prep football power in the state’s largest classification from 1969-79, winning 80 percent of his games. The Purple Knights won state titles in 1975, 1978 and 1979, and his 1971 team was state runner-up. St. Aug won district championships in the rugged Catholic League in New Orleans seven times and more than 120 of his players earned college scholarships. An all-conference football and baseball player at Xavier University in New Orleans, Washington was offensive line coach in 1980 at LSU before moving crosstown to be Southern’s head coach from 1981-86.
The 2015 Induction Class will be showcased in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Museum, operated by the Louisiana State Museum system in a partnership with the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. The striking two-story, 27,500-square foot structure faces Cane River Lake in the National Historic Landmark District of Natchitoches and has garnered worldwide architectural acclaim and rave reviews for its contents since its grand opening during the 2013 Hall of Fame induction weekend.
A 35-member Louisiana Sports Writers Association committee selected the 2015 inductees. The panel considered 115 nominees from 28 different sport categories on a 24-page ballot, said Hall of Fame chairman Doug Ireland.
The eight new inductees will raise the total of Hall of Fame members to 318 competitors honored since the first induction class -- baseball’s Mel Ott, world champion boxer Tony Canzoneri and LSU football great Gaynell Tinsley -- were enshrined in 1959 after their election a year earlier.
The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame includes 16 Pro Football Hall of Fame members, 18 Olympic medalists (10 gold medal winners), nine members of the Basketball Hall of Fame, seven of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players, six Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, 34 College Football Hall of Fame members, five National High School Hall of Fame enshrines, jockeys with a combined 12 Triple Crown victories, six world boxing champions, seven Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinees, seven College Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, seven College Basketball Hall of Fame members, four NBA Finals MVPs and two Super Bowl MVPs. Biographical information on all current members is available at the LaSportsHall.com website, with a steady stream of info available at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Facebook page and the @LaSportsHall twitter account.
The 2015 Induction Celebration will kick off Thursday, June 25 with the press conference and reception. It includes three receptions, a youth sports clinic, and a Friday, June 26 golf scramble at Oak Wing Golf Course in Alexandria. Tickets for the Induction Dinner and Ceremony, and golf entries, will go on sale next spring through the LaSportsHall.com website.
Also to be honored at the event will be three other Hall of Fame inductees, the winner of the 2014 Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award and the recipients of the 2014 Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism presented by the LSWA. Those award recipients will be announced soon.
Adding to the 310 sports competitors currently enshrined, 14 winners of the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership award and 54 recipients of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism, there are 378 current members of the Hall of Fame before next summer’s inductions.